Sunday, 12 July 2015

Filmmakers Forum - Managing Production

Yesterday I attended the Sargent-Disc BAFTA Filmmakers Forum and gathered some golden nuggets of wisdom to remember and share. These are from the session on Managing Production on Independent Films and here is another post on The Re-Draft.

Clare Cahill (First AD, Art Ache, The Turtle and the Sea, Gridiron UK) who has worked on 27 films with budgets under £500k recommended over estimating your budget by 140% as you will often get around 80% of what you ask for. She also encouraged producers to be fair and pay people, saying that when someone tells her they made a film for £27k, she calls them a thief.

Terry Bamber (First AD, My Angel, A Christmas Star) suggested that for at least one day of the tech recce you pay for a Health & Safety Officer to come with you as their sharp eyes will help you avoid a lot of future expenses. He also stressed how important it is to keep to your word and know what crew you need. For example, a small movie may only need a 1st AD and a 3rd AD - know their roles and where you need (and need to pay for) high expertise vs where you just need someone to be there. He mentioned crew on low budgets also tend to prefer continuous 10hr days with a running lunch rather than 12hr days with a 1hr lunch break.

Producer's Vision

Terry also stressed the importance of knowing right from the start what kind of movie you're making. He gave the example of a TV movie where the producer was so excited by the footage that she wanted to turn it into a theatrical feature for Cannes. This would mean a longer film, so additional scenes that don't fit into the schedule (or presumably the script).

This seems to me a very important point which often causes trouble in the development process too. The vision for a film will suddenly grow (akin to the "feature creep" which happens when clients give you creative briefs in the commercials and tech world) - someone suggests a movie star for a comedy intended for DVD and suddenly you need a whole new budget level and strategic plan, which means you're script is suddenly not good enough for its ambitions, and you end up back in script development and financing. A clear and unwavering vision from the producer about what kind of film they are making can see a project through. If you wanted to make a theatrical Cannes film with a movie star, you should have started there with a script and finance plan for that purpose.

Peter La Terriere (Completion Guarantor, European Film Bonds) said anything below £2m is hard to bond because there's an element of maverick filmmaking which s hard to guarantee. Over £20m you will probably have a Studio which doesn't want a bond company to have take over rights. He also mentioned the key roles that influence the budget - the ones your guarantor will look at closely and have approval over - are Line Producer, Accountant, Director of Photography and Production Designer.

Gisela Evert (Post Production Supervisor, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, The Enfield Haunting, London Road) defined VFX neatly as "any manipulation of a picture element". Her top tips were to hire the best Sound Recordist you can find to avoid ADR, get the best Accountant you can find and do a Purchase Order for everything to make sure every cost on your production is closely tracked.

Clearances are also important - be aware of them from the moment you read the script. Hire a good Music Supervisor and also watch out for brand infringements such as the shape of a Pepsi bottle which is copyrighted. Clare suggested you could hire a clearance person for a day to read through your script and flag any potential issues.

Sargent-Disc is a great resource in the UK for production and accounts software and it seems like they are now launching a Purchase Order app which could be very helpful. If anyone has used it, let me know in the comments.

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