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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old May 9th, 2005, 04:37 AM   #1
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$7000?

Hi all, A lot of people in discussing indie movie budgets refer to movies who's budgets were $7000, $1000, or even $216, that they saw in their local cinema. This is my follow up from a thread that was wandering off topic elsewhere, but I thought was worth continuing

Primer is one of those breakout movie lottery winners, word on it is it's very good. However the "$7000 budget tag" is a little misleading. It's like how Tarnation is always attributed a budget of $216. Those figures actually refer to how much is cost to get an edit, and probably one without a sound mix, broadcast online edit, Telecine colour correction, even an output to a broadcast format, let alone a blow up to film and music clearances (which for Tarnation's case cost around $200,000 alone.)

Basically there were two break out films like this last year: Tarnation, and Primer, the year before it was Open Water.

What the distributors saw of movies like Tarnation, Primer and El Mariachi for that matter were essentially just high quality offline dubs. Nowadays it's possible to get a offline to look and much better that in the old linear tape days. When Rodriguez was trying to sell Mariachi to Mexican Video Distributors his copy looked so bad he couldn't even sell it for a profit, as he was selling an offline dub (that cost $7000 to produce, and LOOKED it) as the final master. The people at Columbia saw through the poor quality of the tape and knew they could go back to the original footage to get a decentish copy out of it.

Take mixing sound for example, while even a modest desktop can run software for a reasonable price (ie in the thousands of dollars) that would equal the best movie mixing equipment of ten years ago, that's not going to make up for the lack of a proper, sound proofed, reflection free mixing studio with top flight studio monitors, bass traps and a dubbing mixer who knows how to mix for cinema, TV and other distribution formats.

So, while yes it's possible to shoot edit and record a project for $7000 I wouldn't say it's possible to finish and distribute it for that much. This goes for 16mm, DV HDV or DVCproHD.

Ironically, there was a time when Indie filmmakers would inflate their budgets, listing in-kind donations as real financial contributions, in order to make their film more valuable. It seems that these days many indie filmmakers are less savvy business people, but cannier at publicity/marketing.
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Last edited by Dylan Pank; May 9th, 2005 at 04:48 AM. Reason: put in the links
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Old May 9th, 2005, 07:48 AM   #2
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Yeah, I'll agree the sub-$10,000 movie comes with a lot of caveats. For one thing, I've also read that while a distributer may be willing to pay for the post costs, it's not like your getting it for free. Guess where that money comes from -- your end. It's something to keep in mind when your negotiating with the distributer. Still, relatively few people can find enough investors to give them $200,000 up front, and even fewer can front it themselves. So I think putting your dreams on finding someone else to do the heavy lifting once you can show them the potential of your project is still a valid strategy. In fact, it makes way more sense than trying to find a way to pay for it yourself in the first place. Blowing $10,000 on a dream that doesn't go anywhere is a bummer, but if you're smart (don't use credit cards!) it won't cripple you financially. Blowing $200,000 of your friend's money or mortgaging your house on a movie that doesn't take off would just plain suck, and could seriously wreck your life.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 08:33 AM   #3
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Dylan,

Following you over to this thread for an answer from the "HD/16mm" thread.

I am completely aware of the caveats that go with the sub-10 grand labels. In my earlier postings on the other thread, and elsewhere on the board, I have often posted on how important it its to take these lowball figures with a grain of salt, and how conviniently they leave out the deffered costs... etc. I've even been accused of being 'negative' and a 'downer' for pointing out the falacies in such budget hypes.

So yeah, I'm with you on that. My point of posting, was to show how you could LEVERAGE your up front costs and STILL shoot film... that it's not necessarily out of the question for those considering the HD vs the 16mm question. All of the leveraging that was done to get the initial cut on film... the defferments, the borrowing, the IOU's, the favor swapping, the ebay deal making... all of the stuff that normally needs to be done to get a small budget deal done... can be done with film. Too many people hop over to Kodak's web site and look at the retail price for a can of film, and then look at the lab quote for straight process and transfer, and figure those are hard numbers. In my experience... they're not. It takes a LOT of 'hustle' but you can get deals. From Kodak, from labs, from other films unloading unused stock... it just takes a lot of hustle... but that's true no matter what format you are shooting.

