OK, so lots of film people are now trickling back from Cannes, enthused with new ideas and vigor. The less fortunate people will be coming back after having some really bad meetings. The reason for a lot of these, less than fruitful meetings, will be bad preparation or ignorance.
Mi Experience here in Hollywood has taught me that when you pitch an independent film project you need to know that project, not just how it will look, but also what it will cost. This is where a lot, and I mean a lot, of film makers come undone. So often a film budget is a figure plucked out of the air that sounds right and fits in with an idea of what the film ‘can’ cost or what the genre will tolerate. But here’s the thing, your flimsy financial model will crumble after a few simple questions (see my ‘3 Strikes Rule‘). You have just burned a potential funding option and slipped further down the credibility scale.
So, the usual route is to bring a producer or production manager on board to create a budget breakdown and schedule. Here in LA that means paying $1500-$5000 to a third party, who in some cases will breakdown your script and not read it.
So what are your options? You can buy your own software, attend some seminars and produce your own breakdowns. For most people that software was Entertainment Partners film software Movie Magic, often, if not always, hailed as the ‘industry standard’. The investment is around $1000 (plus updates) and until a few years ago there was nothing else, so the industry standard was more of a Hobson’s Choice.
In 2007 I discovered an alternative film budget and scheduling package called Gorilla made by Jungle Software – I have been a fan ever since. I met with the CEO of Jungle Aaton Cohen Sitt, last year. After learning the company was rolling out a new version of the software, I agreed to join the beta testing of the new version 5. Having attended the seminars at the Movie Magic HQ, I can honestly say Gorilla is without doubt the industry standard for independent filmmakers. Why? Watch the video!
As an independent filmmaker you have to wear a lot of hats. Gorilla 5 offers complete control of your project, all the information you need is in one place and easily accessible. So no matter what questions people have, you always have an answer. Now, people may choose to disagree with your figures/dates, but when you have a budget and schedule to show, you are far more in charge of your projects direction. That is very important in a business “where nobody knows anything” (William Goldman – Adventures in the Screen trade).
Mi personal feeling is “things are only right until they’re proved wrong”. Example’s:
- [Anecdote] “No one wants sci-fi right now”. George Lucas heard this from all the studios while pitching Star Wars
- [Filmmaking Rule] POV in movies doesn’t work. Please see Cloverfield, Blair Witch, Paranormal Activities/s
- [Perception] Digital will never replace film. Take your pick of any recent successful digital movie
As an independent film maker you are constantly trying to get credibility. If you can toss a top-sheet budget and a schedule on the table when asked your credibility as a filmmaker increases. That has to be work $400 of anyone’s money.
I’ll be putting together some budget and scheduling pointers in future postings, till then feel free to contact me with questions.