I thought it would be fun to look back at the “budget” of my first film. I put the word budget in quotes as there really wasn’t one. I’d get my paycheck on Friday and use it to cover the expenses for that weekend’s shoots.
Above The Line – $0
There were no above the line expenses as we wrote the script ourselves and paid ourselves nothing. We were going pay ourselves out of all of the money we were going to make from selling our film. Yeah right!
Production Total – $7,121.93
Locations – $155.88
I really appreciate everybody that stepped us and let us invade their homes. We didn’t want to be a financial burden in addition to the inconvenience. So we did give our friend, whose home we shot at for three three-day weekends, $100 to cover the electricity we used.
Another one of my friends worked at a fairly nice hotel and managed to get us a room for a night for $55.88. We had to be on the DL about filming there (we carried our own “luggage” up to the room) but it worked out great.
The movie involved a hardened criminal who liked to carry knives so we ended up spending $93.68 on various knives, only two of which ended up on screen. They’re all still in a box in my basement. We actually went to a knife shop in Santa Monica for them as I didn’t see any I liked at the Hand Prop Room the day I went. We had the proprietor of the knife shop dull the knives as much as possible. In retrospect probably should have went the safe route and got prop knives.
Other prop expenses included $52.24 for breakaway glasses(Hand Prop Room) and $100 for bed sheets (Bed, Bath, and Beyond).
We made the blood from corn syrup and food coloring ($5.50).
Equipment – $4,097.37
Bulk of our budget went towards equipment. We purchased a Panasonic DVX100B ($3,384.44). We bought instead of rented as we had assumed we were going to make more films with it. I did use it to shoot a still unfinished documentary about a band but that was about it. That was the very last of the prosumer standard definition cameras so renting would have been advisable.
We also bought Final Cut Studio ($550) and a second hard drive to back footage up on $162.93. The director had the last Mac Pro before Apple went Intel. The processor died not too much later so didn’t get the mileage out of Final Cut that we hoped. He did get us as a student discount so we take comfort from that.
Food – $712.63
A hungry crew can get on edge so I tried to keep them well fed. Roasted chickens and potato salad from the grocery store deli were go to items. We kept around cases of chips, granola bars, and water for snacks. A handful of times we splurged on restaurants including the Thai place down the street.
Hotel – $257.60
We went up to Santa Barbara for a night to shoot some makeup footage. Got two motel rooms at The Presidio on State Street. Had a fun night.
Lights – $709.44
$675 of this went towards renting a lighting kit from a friend of a friend. We also used some China ball lights at times.
Wardrobe – $480.00
We had a very cool girl do wardrobe for us. Loved hanging out with her on set. She used a combination of clothing we bought with clothing the actors owned.
Her wardrobe assistant “quit” after the first day of shooting. Well he stopped returning phone calls and emails so we assume he quit.
Parking – $6
We filmed a very short scene at night in a parking garage. We were using a fake pistol in the scene. The cops quickly checked in on us. We told them it was a student film so they let us out of a ticket for filming without a permit. It was a pretty stupid thing to do and the footage didn’t turn that great. You couldn’t even tell the guy was being threatened on the top floor of a parking garage due to a combination of the framing and lighting.
Tapes – $265.35
We used Panasonic brand MiniDV tapes. They cost about $9 each when bought in packages of three from Circuit City (it was on my way home from the office). Always tried to keep extras around in case we needed them.
Gas – $95.00
Everybody pretty much paid for their own gas but we did pay a few times for when people went out of their way as well as for my girlfriend’s gas as we used her Jeep to pick up and return the lights every weekend.
Post-Production – $110.17
We rented a projector and screened a cut of the film for a focus group. They were primarily the friends of our co-producer so they were much too kind with their notes.
Sound Effects – $23.27
We bought a couple sound effects from SoundDogs. Can’t recall what they were at the moment.
Other – $2,085.30
Cigarettes – $18.74
The crew had a few smokers so every once in a while I was asked to pick up a pack while running around. I wonder if anybody has ever successfully quit smoking while producing an independent film?
DVDs – $114.99
I think we ended up having to try a few different types of DVDs before we found one that we could burn the movie to and be confident it would play in all DVD players. We also bought labels that we would print from my ancient laser printer.
I might use CreateSpace for my screeners next go around.
Festival Submissions – $1,065.00
We submitted the film to 24 film festivals:
- AFI Fest ($70)
- Ashland Independent ($30)
- Bend Film Festival ($60)
- Boston International Film Festival ($80)
- Breckenridge Film Festival ($45)
- Bronx Independent ($25)
- Chicago Underground Film Festival ($40)
- CineVegas ($40)
- DV & HD Festiva ($30)
- Indie Fest USA ($25)
- Indie Memphis ($40)
- Kansas International Film Festival ($50)
- Los Angeles Film Festival ($70)
- Malibu International ($50)
- Phoenix Film Festival ($50)
- Portland International ($45)
- Rogue Independent Film Festival ($5)
- San Diego Film Festival ($35)
- San Francisco Independent/Sedona International ($80)
- Santa Barbara International ($50)
- Savannah Film Festival ($40)
- SoCal Independent Film Festival ($40)
- The Other Venice Film Festival ($30)
- Tucson Film & Music Festival ($35)
We got into none of them.
At one or two of those I felt suspicious that our film was even viewed. It would be great if film festivals could include a sentence or two from the screening committee with the rejection notice.
I understand that it is hard for filmmakers to be objective about the film they just spent so many hours bringing to life but I would recommend that they take a good look at what films screened at a festival in the past before submitting their film there. We submitted an early cut of the film to the Los Angeles Film Festival and should have known that was going to be $70 down the drain.
Another mistake we made was submitting to film festivals while we were still editing the film. We should have waited until we were absolutely certain the movie was as good as it could be before submitting it anywhere.
Postage – $520.19
$303.06 of that was shipping the camera back and forth with the rest mostly being costs of sending screeners to festivals we submitted to.
Printing – $52.28
This was all copies at Kinko’s along with a test print of our poster.
Web Hosting – $261.80
This was four years of hosting ($4.99 a month) and domain name renewals.
Total – $9,317.40
While the movie could have been a lot better in many areas I am very proud of the fact that we were about to make a 73 minute film with no experience and very, very little money. It was a stressful but great experience that taught me more about film, business, and life than I could have imagined.