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Old 01-29-2018, 12:30 PM   #1
Asker
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Budget for 15 min professional shortfilm

Dear Indietalk

After some years of no budget filmmaking, I've decided to make a proper, professional shortfilm with a budget. However having never done something with a professional crew, I've no clue how much the film is going to cost. I hope you can help me with some qualified guesses bearing my conditions/story in mind:

Conditions
#1 It needs to be of such high production value, that it could potentially be nominated to prizes at the biggest festivals, if submitted.
#2 It needs crew members desired for every necessary role that #1 requires.
#3 It needs to be the full budget, which includes post production such as editing and 1-3 medium-large festival submissions.
#4 It needs to be taken into considerations that two children are playing two of the three leading characters (child actor experts to support on the set?).
#5 90 % of the story is happening after the sun has gone down.
#6 All roles require strong acting abilities.
#7 Everyone needs to be paid.
#8 No action scenes or CGI.
#9 No music in the shortfilm.

Story
Most of the story is a car scene that involves an 8-year old girl on the front row, with a 45-year old man driving. On the backseat, in the middle, is an 9-year old boy. In the beginning it's held at an open parking space close to the ocean, props are a car, some fishing equipment and a bicycle. In the end there is another location outside the 8-year old girl's home, with her two parents playing small parts with 3 lines in total.

I'm sorry if I didn't elaborate myself accordingly, or if I elaborated too much. That being said I really hope to you can help me share your guess on the right budget for this kind of short film. I want objective opinions, therefore I'm not stating my budget. Let me know if have you have any questions.

Thanks in advance.

Last edited by Asker; 01-29-2018 at 12:37 PM.
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Old Today   #1A
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Old 01-29-2018, 05:53 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asker View Post
#1 It needs to be of such high production value, that it could potentially be nominated to prizes at the biggest festivals, if submitted.
Doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it. If the writing and directing aren’t up to snuff, nothing will save it. On the other hand, if you have a skilled crew, you can end up with a great film that can compete at any festival even if it was shot on a smaller camera and with minimal crew.

Look at it this way: a terrible film shot on an ARRI Alexa is still a terrible film; a great film shot on a DSLR is still a great film.

As for everything else, you need to figure out the going day rates for both people and gear in your particular country.

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#2 It needs crew members desired for every necessary role that #1 requires.
This is subjective. Have you watched end-credits on big-budget productions? Hundreds of people. How many do you need for your film? How many people are overkill?

Have you thought through exactly what constitues “every necessary role”?

Producer.
Director.
Director of Photography.
Production Sound Mixer.
Gaffer.
Grip.
PA.

That’s your basic production lineup, but you can do it with fewer people if they know what they’re doing and you don’t have the budget for more. Optional additions are more grips, a Boom Op (from your description, looks like a skilled PSM can handle it alone), Assistant Camera (1st AC, or 1st and 2nd AC), DIT/Media Wrangler, Script Supervisor, Location Scout, Production Manager.

Repeat: you need to figure out what going day rates are in your area. If you don’t know that, you’ll have no idea how to budget for it. I know what average day rates are around my area, and in NY and LA, but that’s not going to reflect your area.

And how many production days do you anticipate? You’ll also want to have a little extra for contingency... if something goes wrong and you need a couple of pickup shoot days, how are you going to pay for that?

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Originally Posted by Asker View Post
#3 It needs to be the full budget, which includes post production such as editing and 1-3 medium-large festival submissions.
How much post are you expecting to do? At the very least, you need an editor and a sound designer/editor.

Optional additions are Foley artist and Foley recording engineer, dialog editor, SFX editor. Do you think you’ll need ADR?

Just like production, you need to know what day rates are for those folks and for the post facilities you’re wanting to rent.

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#4 It needs to be taken into considerations that two children are playing two of the three leading characters (child actor experts to support on the set?).
What are the child labor laws in your country? They’ll each probably need an on-set parent/guardian at the very least. Consult an attorney who knows your country’s laws.

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#5 90 % of the story is happening after the sun has gone down.
So you need to consult with your DoP as to what lighting needs there are, and price lighting rentals accordingly.

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#6 All roles require strong acting abilities.
That’s a casting issue, not a budget issue.

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#7 Everyone needs to be paid.
It’s good that you have that stipulation. Are your actors members of an actors’ union where you are? If yes, what’s scale? If not, work with them on what their normal rates are.

Since you’re shooting in a car most of the time, you’ll also need to look into hiring a process trailer and a driver and vehicle to tow it. Free driving is a dangerous proposition, and you have kids in the car. Do not rely on your lead adult actor for safety if he has to focus both on driving and acting and blocking.

And look into options for production insurance. Again, this depends on your country and what’s available, but you’re pulling together enough people and resources - AND you have a moving vehicle - that insurance is a necessary CYA measure.

