Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pre-emptive Fear Blows

Worrying is expensive.  It’s like emotional interest attached to any given event.

I don’t care how big or small, all features struggle with budget.  Whether you’re working with a hundred thousand or a hundred million, no budget ever seems like it can be enough, you’re always gonna struggle with costs, always going to push for more money. 

Getting a film financed has never been easy, but it’s particularly tough now with so much uncertainty in the US and world economies, especially since large-venue distribution (movie theaters) has steadily shrunk for as long as I’ve been alive.  Independent feature films not completely funded by pre-sales are a GIGANTIC financial gamble, but there are some hold-outs who do sometimes find the film equivalent of venture capital – cash with strings – and use it to make their films. 

I worked on one feature that had such funding but a big chunk of it was coming from a nervous source who stalled production day by day for weeks instead of releasing the funds.  Delays of any kind drive up costs, and this extended push lost the production some of its committed talent as their windows of availability closed and they went on to other projects.  The film was eventually a month past its start date and well over budget before a single frame had been shot—caused by the investor’s withholding of funds—and this only made that same investor even more uneasy to commit.

Can you say Catch-22?  Meanwhile, everyone held their breath and kept working, clinging to the hope they’d be able to pay their department employees and vendors.

Production finally started, but the financier insisted it stay within the original budget numbers, thereby eating the costs of the delay, and that meant there was no money for music.  At all.  None.  A script composed to modern published songs with references to at least one published song and shot in a way that begged a hip and trendy generation-defining collection of pop music to accompany its embedded array of meta- and pop-culture references—by necessity—went without.  It wasn't a silent film, all involved did their best "in post" to make do with little means and tied hands.  But the editing that needed music and sound design to help the scenes live and breathe, to punctuate performance, to build subtext or ease transitions – all that was sorely lacking.  It hurt the film, and it’s excruciating to see a hundred or more people give their all to something only to have it flounder.

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