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Ben Yennie: Top 6 Places to SAFELY Cut Your IndieFilm Budget and SAVE MONEY

Last week we talked about the top 5 Places you can SPEND Money to ramp up the production value of your film.  This week, we’re listing Debbie’s top 6 places you can CUT the budget to save money on production, and bring your film in at a lower cost.  Just as with last week, I’ve expanded on some of what Debbie said in our email.

1. Cut down on speaking parts.

Actors can be expensive, especially if you have multiple characters with only one line.  If you want to make a low budget film, you have to be frugal with the day players.  Even if it pains us to say it.

Instead, see if you can combine characters who give those one line from a series of bit parts to one weak supporting role.  If that doesn’t work, sometimes existing supporting characters can pick up those single lines of dialogue.

2. Treat your crew equally, and keep payroll under control.

Don't hire an expensive "Key" person such as a DP that commands 3 times what the gaffer or key grip are making. Granted the DP makes more than they do, but not 2.5 X or more.

This may seem to contradict what we said last week, but it doesn’t.  Last week we talked about hiring an entire crew and and paying them will.  What we’re advising against is having a few people making more money that the rest of the crew, even people in the same position.  Salaries for crew should ALL be commensurate with the budget. Same with Above the Line people. 

3. Don’t Overschedule your shoot days.

Keep overtime to a bare minimum. Over a long haul what you discover is that adding a day is often much less than having Overtime all the time. 

It’s often better to keep yourself to 3-5 pages a day so you know you can get it done than to go into 12 and 16 hour days to get what you scheduled in.  You can get more done in a day, but there are many circumstances under which it makes more sense to add a shoot day than to go into massive overtime.

4. Don't reinvent the wheel.

Don't cut something because you think you can "do it yourself.” That is, unless you really do have the time to do it. There are dozens of jobs that maybe producers and directors can do but there really is a reason to hire professionals. They can do it better than you can, because it's their profession. In the long run it really does save money to do things "the right way". 

Further, both the director and producer are going to be busy on set with other things, and the distraction of having to do something that someone else can do better will also have an impact on the quality of work the director is doing.

5. Don't start shooting before you are ready.

People tend to think that problems will iron themselves out once you get into production. This is stupid.

If anything they can compound and end up costing you more than had you taken the time to correct things first before pulling any triggers. Sometimes it's just a matter of a week. And in the short term might cost something, but in the long term it's well worth it. Been there, seen that.  Have the T-Shirt, Never wear it.

This ties back to last week in the overspend on Pre-Production Tip.  If you’re prepared for a shoot, it’s almost always going to go better than if you aren’t

6. Don’t Overspend on gear

Don't spend money on gear that is not commensurate with your budget either. Unless the DP is bring in his own Alexa - there are other good cameras on the market to rent that can get you great images.

Keep an eye on each department. If you can find locations that you can use "as is" as opposed to removing all the furniture and "things" then use them that way. Just remember to remove anything is surprisingly expensive.

Further, consider adequate alternatives.  Sure, the DP WANTS a crane, but there’s at least a chance a Jib can get you close enough to what you want at a fraction of the cost.

Thanks so much for reading!  Now you should get started on your next budget right here on ProductionNext.  Not ready to budget?  Well that’s not all we do.  I’ll let this Banner give you an idea.


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