Monday, October 22, 2012

Budgets Budgets Toil and Trouble

Sorry for the short break from the blog.

In the world of indie film, when it rains, it pours. The converse, of course, is that when it's dry, it's a friggin' desert.

In the past two weeks, I've been commissioned to do two feature budgets and schedules for investors. One has changed parameters a few times, as they now have some name talent that may be attached.

The other is for a film festival in Europe that will fund them as long as the budget is under $150K Euros. This means doing the currency conversion, which is easy, as Gorilla software, my preferred software, does this, as does EP.

I have put together different templates for features and shorts over the years in both EP and Gorilla. The film festival funding this project, of course, has decided that applicants need to use their budget template in Excel. It's a ridiculous template, more appropriate for shorts or commercials and music videos than a feature. They also lump the oddest things - location fees are under "set dressing." What's up with that?

The requests for these budgets came at the exact same time I got called to line produce a pilot for NICK Moms. Of course, they did. They would not have come when I was twiddling my thumbs hitting "refresh" on my Gmail in the hopes of seeing a job offer come my way.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining.

I am actually very happy that they both came via a contact I've had for a long time, a really good guy who runs a studio in New York. It was, in many ways, a typical contact. This was a guy who I first spoke to about two or three years ago when I was line producing an impossible feature in Connecticut (don't worry - it will wind up here). I needed a location manager for a few select locations in NYC.

Brendan runs a great studio in NY, NYLAHD. Shameless plug? You betcha'. Somebody throws you work, you return the favor. Also, I've had two people I know work with them and tell me great things - plugs aren't cool if the referral is a bad one.

While Brendan was unable to location manage that shoot, he continued to refer possible location managers and gave me some location contacts to follow-up on. It's people like this that make you feel good about the business; people who don't just say, "what's in it for me," but who just genuinely try to help out.

Both projects he referred to me are good scripts with seasoned pros putting them together. I really hope they get funded.

I have a love/hate/love/hate/love relationships with budgets and schedules.

I love the income between gigs.

I've come to hate starting the input and breakdown, then trying to figure out the perfect schedule. When I was younger, schedules were like crossword puzzles, cool challenges. Now, I pretty much dread them. They are still like puzzles, only ones where I wish I could cut the pieces to make them fit.

The writer in me loves the intricacy of the script. The AD in me hates that phone conversations and parallel action mean more breakdown sheets to enter. The line producer in me looks at a the schedule and says "those two guys have no lines in the diner scene. If they weren't there, I could shoot them out in one week." Not very artistic.

Of course, once I DO figure out the perfect schedule, I get this warm glow. At my age, that's no small feat. I love.

Then I have to start the budget. I'm not naturally a numbers guy, and my ex will tell you that budgeting my life isn't my strong point. Films? That one I got. Hate going line item by line item, but that's the way it gets done.

A budget is not just a bunch of numbers, it's a game plan for your film. Once I have finished it, I hate that the right way to present it is with detail notes; but once I've done that, I love the feeling of satisfaction I get from knowing I have fully planned out a film from start to finish.

Both of those budgets are done now, pretty much. I meet with the filmmakers tomorrow, and will probably tweak them after we talk, Getting to know their priorities and how they plan on attacking the film needs to be part of the conversation.

I should be sitting here, basking in the glow of victory, getting ready to send my left brain to a nice warm beach and drinks with fruit and funny straws while revving up my right brain to get back to a theater play I am writing.

Instead, I'm taking a deep breath, because last Thursday, a novelist called me. He found me on the web, and wanted to know my thoughts about producing a short he wrote. He sent me the script, and it's a dark, funny, satire. He even wants to shoot on 35mm, which truly made me happy.

Next step - schedule and budget for the short!

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