Thursday, February 10, 2011

Film Budgeting

Budgeting is an important aspect of film production.

During script development, filmmakers produce a rough budget to convince film producers and film studios to give them a greenlight for production. During pre-production, a more detailed film budget is produced. This document, which could be over 150 pages long, is used to secure financing. Multiple drafts of the budget may be required to whittle down costs.
A budget is typically divided into four sections: above-the-line (creative talent), below-the-line (direct production costs), post-production (editing, visual effects, etc), and other (insurance, completion bond, etc).



  • Story rights: The right to produce a film based on a play, novel, or new story. Can be paid from  15000/- to 100000/-
  • Screenplay: An A-list screenwriter can be paid 25000/- to 50000/- to write the first three drafts of a script.
  • Dialog writer can be paid 25000/- 50000/-
  • Director: minimum can be paid 250000/-( daily convense extra) for one movie up to 1st release , for a minimum of ten weeks' work. Traditionally, a director's salary is about 7 percent of the final budget.
  • Cast: An A-list actor can ask for anything from  200000/- to 700000/- (trailer, entourage, etc.). The rest of the cast, often come out much worse with many being paid the Screen Actors Guild minimum. Sometimes an actor will accept a minimal fee in exchange for a lucrative share of the profits;
  • Production costs: The cost of shooting the film including sets, wardrobe, location filming, hotels and transportation. The most prestigious productions will often employ the most successful, and therefore most expensive, crew, with the director of photography
  • Visual effects: if required can costs 100000/- to 200000/-
  • Music: The top film composers can ask for a six-figure salary, so of original music, could cost  500000/- with all expenses, rights etc.

The budget as an advertising tool

For blockbuster movies, high budgets are advertised to imply that the film will be worth watching. On the other hand, El Mariachiwas advertised as having a shoestring budget of $7,000. El Mariachi's actual budget including the distribution costs far exceeded $7,000. (It should be noted that the festival print of El Mariachi was in fact made for $7,000 - the additional budget expenditures came when the movie was picked up for distribution by a studio.)

Going over budget

In the US film production system, producers are not allowed to exceed the budget. Exceptions have of course been made, one of the most notable examples being Titanic. Director James Cameron ran over budget and offered his fee to the studio. In other countries, producers who exceed their budget tend to eat the cost by receiving less of their producer's fees. While the US system is profitable and can afford to go over budget, other countries' film industries tend to be financed through government subsidies.


Though movie studios are reluctant to release the precise details of their movies' budgets, it has occasionally been possible to obtain (clandestinely) details of the cost of a films break down. 
  • Story rights and screenplay: $4 million
  • Producers: $4 million
  • Director (Jan de Bont): $5 million
  • Cast: $17.25 million
    • Angelina Jolie: $12 million
    • Extras: $250,000
    • Other (inc. Angelina's perks): $5 million
  • Production costs: $67 million
    • Set design and construction: $17.8 million
  • Visual Effects: $13 million
  • Music: $3.3 million
  • Editing: $3 million
  • Post Production costs: $1.5 million
Total: $118 million

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

  • Story rights (Carolco and Gale Anne Hurd): $14.5 million
  • Screenplay: $5.2 million
    • John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris: $1 million
  • Director (Jonathan Mostow): $5 million
  • Producers: $10 million
  • Cast: $35 million
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger: $29.25 million + 20% gross profits
    • Arnold's perks: $1.5 million
    • Rest of principal cast: $3.85 million
    • Extras: $400,000
  • Production costs: $58 million
  • Post-production costs: $4 million
  • Visual effects: $20 million
  • Music: $2 million
  • Other costs: $33.6 million
Total: $187.3 million
Source: [2]

Spider-Man 2

  • Story rights: $20 million
  • Screenplay: $10 million
  • Producers: $15 million
  • Director (Sam Raimi): $10 million
  • Cast: $30 million
  • Production costs: $45 million
  • Visual effects: $65 million
  • Music: $5 million
  • Total: $200 million
Source: [3]

Breaking down the script part 2

Breaking down the script

The process of breaking down the script occurs after the producer reads through the screenplay once. Then he or she goes back and marks certain elements that need to be taken care of before production, or even before pre-production can begin.

Marking 1/8's

Each scene, as per slug line, is measured into 1/8's of a page by its number of inches. Most pages of a screenplay are eight inches, so each inch is an 1/8, even if a page exceeds eight inches. The number of 1/8's is then marked in the top left corner of the scene, and circled. If a scene lasts longer than eight 1/8's, it is converted to 1. So, a scene lasting twelve 1/8's is marked 1 4/8.