The other side of this is to figure out how much capital you have, or how much financing you can realistically secure, and to figure out from there how many folks you can afford to hire. You’ll still need to know what general day rates and rental rates are.
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Old 01-29-2018, 07:16 PM   #3
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Hire a line producer, preferably an experienced one recommended by a filmmaker whose work you respect. Budgets are a large part of their job.
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Old 01-29-2018, 11:41 PM   #4
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A 15 minute short movie called THE CIRCLE cost $200,000 and it has won nothing. (click here to see it). It has an "A-list" actor, an oscar winning ASC cameraman, and it was shot on the Warner Bros lot in Hollywood. Research the film's background and look at the politics. All food for serious thought...be careful. Don't spend more than you can afford. Do NOT go in debt no matter what. You are only making a short. A short won't even make money for you. ("THE CIRCLE", a $200,000 film, is free on youtube). Start small. Grow from there.

Last edited by Rayandmigdalia; 01-30-2018 at 12:00 AM.
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Old 01-30-2018, 12:33 AM   #5
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#9 No music in the shortfilm.
I suggest you seriously reconsider this aspect.
Even silent films in the 1920s had music...

Music is one of the things that separates film from books.
Whenever people say the book was better I sarcastically reply that the soundtrack was way more enjoyable in the book.
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Old 01-30-2018, 05:11 AM   #6
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Thanks for all your lovely comments and support, there is no place like indietalk when I need filmmaking advice!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
Doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it. If the writing and directing aren’t up to snuff, nothing will save it. On the other hand, if you have a skilled crew, you can end up with a great film that can compete at any festival even if it was shot on a smaller camera and with minimal crew.
I am fully aware of this. Hence why I haven't been doing budget filmmaking until this point.


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Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
As for everything else, you need to figure out the going day rates for both people and gear in your particular country.
The day rate is approximately 200 USD.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
This is subjective. Have you watched end-credits on big-budget productions? Hundreds of people. How many do you need for your film? How many people are overkill?

Have you thought through exactly what constitues “every necessary role”?
No, that's why I am asking here for some qualified guesses. I will find eventually find myself a producer to help with budgeting and figuring out the exact necessities, but I wanted to have some kind of idea about what the film is going to cost before contacting a producer, whether it will cost me 5k or 50k. This is why I mentioned that I don't have any stunts/CGI in the film. It will be a basic crew. There's no exceptionally fancy shots that require large cranes/heli shots. Just a regular, well-produced drama short with high end production value. I've been planning to make this shortfilm for more than 1,5 year and saving money since then, it will be a very special project for me, even if it "fails" in the eyes of the audience.


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Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
And how many production days do you anticipate? You’ll also want to have a little extra for contingency... if something goes wrong and you need a couple of pickup shoot days, how are you going to pay for that?
I expect production days to be 3 + 1 potential pickup shoot day.


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Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
How much post are you expecting to do? At the very least, you need an editor and a sound designer/editor.

Optional additions are Foley artist and Foley recording engineer, dialog editor, SFX editor. Do you think you’ll need ADR?
I know I'll need at least an editor, sound designer, colorgrader and ADR. Foley is off for now. It might polishing in the future but I am not including that in the budget, since I plan it to be DIY with a friend of mine that has a lot of foley experience (this will be the only unpaid person in the crew along with myself obviously).


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Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
What are the child labor laws in your country? They’ll each probably need an on-set parent/guardian at the very least. Consult an attorney who knows your country’s laws.
Yeah, I will try to consult an attorney about that, thanks.


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Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
That’s a casting issue, not a budget issue.
I disagree. If you know that a short film requires strong acting abilities that differs from the usual short film, I would never engage it without an experienced, talented actor. And they cost. Thankfully there are a lot of A/B actors in my country that are willing to work cheaply, considering that a lot of actors are struggling. I guess it would be about 1-2k/day for the leading male character.



Quote:
Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
It’s good that you have that stipulation. Are your actors members of an actors’ union where you are? If yes, what’s scale? If not, work with them on what their normal rates are.
The 45-y/o male will definitely be apart of an actor's union, I don't know about the children.

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Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
Since you’re shooting in a car most of the time, you’ll also need to look into hiring a process trailer and a driver and vehicle to tow it. Free driving is a dangerous proposition, and you have kids in the car. Do not rely on your lead adult actor for safety if he has to focus both on driving and acting and blocking.
Thank you for that recommendation. Makes a lot of sense.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AcousticAl View Post
The other side of this is to figure out how much capital you have, or how much financing you can realistically secure, and to figure out from there how many folks you can afford to hire. You’ll still need to know what general day rates and rental rates are.
I still don't know if I will be investing all my savings from the past 1,5 year into this film. It also depends on the answers in this thread. If people believe this project can be done (with my conditions taken into consideration) for 10k, then I will likely only invest that, even if I have 25k worth of savings per say.


