Budgets. Finances. Yes, I know. Icky, yucky, boring.
But necessary. If it wasn't for money and organized budgeting,
you would not be making movies. Trust me, as a microcinema
producer, I know how frustrating this topic is, but it is
a necessary evil that must be not only confronted, but understood,
and understood very well.
In this book, Deke Simon and Michael Wiese go through an
overview of what goes into starting a production company
and the general aspects of pre-production planning and budgeting.
Next, they cover a detailed "line item" list of
each possible expense you could encounter. Finally, the
second half of the book goes through sample budgets for
various projects ($5 million feature film, music video,
documentary, student film, etc).
I looked at this book, I had two initial simultaneous thoughts:
"Wow! This is a really necessary and important topic!"
and "Oh crap
I'll never get through this book."
Then I read the first sentence under the "How to
Use this Book" section after the Introduction:
"Don't read the whole thing!" And my heartbeat
returned to normal. What I learned about this book is that
it is meant to be a handbook, a guide for whatever type
of film/video project you find yourself doing. Because each
project has such diverse financial needs, the authors cover
general information about budgeting, then look at each specific
budget style for you to model when you do your project.
The first two chapters ("Setting Up a Production Company"
and "Pre-Production") are extremely helpful, because
they go through and explain a lot of technical aspects,
including incorporating, getting a business license, guilds
and unions, securing rights, legalities, insurance, union/non-union
cast and crew, etc. Because most of us micro-filmmakers
don't have big enough budgets to require a lot of these
services, we typically don't know much about them. However,
the more films you work on and the bigger the budget you
are responsible for, the more it become essential to be
familiar with these things.
"Line Item" section of the book is quite long,
but is necessary. The writers explain what each job or expense
entails and gives an estimate (emphasis on estimate)
on possible costs for that service. Once you become familiar
with the pattern of descriptions, it's a lot less overwhelming
to read. For the "Sample Budgets" section, line
items that apply to each particular project are explained
in more specific detail.
Depth of information? Oh yeah. Almost 500 pages of it! But,
as stated before, you don't need all of it. Once you find
the budget that best fits your project (for most of us visiting
this site, that would be the "Digital No-Budget Feature
Film" chapter), you gather your information, and adjust
your budget accordingly.
these guys have thought of everything that you might need
for your project. One of the most important professional
reflections on you as a director and/or producer is your
ability to stay within budget; because of this, the information
in this book is very detailed.
Really, how exciting can budgeting be? For the few, the
proud, the accountant-geeks among us, it might border on
orgasmic. For the general populace however, it ranks right
up there with a non-Novocain root canal. Mercifully, Simon
and Wiese recognize this fact, and give the book an almost
conversational tone, making it easier to read. Also, because
you don't have to read the entire book, and because it is
organized so well, it is much less intimidating. Thus, the
authors have taken a potentially boring, complicated topic
and made it much more engaging and understandable.
If you are a producer, I would definitely recommend getting
this book, especially if you are dealing with any budget
over $10,000. I guarantee that you will use this book repeatedly
(as well as the budget guides it provides) for almost every
video/film project you handle.
Some micro-cinema producers may think this book is a bit
more money than they want to spend. All I will say this:
the cost of purchasing this book is far less than the cost
of going over-budget or screwing something up due to poor
financial planning ahead of time. 'Nuff said.
As I said, this is not a pretty topic to deal with, but
it is one that is necessary and vital to filmmaking. The
only people I would recommend getting this book are those
that find themselves in the role of Producer. (And for them,
I strongly recommend getting this!) I produced a $6,000
movie with no model budget and that was difficult enough;
the more money you're responsible for, the more guidance
you need to achieve your budget.
The book is well-organized and easy to follow. It provides
many helpful tips, suggestions, examples, and contacts to
help you make the best budget for your needs. (They also
have free Excel budget templates you can download.) They
take a lot of things into account and recognize the diverse
requirements of different projects you may encounter. And
most importantly, this is one of the few budgeting books
that actually looks at the financial and budgeting needs
of micro-filmmakers and addresses them specifically.