Marking elements

To ease future production, assistant director marks the elements found in each scene. This process repeats for each new scene. By the end, the producer will be able to see which scenes need which elements, and can begin to schedule accordingly. The film industry has a standard for color coding:

Element color codes

CastredAny speaking actor
Extra (Atmosphere)greenAny extra or group of extras needed for the background.
Extra (Silent bits)yellowAny extra needed to perform specifically, but has no lines.
StuntsorangeAny stunt that may require a stunt double, or stunt coordinator.
Special EffectsblueAny special effect required.
PropspurpleAll objects important to the script, or used by an actor.
Vehicles/AnimalspinkAny vehicles, and all animals, especially if it requires an animal trainer.
Sound Effects/MusicbrownSounds or music requiring specific use on set. Not sounds added in during post.
WardrobecircleSpecific costumes needed for production, and also for continuity if a costume gets ripped up, or dirtied throughout the movie.
Make-up/HairasteriskAny make-up or hair attention needed. Common for scars and blood.
Special EquipmentboxIf a scene requires the use of more uncommon equipment, (e.g. crane, underwater camera, etc.).
Production NotesunderlineFor all other questions about how a scene will go, or confusion about how something happens.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Breaking Down the Script part 1

Part of the producers, actors, directors, job is to analyze the script and break it down into manageable parts. A great deal of your character study will happen during this procedure.
 The five "W's" to ask about your character:
WHO am I?
WHEN am I there?
WHY am I doing it?
The answers to these questions are always stated or implied in the dialogue or given in the stage directions.
Objectives and Obstacles

Once you've asked the "what am I doing" and "why am I doing it" questions, you're already working on finding your objectives. What does the character want to achieve as a result of their actions? You can have many objectives (major and minor) throughout the film, so as you read through, ask the following questions frequently:

What do I WANT?
Why do I WANT it?
The obstacles in the play keep your character from accomplishing their objectives. They are often the cause of conflict between characters. They may also be caused by a psychological block or internal struggle within your own character. Just as there can be many objectives, there can also be many obstacles in the film. Once you know what your character wants, then you must ask:

What obstacles must I OVERCOME to get what I want?
An example of a character objective and obstacle can be found easily in your basic horror movie - the character's objective is to have a peaceful existence without fear, and their obstacle is the evil force or person who is frightening them. Other obstacles to consider might be:

Time - do you have a time limit to accomplish your objective?
Ability - are you skilled at the task needed to accomplish your objective?
Feelings - do you have to battle feelings of guilt or fear before you can accomplish your objective?
On-stage, as in life, a person's character is revealed through his actions and by his reasons for doing them. By asking these questions, the Actor begins to discover who his character is.


Consider how your character relates to the other characters in the film. Does your character like or dislike them? Do the characters share history before the time period of the film? Does a daring character make your cautious character irritable?

How does your character relate to objects in the film? For instance, if your character is ordered to drink a beer, his relation with that beer will be different than if he's thankfully quenching his thirst on a hot summer day. Objects become very good partners when they're imbued with a meaningful relationship. Objects can provide the same psychological stimulus as another character can.

A lot of these relationships will become evident through rehearsal but a few ideas beforehand will make your rehearsal process more productive.

Using the Lines

Keep in mind that behind every line of text, there is SUBTEXT. If a character says, "It's raining," the subtext might be one of these:

We'll have to move the party indoors
Now those flowers will grow very well
No, you can't go outdoors to play
I told you you ought to get the roof fixed
I love to walk in the rain 

An Actor has no right to speak a line until he has discovered the reason for saying it. The subtext colors the line of text and will influence what words you stress and what your physical expressions are. As you say the text, you must always THINK the subtext just as clearly.
Finding the Beats

What a character does to accomplish each minor objective is called a beat. A beat is a unit of action and each beat is a necessary step toward the major objective. For example, if your character is a burglar, you might break the script into these beats:

Break into the house
Locate the wall safe
Open the safe
Remove the valuables
Escape from the house  

An actor should always find the beats, mark the beginning and end in the script, and be able to state the objective and obstacle for each one. The actor is responsible for this work before rehearsals begin.