I stand by my point that your story is more important than your aquisition format.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 12:13 PM   #4
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Richard, actually I agree with you completely. I raise these more as a point of discussion and don't consider them as disagreeing with anyone. In some ways it means that in the long term, the cost of shooting 16mm is still not that much when you consider where it has to get to.

In a sense it's better to think of these $7000 budgets are a sort of entry point rather than the final budget for a film, and the cost of that entry point may be much lower with HD than it would be with 16mm, depending on the gear itself, as you could probably find 16mm equipment to borrow for free without to much trouble, whereas HDV/DVCproHD cameras would probably be a rental item for a long time.

What I mean to say, the cost of the camera and sound gear notwithstanding (as you couldn't BUY a 16mm cam, audio recorder and mics and have much left over within a $7000 budget either) the cost of El Mariachi would have been much lower if Rodriguez had shot it on HDV. This is not, of course to say it would have been a better or worse film.

I'm completely with you that story trumps acquisition format, in fact story should to some degree dictate the acquisition format.
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Last edited by Dylan Pank; May 9th, 2005 at 01:40 PM.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 04:04 PM   #5
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I hope this is On-Topic...

Regarding Film Distro and the new technologies that are becoming available and that will come literally 'Into our Homes' in the coming years.

It is forseeable to be able to deliver feature length films online. With companies like: http://www.cinemanow.com/home.aspx and others that are popping up (and going under) there is a whole market of untapped potential.

Let's assume a film is made and all things are on par. The story is great, the crew is a professional crew that knows what they are doing, the talent is first rate... everything. It's as good as good get's.

Let's assume one might not have to do a filmout but instead digitally releases it available online, fullscreen in HD-24p Glory. Let's further assume the film can be digitally released and fed into a comsumers widescreen television for the full Home Theatre Experience whether a straight feed or burnded to DVD from your hardrive.

What am I getting at here? I am saying it is not unforseeable for a new kind of filmmaking machine to appear that makes Grade A (and B) films and bypassess the Film Medium and theatre distro alltogether but instead markets through the web and into our homes; worldwide.

I'm not talking some small Quicktime Window but the full-screen, DVD-quality movies we get from BB or HV and now available through companies like the ones listed above.

It may sound far-fetched; but the future is wide open and assuming all things are equal it will come down to who markets their monster most succesfully.

Imagine that.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 04:23 PM   #6
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John, I couldn't agree more.
The trend is going in the direction that, given some time, our TV and computers will simply become one machine (and it's coming faster than some might think).

It's only a matter of time, but eventually we won't think of broadcasting content any differently than we do of putting up a website today.

And as you said, at that point it comes down to marketing (which of course still takes money).

But think about this...it's just as easy for me to type in DVinfo.net as it is to type in Sony.com, and although Chris may not have the marketing budget of Sony (yet), he still seems to get quite a bit of traffic here.
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Old May 9th, 2005, 06:39 PM   #7
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Actually according to Carruth, the director of PRIMER, they didn't need to do much. The sound mix was fine. The blow-up was $40,000.

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Old May 9th, 2005, 07:16 PM   #8
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So, while yes it's possible to shoot edit and record a project for $7000 I wouldn't say it's possible to finish and distribute it for that much. This goes for 16mm, DV HDV or DVCproHD.

I would point out that it's finishing the project that is important.
If a filmmaker does his job well, then the distribution shouldn't be his/her problem.

All of the examples you sited were movies that were sold based on the product they showed which was made at the low budget you quoted. Whether or not the studio/distributor poured more money into it after the sale seems like a moot point to me.

It seems more important to look at what is required/expected to be able to sell a movie, not what it costs the studio to get it in the theaters.
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