Tag Archives: production budget

CIMM Fest’s Carmine Cervi does a scene

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I am anything, at any time, as the need arises – I am the Producer

“I don’t want the world to know, I don’t want my heart to show, Two faces have I…”
– Songwriters: Twyla Herbert, Lou Christie
janus1
I have a vocation and an avocation. Both, equally important. My vocation puts food on the table, a roof over my head and allows me to purchase goods and services to support a lifestyle. It also allows me to pursue my avocation (the creation of a feature film) by supplying a meager cash-flow and credit to finance the entire endeavor. I disagree, however, with the dictionary definition of avocation; a subordinate occupation pursued in addition to one’s vocation, as it is actually the driving force behind my ‘job’.
There are two “me’s”. They have blended into one and they feed off of each other. These two business development professionals work in tandem to achieve success. In fact, the skills I apply to producing a film supplant the 38 years of learned and acquired skills I’ve brought to my job as a marketer and a biz-dev consultant.
It isn’t easy. And I’ve been working 14-16 hour days for the past five years. But when things get rough, and a set-back or challenge slaps me down, I just turn the other cheek.

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Forty One (41)

That’s the number of categories in my budget sheet. 

Each one of these categories has line items. Some as few as one and others upwards to several dozen. I look at this spreadsheet every night before retiring and make detailed entry adjustments. Today I am feeling anxious and antsy. Not a drop of alcohol in three weeks and a daily work-out to keep both my mind and body sharp. I had lunch with my good friend and storyboard artist, Gary. He gave me the opportunity to get out of my ‘stoic’ modality and relax a bit. I also spoke with our Line Producer, Phil, today, on an unrelated matter but it was good to get him an update. I have another good friend and colleague working on some financing in Las Vegas. And, I’m still waiting on word from Sardinia on the Regional Film Incentive.

Sweating the Budget Numbers

I read a great line from a producer colleague of mine in New York; “When you obtain funding, it is not going to be just because of your project, it is going to be because of your project and the funder likes you. Always be your best self.”

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A Producer’s Lot

When a Producer’s not engaged in his employment –
Or maturing his grandiose little plans –.
His capacity for innocent enjoyment –
Is just as great as any other man’s –
Our feelings we with difficulty smother –
When budgetary duty’s to be done –
Ah, take one consideration with another –
A Producer’s lot is not a happy one.
When budgetary duty’s to be done, to be done,
A Producer’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

When the enterprising actor’s not a-acting –
When the Director isn’t perpetrating a crime –
He loves to hear his little iPhone gurgling –
And listen to a merry ring-tone chime –
When the Diva’s finished jumping on her mother –
She loves to lie-basking-nekkid in the sun –
Ah, take one consideration with another –
A Producer’s lot is not a happy one.
When budgetary duty’s to be done, to be done,
A Producer’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

(a tip o’ the hat to Gilbert & Sullivan)

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Mr. Miyagi

Slow and steady wins the race.

While riding a commuter train I glanced at someone reading an article entitled, “ Being Average is the New Failure.” Observations like these have turned me into a light sleeper.
As age sixty approaches I worry slow could equate to average. And in some writer’s mind that equals failure.

I wake every day about 5 a.m. thinking about budgets and finance (and cash flow too!).
Could patience and methodical progress be confused with lethargy and inaction?
A while back I posted an image of the Warner Bros. cartoon character, Pepe LePew.
I’ve often identified with him. No matter how long it took, he was unwavering in reaching his goal. And, although often times frustrated, he always in the end succeeded.
However, we work in an environment of Donald Trumps, Simon Cowells , Jack Welchs and Harvey Weinsteins. Would Sun Tzu, Lao Tse or old Ben Franklin have any insights to offer in this hyper-go-go business environment? Miyagi was just another fictional film character. Again, conjured up in some writer’s mind. This time for the movie Karate Kid. Patience was Miyagi’s virtue. From repetition he derived strength.
There are forty-one categories in my film’s budget.
The spreadsheet is now permanently etched in my mind’s eye.
Each of those categories have, on average, ten sub-categories. And each of those sub-categories have five columns of budget numbers. Do the math….over 2000 inter-related budget entries for this low budget production. Being off by a mere $1000 could have big, five-figure implications somewhere else on the spreadsheet and overall final budget number. Subsequently, my numbers are constantly being massaged. I edit number entries there nearly every other day.
As I get or think of new and additional information pertaining to a component of the film, be it cast, crew, prop or professional service, it gets factored in to its appropriate category. I then must look to see what impact his has had on other related categories. For instance: if I add another actor extra will the actor require a costume or costumes, hair-styling or a wig, accommodations, travel, union consideration, etc. Will any of these items have an impact on scheduling? Will it add another day to the shooting schedule, will it tip the scales for additional crew members? I want to keep surprises down to a minimum. I’m producing a film and there’s at least two thousand things that could go wrong. If I can even think of fifty of those, I’d be a genius. So, in my being slow and/or average I’m at least laser-focused on making this film a success. So, on a daily basis, it’s wax-on, wax-off.

Thanks Mr. Miyagi.

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The Egg & I

As in, “what comes first?”

From where I stand, it must be the egg, or eggs. And big, shiny Golden ones at that. 

Because every critical piece of the pre-production process requires enough of them to make an omelette, a souffle….a big, honkin’ zabaglione.

Otherwise the human component of your process will remain chickens.

And rightly so.

The ‘peeps‘ have, mortgages, kids, alimony and dare I say it….unlike producers….real lives.

So, the brain-scrambling conundrum faced by those of us who dwell in oblivion is thus:

“Can’t get the lettuce unless without a committed cast and crew, but no commitment from cast and crew unless ya got the scratch.”

Try approaching an investor with no one signed to your project and you’ll get a response that would make the Soup Nazi look like Mr. Rogers.

“No (chicken) soup for YOU!”

 Indeed, there are times where I could swear the sky is falling.

But rather than bemoan the fact that I find myself on this Mobius-strip of raising the budget, I’ve decided to leverage all of my resources to move the process forward.

Relationships, favors, markers, friends-of-friends, all come into play.

Connecting the dots, whereby one door opens another.

I factor whatever in-kind considerations I can into my business plan and make sure I attach a realistic dollar value to them.

All the while I keep critical contacts appraised of my progress and to my surprise my efforts are yielding results.

Even folks who said nyet early on are seeing the opportunity I am presenting them with.

Chicken or the egg?

Who knows?

I just keep pushing forward for that ‘Pullet-Surprise’. 

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Honing in on the Budget

Continued dialogs with entertainment lawyers, financial advisors, line producers, casting agents and cinematographers. Pre-production is like the first 8 miles of a marathon. A lot of ‘groundwork’ to get to the heart of the matter.

My list of high net-worth contacts is growing. The goal there is one hundred names. Those one-hundred should each know five other people. I intend to rasie 7 figures with the help of an experienced co-producer.

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