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Old March 10th, 2005, 08:38 AM   #1
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The Art of Cutting Costs - Sole Proprietor Indie Video Production budget

Hello, I'm looking for ideas and this looks like the place to ask. This thread is intended for the "Sole Proprietor" video production business professional. But, of course chime in regardless of your protection status! I realize I need to incorporate, but that's another topic for later. This thread is for the part-timer or full timer who's trying to get to that next step.

Lately, I'm trimming the fat of my video business. (Also, trimming my physical fat too, but that's for another forum right?)

In short, here is what I've done....good and bad. I'd like to know what others do to stay lean and profitable. It's very important that I stay lean because my situation right now is IDEAL! I work in a home studio, my girlfriend brings in most of the bacon (I love woman's rights - they wanted it so I'm all for it!) and I'm able to freely create for 80% of my work time. Mind you this is after working for almost 20 years without a minute break...no vacations for at 15 of those years. **I ain't a slouch!**

GOOD things I've done as a "Sole Proprietor" to cut cost and help with profits:

- First, I bought this book "Guerrilla Marketing for Free: Dozens of No-Cost Tactics to Promote Your Business and Energize Your Profits". http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...193700-0010351 It's very useful for learning ways to get your name out for free.

- We eat homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. It saves tons of money not eating out. This is probably the largest daily expense that's in-check for us.

- Don't laugh, but I cut coupons every week and use them. The monthly savings can add up to $100. That's $100 per month...cash! $1200 a year saved for taking 5 minutes a week.

- Most of our entertainment is home based...we minimize expenses by having a nice entertainment center. (hdtv!)

- My equipment is maintained...and I only by the best tapes, cleaners and other gear that keeps things in tip top shape.

- I own my vehicle outright.

- I own a house with lots of equity that I haven't touched.

- I work at home, so I have to overhead and it's all tax deductable.

- I'm a dink. (Double Income No Kids)


BAD things I've done as a "Sole Proprietor" to ruin my GOOD habits:

- Evil credit card debt.

- I buy equipment outright instead of renting. Most of the equipment I've bought I could probably just rent, but I really love owning my equipment and being able to go out and shoot anytime.

- I've upgraded equipment when I really don't need to...not good.

- I'm lazy and don't utilize space and assets I've got. I've got a huge empty barn that I need to convert to a studio. Instead, I'm paying property taxes on something that could be an asset to my business. I should rent it out....not smart.

On the fence - might be good or bad:

- I market my business for the future because I can do it. I'm not trying to earn high revenue at this point, so I'm focusing on a more lucrative future. I believe that HD will be the norm in less than 5 years, so my investment now will pay of later.

- I've turned down video jobs because I just don't like the client. This is tough because I used to handle A-holes well. But, since I don't have to deal with them I tend to blow them off. This isn't smart and it loses money, but my overall outlook is that those jerks shave years off your life. This is a toss up. Since I don't have kids or that type of responsibility I guess it's a luxury I can afford for now. Later, I'll have to deal with them again I'm sure. But, I hope by then my clients are a little higher up on the food chain.

I'll edit this as I think of new things, but I would really love to hear other people's outline for how they operate their Indie businesses. Details please!
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Old March 10th, 2005, 12:08 PM   #2
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GREAT tips, Murph! By living slightly lean (with a DINK), one can do well. My fiancee will be getting her teaching certification, then we'll be doing better. Right now, we're living a bit on the edge like any new homeowner, but we're doing all right.

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Old March 10th, 2005, 01:21 PM   #3
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Heath,
I'm curious...does your finance get involved with your work? Is that what her teaching certificate will be geared towards? Film etc?

I ask because my girlfriend is a Chemist in Boston and makes excellent money. She doesn't really want to be fully involved with television or film. But, she helps me out when I ask because we're in love. (ain't love grand?)

It's sometimes something I wish were different - that she would also have the same interest career-wise. But, if that were true then I'd be SOL and shooting Weddings every weekend or climbing the industry ladder again. (did that already)

So, I'm just wondering what the expenses arrangement is for you? I contribute mostly sweat equity and (some finances depending on video gigs) - but, the usual house husband stuff grocery shopping, dishes, taking care of the autos etc etc. She doesn't have to do much at home. It works out even though she's the bread winner with chemistry and I'm the broke artist.

I say it's a great trade off...and I've admitted to her it's in my favor. But, she says "your the artist"...go ahead. I ain't arguing with that. But, still it's something I think about and wonder how others deal at home with "artist" filmmakers, video pros etc.

