This is (basically) the title of a rather long thread on LinkedIn. Here is an excerpt of the kinds of responses that question generated…
“Can I have the money now so I can prove it can be done? ;)”
“I have several scripts that could fit that budget.”
“I would do this for a worthwhile project.”
“Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity both came in under $25,000…”
I applaud the bravado put forward by these filmmakers, but I feel like they are underestimating what it means to make a movie. Let me explain.
Considering that my team can bring $500K in resources and 75 years of experience to focus on your film, this is actually a great deal. We may put 500+ hours of work into your film. I am running a business. I have hard costs that must be covered and kids with a powerful need to eat. Each film I work on has its own set of demands and financial constraints so the ideal budget might be higher or lower. However, the work I do is basically the same without regard for the cash that changes hands. So, for the sake of this discussion, lets say we are making a romantic comedy and my card-rate is $50K.
This means that I will be pouring $50K into your movie. Period. If you are paying me less than that, it means that I am investing in you and/or your film…. Or I am an idiot.
Since none of us are complete idiots, the “Can you make a theatrical feature film for $25K” question can only be answered “Yes” if one of these four situations apply:
Each of these situations are valid, but in NONE of them is the film getting made for *only* $25K.
Every professional involved is an investor that elevates the true cost of the film. Furthermore, the original question asked for a theatrical feature. Someone will have to put forward the P&A so that anyone will come see your film. Even if you do a Facebook campaign, *someone* is investing time and effort further elevating the cost of the film.
There is a 5th situation that lures filmmakers to their doom. It looks like this:
While “Blair Witch” spent only $22K, “Paranormal Activity” $15K, and “Primer” a slim $7K, these films *cost* a lot more invested by the cast, crew, and artists. For every success story like these there are hundreds of wanna-be films that fail.
A film in the $25K range had better build something beyond a bank account, since it probably won’t make financial sense.
Production is crazy hard work. Postproduction is crazy hard work in an air conditioned studio.
A shoestring production that loses sight of the $50K every member is giving up might get finished. However, it will leave behind an epic wake of burned relationship bridges and the dead bodies of professionals who must quit their craft to recover financially. This is shortsighted and selfish. Everybody gets burned. Everybody loses.
A shoestring production that brings professionals together, throws in a few hobbyists, and forges a solid team centered around a worthwhile project has the potential to be amazing. The heat of the project can create lifelong relationships based on mutual respect and trust. The future is forged by bravery and many of the most successful filmmaking teams started right here.
What do you think?