by BOB MESSINGER
Okay, so I’ve decided to make a feature film. My script has been fine tuned. I’ve been on shoots in various capacities, so I have a good understanding of the process. I’ve taken literally hundreds of seminars on film making and distribution. I have a solid marketing background. I am chomping at the bit to get my Kickstarter campaign under way. There’s only one thing that’s been holding me up until now: trying to get a firm handle on how much this will cost!
I must admit that for a while I was concerned that I’d never make it through the budgeting process. But the more I talk to other writers who have launched their own projects, the more I see that budgeting hell is more common than it is atypical for independent film makers, especially new ones like me.
The biggest thing that has made the budgeting process especially puzzling is the huge disparity of budgets among independent films similar to my project. Of the six indies I’ve researched with scripts similar to mine in length, characters, locations, number of scenes and with the anticipated production values of my project, the reported budgets range from $15,000 to $2,500,000.
Not only is there a huge disparity among published budgets, but there is also a wide range of opinions as to how money should be spent. For example, one excellent Internet article posted by Lift-Off International Film Festivals (http://www.lift-off-festival.com/independent-film-budgets/) advises, “Forget about the equipment. If you are going to spend your money to make a picture, you need to spend it on people.” Still, other informative articles by equally successful film makers advocate seeking deferred payment agreements with cast and crew rather than skimp on equipment.
Time to take action!
Rather than pull out what’s left of my already thinning hair trying to figure out how to configure this budget, I have decided to calmly take the following steps:
1) Continue to build my network of fellow independent film makers using social media and networking events.
2) Take the time to prepare comprehensive scene breakdown sheets, including locations, interiors vs. exteriors, cast members, extras, wardrobe, props, vehicles, special effects, animals and music. Doing this has given me a much better understanding of the costs I have to research.
3) Invest in budgeting software. At first, it looked as though I was going to have to go through the script page-by-page to compile these breakdowns because, while there are some excellent, professional budgeting programs available, none was in my price range. But, through my expanding network, I discovered Chimpanzee from Jungle Software (Chimpanzee is the little brother of the more-expensive Gorilla budgeting software, and it is designed specifically for students and independent film makers). This relatively inexpensive software ($124, but sometimes on sale for as much as $50 off) has been a lifesaver and has given me a much better handle on the budgeting and scheduling process.
4) And the most constructive step I’ve taken so far…reach out to the independent film makers in my growing network. For the most part, they have been exceptionally open and willing to share their own budgeting challenges, how they’ve overcome them, and to give me suggestions specific to my own project.
So, I am happy to announce that I am navigating the road out of budgeting hell, and although I expect I still may encounter a few roadblocks along the way, I hope to launch my Kickstarter campaign sometime during the upcoming holiday season!