Just wondering what your deal is....or anyone else care to chime in too??
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Old March 10th, 2005, 01:27 PM   #4
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Marlene will teach, hopefully, creative writing to G-Star high school of filmmaking. She has a degree in creative writing.

Other than reading my scripts and watching films, her involvement is minimal. She's into the writing aspect mostly.

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Old March 10th, 2005, 01:50 PM   #5
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Sounds just like my situation too. (and we watch a lot of movies to boot)

Although, I've got her to be the "face" and "voice" of my company Willow Studios. Clients hear her voice first when they call my business and she's involved with the inital phone contact. It's just my experience, but I think a female makes a good first contact when looking to get money from people.

When I worked at a ABC television station there were 14 sales people...only 2 were men. They were there for show mostly...the women landed 95% of the business. It's messed up I know, but going in with a short skirt landed millions of dollars worth of business a year. I'd go on a sales call with the female sales people they'd land tons of business just by flirting. The men hated it, but it was just a fact. Sex sells is so true..

My little marketing tip - have a female be your "face" and "voice" if you're a service business like video production. It does help with the initial contact with people that don't know your business and haven't built up trust yet.

Another question for you Heath. I think this stays on topic to some extent. I've been tinkering with the idea of self-promotion. I.E. www.heathmcknight.com -- I think having a business name is important. But, also when selling your art stuff (screenplays, music, feature films etc) - does having Heath McKinight the brand benefit you? Has it paid off any? I'm considering the whole self-marketing thing "Christopher C. Murphy" (www.christophercmurphy.com is available)- get a website, promote my art with my name etc. I just don't know how much it helps on a small scale. If I sold a screenplay for $100,000 - I'd start promoting myself like crazy. It's cheap to promote, but I'm not sure if it's worth it. Some of the biggies like Lucas etc - those guys promote their company more than their name. But, someone like...I don't know, Tim Burton seems to have his name out there more.

This might be a new thread topic? Maybe under the topic of "Promoting your filmmaker name or film company...or both?"
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Old March 10th, 2005, 04:13 PM   #6
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The wife and I have been married for twenty five years. We were both 'artists' in the beginning. Ran our own theatrical and media production company for about eighteen years together. Good years and bad, economically speaking. But good fun to be working together.

She decided to 'go back to school' and became an IP Attorney. Copyrights, trademarks, entertainment law, software licensing- that sort of thing. Excellent money, of course- but not especially fullfilling for her artistic side.

We've taken turns over the years, being breadwinner... but there's no question that society rewards an attorney with a lot more money and 'status' than a 'struggling screenwriter/filmmaker'.

And society does judge a house-husband as a 'slacker' more often than not. Sad, but true. "What's a matter, can't get a 'real' job?" Gotta let that roll off your back.

If you and the partner have an arrangement that you feel is equitable and working - than go with it.
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Old March 10th, 2005, 04:32 PM   #7
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Thanks Richard, I'm going to show your post to her. :)
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Old March 10th, 2005, 04:38 PM   #8
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My best friend's wife makes more money than him, and at one point, he was a stay-at-home Dad. The scripts he wrote were GREAT!

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Old March 11th, 2005, 01:23 PM   #9
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"I'm curious...does your finance get involved with your work? Is that what her teaching certificate will be geared towards? Film etc?"

You know, given the topic of discussion between you two, that was a hell of a typo.

A freudian slip if there ever was one.

:)

My wife works as well, and I work out of the house (postproduction work mainly).
I can completely relate to the "what's the matter, can't get a real job" comments. It's not easy, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. We're both happy, and she likes that when she comes home I can already have dinner ready to go for her.

Financially things are rough sometimes, and we would probably be more stable money-wise if I were to give it up and get a 9 to 5 somewhere, but emotionally I think we're both actually a lot happier. Our home life is more under control because I'm here all day, so if little things crop up I can take care of them right away.

There are ups and down, like everything.

By the way, I was excited to see the list of cost cutting tips...then disapointed to see I was already doing most of them. For the record, coupon clipping is my deep dark secret as well.... there I said it.

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Old March 11th, 2005, 09:48 PM   #10
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I hate that some weeks I don't know if I'll get enough hours (so far, so good), but the stress was alleviated when I visited my old TV station with a student (a production company that rents space there had a check for me) and I was reminded why leaving was a good thing. No, not the people, but the feel. The feeling that I hated about it--local TV news (heck, any TV news, I guess).

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Old March 12th, 2005, 01:02 AM   #11
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I can completely relate to that...except for me it was radio, not TV, that I left.

