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Ben Yennie: Top 5 Priorities to SPEND money on your IndieFilm According to Debbie Brubaker

Since one of the core features of our platform is an indie film budgeting tool, we thought we’d give you some advice on how to allocate your money so that you end up with the best film possible.  I reached out to our friend Debbie Brubaker (UPM of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, as well as many others http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0115379/) to ask what she thought the top 5 places you should SPEND money on a project.  Here’s what she said, with some elaboration from yours truly.

1. Pre-Production.

Cutting down on Prep usually results in an “Oh Shit!” moment that ends up costing you a lot more money than if you’d just prepared adequately from the start.  If you don’t take the time to adequately set up the plan, then the only thing you’re planning for is failure.  Spending a bit more time and money on pre-production will save you lots of time and money in the long run.

2. Crew

If you want to make a great movie, you’re going to need a great crew.  The only way you get a great crew is if you pay them well.  Paying your crew the best wages you can get you the best people, and buy you their loyalty and hard work.

Speaking as a businessman, If the average wage for a job is between 16 and 20 dollars an hour, I’d almost always rather pay the 20 bucks an hour, because the person I get for 20 bucks an hour often get more done than 2 people I pay 16 dollars an hour.  This is due in part to the fact that people will value the job more, feel more appreciated, and generally happier.

3. Cast

Even if you can’t hire recognizable name talent, you should cast extremely talented people and pay them accordingly.  Performance matters a great deal in filmmaking.  In fact, I’ve had some films that I couldn’t sell because of some noteworthy performance issues, even though the cinematography was fantastic.

Also, speaking as an executive producer more than a line producer, recognizable name talent will make the job of selling your film incredibly easier.  It will also increase your chances of getting bigger sales in more territories.

4. Craft Services

As they say, the army marches on its stomach. Do not scrimp on craft services or catering - do the best you can for what you have. A happy crew works better, and a well-fed crew is a happy crew.  Don’t rely on subway 5 dollar footlongs or taco bell if you can find any way to avoid it.  Spending enough to keep your crew pleasantly full of hearty, healthy food will show on screen.

Sandwiches can be a good, affordable lunch that will keep your crew going for a long time.  Pizza is creasy and can weigh down the crew and slow them up a bit after the meal.  Emphasize healthy foods, and make sure you don’t skimp on the coffee, tea, and other caffeine.

5. Equipment that works

Don't cheat the crew out of the tools they need to do the right job. This doesn't necessarily mean quantity, it means working gear that won't break or fall apart on them. Better to have less than to have crappy tools.  This might well mean paying more to get your equipment from a proper rental house than some guy on craigslist.  Or, if you’re kind of strapped, you can use the classified ad system on Productionnext to find not only your equipment, but possibly some of your crew.

Thank you very much for reading!  We’ll be back next week with more from debbie on what NOT to emphasize in your budget.  In the mean time, why don’t you work on the budget for your next film right here on ProductionNext?  You could also shore up the schedule, complete your breakdown, and everything else listed on our fancy banner ad below.

We're also partnering with Debbie to do a series of livestreams on the ins and outs of being a successful UPM.  It's FREE, just RSVP on Facebook!



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