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Originally Posted by mlesemann View Post
Hire a line producer, preferably an experienced one recommended by a filmmaker whose work you respect. Budgets are a large part of their job.
Thank you, I shall do that eventually.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rayandmigdalia View Post
A 15 minute short movie called THE CIRCLE cost $200,000 and it has won nothing. (click here to see it). It has an "A-list" actor, an oscar winning ASC cameraman, and it was shot on the Warner Bros lot in Hollywood. Research the film's background and look at the politics. All food for serious thought...be careful. Don't spend more than you can afford. Do NOT go in debt no matter what. You are only making a short. A short won't even make money for you. ("THE CIRCLE", a $200,000 film, is free on youtube). Start small. Grow from there.
Sorry, but this is nothing new to me. There has been shorts with even higher budgets that didn't get any exposure, but we're not talking big budgets here, just a regular 15-min drama short that could potentially be shown at the biggest festivals/sold to smaller tv stations. I wasn't asking whether or not I should do the project, I was asking how much I should expect to throw at this project, taken everything into consideration! Some people prefer the indie work-for-free-in-collab approach, I prefer the Werner Herzog approach that is working for 6-12 months, save up money and invest those money in a professional crew with experience, rather than doing 4-5 semi-pro projects a year, I'd rather make 1-2 shorts of high production value. There is no recipe for succes in this business, but I believe my approach is the right approach for me, thank you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sfoster View Post
I suggest you seriously reconsider this aspect.
Even silent films in the 1920s had music...

Music is one of the things that separates film from books.
Whenever people say the book was better I sarcastically reply that the soundtrack was way more enjoyable in the book.
Music is just a tool in filmmaking like so much else. Look at the dogme95 movement. This story is rough and "in-your-face", and I believe music would only distract. I may be wrong though, thanks for your consideration. At this point I wont be budgeting for music though.
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Old 01-30-2018, 10:27 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Asker View Post
I know I'll need at least an editor, sound designer, colorgrader and ADR. Foley is off for now. It might polishing in the future but I am not including that in the budget, since I plan it to be DIY with a friend of mine that has a lot of foley experience (this will be the only unpaid person in the crew along with myself obviously).
Be sure that your Foley friend is in communication with your SD/SSE. Foley can be EXTREMELY difficult to get right, and is especially important if you have any ADR.

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Music is just a tool in filmmaking like so much else. Look at the dogme95 movement. This story is rough and "in-your-face", and I believe music would only distract. I may be wrong though, thanks for your consideration. At this point I wont be budgeting for music though.
You may want to consider a little score just to bring you in and out of the piece. You can also have source music from the car radio.



I know you are dead set against using any CGI, but you may want to consider doing the interior car scenes on a sound stage with green screen. It will relieve many safety concerns (shooting in a moving vehicle with minors [tow car?]) and resolve scheduling issues with shooting minors at night.
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Old 01-30-2018, 03:26 PM   #8
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Sometimes music simply doesn't work. I can think of a bunch of indies sans music. Black comedies, certain dramas, you'll definitely know "in the cut" when you get a rough edit together, and you may want to leave a little just padding to experiment with. However there are also lots of composers on this site that work for credit so there's that!
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Old 02-04-2018, 06:45 AM   #9
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B

I know you are dead set against using any CGI, but you may want to consider doing the interior car scenes on a sound stage with green screen. It will relieve many safety concerns (shooting in a moving vehicle with minors [tow car?]) and resolve scheduling issues with shooting minors at night.
Hmm, yeah good point. But wouldn't CGI be equally expensive, if it had to be done so well that you wouldn't be able to differentiate between that and actually filming outside?

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Sometimes music simply doesn't work. I can think of a bunch of indies sans music. Black comedies, certain dramas, you'll definitely know "in the cut" when you get a rough edit together, and you may want to leave a little just padding to experiment with. However there are also lots of composers on this site that work for credit so there's that!
Good point! That would be great. Then again there are so many talented composers out there willing to help, and if I decide in post-production that I'm going to need some sort of score, I don't think I'll need much more than 500 bucks to make that happen, heck some might even help for free as you mentioned, therefore I wont be including that in budget so far.

Last edited by Asker; 02-04-2018 at 06:47 AM.
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Old 02-04-2018, 11:44 AM   #10
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Hmm, yeah good point. But wouldn't CGI be equally expensive, if it had to be done so well that you wouldn't be able to differentiate between that and actually filming outside?
I worked on a feature a while back called "Trail Park."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1399102/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

One driving scene was done on the road in a moving vehicle. It looked fine, but the dialog was extremely noisy - road noise, engine noise, wind and the numerous squeaks associated with an old vehicle. The other was done on a "sound stage." They fogged the side & rear windows and projected the appropriate road "scene" outside. A few folks bounced the car occasionally. No CGI at all and it was completely convincing. Plus the sound was one hell of a lot better to work with.

As far as costs go I keep thinking about the minor actors; as I previously mentioned, they will have limited availability at night, and you will have increased safety concerns shooting minors in a moving vehicle, even one with a tow car. And, as I pointed out, shooting in a moving vehicle adds substantial amounts of noise; just how cost effective will it be to have 9 and 8 year old kids doing ADR? Not to mention that, in my experience, ADR from experienced adult actors can be less satisfying than production sound.

If it's equally expensive I would lean on the side of a more controllable shooting environment (with far superior sound) and the safety and availability of two thirds of your actors.
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