On your own it can be bad.... and it is unstable...
but when things are going well, I'm happier than I've ever been when I was working for someone else.

It can be rough, no question, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
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Old March 12th, 2005, 06:18 AM   #12
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Heath, I know exactly what you mean...100%.

I still remember my very first moment when I said to myself, "This entire industry of news is a lie". You guys must remember the Clinton "Starr Report" time period? Who can forget the 24/7 coverage of the "stained dress" and "cigar" right? Well, I was one of the very first people in network or affiliate news (only the main broadcast networks and a couple affiliates got a digital copy at first the first day) to be given access to the "Starr Report" -- I'd been given an FTP site about 4-5 hours earlier than most. Luckily, we were one of the first stations in the country to have a fat pipe T1, so I downloaded this pretty large document quickly. They didn't expect anyone to download it that fast. (I had a dual role in television and the internet at the time...I did the stations website.)

Anyway, long story short...I ran into the news department and said I had a copy of the "Starr Report". Mind you - this was a 144 page document! The reporter on duty ran to my office and sat there scanning for "key words"....for about 1 minute. She stumbled across "cigar", "oral sex" and a few other things that really didn't give her any REAL information at all. Minutes later....we broke into network time..."Oprah" or whatever was on making the networks boat loads of money.

CUT TO: News Room...5, 4, 3, 2...silent 1

Good afternoon everyone, I'm (name withheld for obvious reasons) and I've just read the entire "Starr Report" and we've got exclusive coverage for you. The President......(fill in lots of details that are for the most part embellished lies that later were shown to be untrue).

So, I'm standing off camera watching and thinking "she didn't read the Starr Report...she's skewing everyone's opinion in the entire state right now". She did...the phone lit up and people were "outraged" at Clinton..."impeach" him! Etc. etc..

CUT TO: Worldwide coverage on (a Certain Network cable News) ...5, 4, 3, 2...silent 1

Good afternoon everyone in the entire WORLD, I'm (name withheld for obvious reasons) and we've just obtained exclusive video from a broadcast station in NH regarding the much anticipated "Starr Report".

CUT TO: Our news clip playing worldwide.

This was after I had worked in news for a while, but I gave the system the benefit of the doubt. In short, in my experience...never, ever believe anything you see on television no matter what unless you were there. Of course, most is true in nature....like there was a car accident, there is a storm coming etc. But, overall "coverage" is generally horse shit from every angle. The "real" facts sometimes never see the light of day by nature of the reporters, anchors, news directors and the college intern who's in-charge of the entire news room for hours on end because no one has shown up for work yet! I've seen college interns write and produce entire 6pm newscasts (with a potential news audience of 200,000+ people) by themselves because the producers on staff were out sick.

Anyway, I don't miss news for 1 second. The only lingering effect is has on me is that I check the news 1,000 times a day...even though I know it's pretty much horse shit anyway. lol

The good thing that came out of it was experience, and also I plan to write a screenplay based on some of my experiences. There was a huge story up here about a guy that went on a rampage and killed a couple state troopers, a judge, newspaper editor etc and there was a high speed chase across the border into VT where he was gunned down. (Oh, for added cinema flare...he booby trapped his entire house and the cops had to torch it.) He was pissed about the town coming down on him because of his property. The state motto in NH is "Live Free or Die" and lots of people truly believe it to the core...this guy did. I was there during the entire news coverage event and witnessed some crazy stuff. It's a story that should be told...it relates to our existing world issues, but tells the story locally in a small town. The guys name was "Carl Drega" - what a name for the film - "Drega". It sounds like what it was..

http://www.geocities.com/northstarzone/drega1.html

The only thing keeping me from writing it right now is the legal aspect. I don't even know where to begin because it involves so many people.

Is news stuff similar to how you feel or think Heath??
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Old March 12th, 2005, 02:42 PM   #13
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Murph, you with the weekly prize of most informative off topic post! :)

It's a great story, can I convince you to start a new thread about it, and cut/paste your story into it so people who are looking for that type of info can read it and it can be discussed? After that I'll prune this thread back to topic. Cool?
I'd do it, but you might as well have your name on the thread, since it'll be about your news experience. Maybe in the TOTEM forum?
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Old March 13th, 2005, 01:30 AM   #14
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Lol, I guess that I got carried away. I just copied the post and I'll probably re-post it sometime soon in the "Indie Production" area requesting help on the screenplay..

So, trim away! :)
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Old March 13th, 2005, 10:59 AM   #15
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No, keep it here, it's perfect in Taking Care of Business. Don't trim it! :-)

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