Break the script down into actionable beats, using an adverb and a verb at every emotional / dramatic shift within the script. Actionable verbs are essential because they are rooted in action with an objective. For instance, if a man and a woman are in an argument, we first must deduce what each of them wants to accomplish in the scene. As David Mamet said, we must also determine how each person will behave if they don’t achieve their objective. The twists and turns inbetween are the dramatic beats of the scene, and each of them has an action (verb) and a corresponding flavor / style (adverb). If the man’s objective is to get off the hook for not paying the heating bill, he might want to make up an excuse to cover up his oversight.
At the initial point of the conversation, he may be very confident in his excuse, telling it with fortitude and confidence. In an actionable beat, we can describe it has “lie” (verb) / “confidently” (adverb). This is an action that can be easily relayed to an actor, and will form the core of the direction of that scene. Everything that I tell the actor from there on out will be towards achieving that one goal, which is to “lie confidently.”

** Memorizing Lines **

Word for Word?

Many actors fail to understand why they must memorize their lines word for word as the playwright has written them. It becomes frustrating for the actor when they are faced with a difficult speech, but there are many reasons why the actor should resist the temptation to paraphrase:

Security. The only way to be sure of fluidity in your speaking is to know the words accurately. One of the most frightening things an actor can ever experience on stage is a sudden moment of forgetfulness - where your mind goes blank. And nothing can kill a punchline faster than an actor who is stumbling around because he doesn't know exactly how the line goes.
Characterization.The words of a play are music for the actors to dance to. Every word, every punctuation mark, every pause and every stage direction the playwright includes is there for a reason. Clues are given in the use of vocabulary that tell you (and the audience) important things about a character.
Integrity of the film.
The film's speed, tone and message depend on recognizing the playwrights purpose for every scene, every line and even every word. Different characters are written to speak in different ways - fast or slow, using dialect or regional jargon - and patterns are created from combinations or repetitions of words. Therefore changing words can affect the integrity of the whole film.
How to Memorize

If you don't have a photographic memory then you have to work at memorizing your lines. Here are some tips that should help you:

Highlight. Emphasize your lines in the script with a highlighter or underline with a brightly colored pen. Use a different color to mark your cues (the lines or actions just before your line). Mark stage directions with another color or don't mark them at all.
Read through. Go over all your lines (out loud) several times.
Read each line. In order, from the top of the play, read each line aloud, slowly. Concentrate on each word - especially the small words like and, or, but, if. At intervals, put the script down and check how much you remember. When that line is memorized, move onto the next until you can remember the entire speech without looking at the script. Then move onto the next speech, etc., until you've gone over them all. As you go on, the chunks of dialogue that you practice without using the script should get larger and larger. Make sure to look up words or pronunciation that you're not familiar with (once you learn it wrong, it's much more difficult to re-learn it). Don't worry about interpreting, or acting, the words at this time, just put them together in one long stream.
Read with a partner. Arrange someone to read the other character's lines so you can learn where your cues are. I've found it most helpful to record the other lines into a tape recorder, leaving silent spaces where my lines would be (hint: read the passage silently, as slowly as you can - this will give you extra time to figure out the line when you play the tape back). Run the tape or practice with the partner as often as possible.
Italian Run. When you have a solid handle on the lines, you can practice an Italian Run, or speak the lines out loud as fast as you can, in order, word perfect. As soon as you can do an Italian Run without stumbling, you've pretty much got it made. You can also do an Italian Run involving your practice partner or the rest of the cast.
 The more you practice, the more you'll find it easier and easier, more fluid, and natural. In rehearsal, each line will be imbued with meanings and objectives which will also help your memory. At this point, the director can usually keep an eye on the script and call any mistakes to your attention. 

Beat Sheet

Definition of Story:  A character (protagonist) sets out on a journey (plot) to do or get something he or she absolutely wants or needs (goal) against all possible odds (antagonist & conflict & risk/stakes).
Ordinary World (pp. 1-10): We set the tone of the film here. Show don’t tell. We get to know our characters strengths, assets, weaknesses, flaws, etc. Most importantly we need to know what is missing in our protagonist’s life (emotionally physically, mentally). Introduce all major characters. We must establish the universe of the story, but specifically reveal where our protagonist fits into that universe.

Opening Image (p. 1): Capture the audience right away. The opening image gives us a sense of time and place.  Since story is about change, this is the protagonist before he changes.  When we get to the end of the movie we will have a contrast with the “Closing Image”.  This creates a ‘before’ and ‘after’ presentation of the character. 

Opening Hook (p. 5): The theme of the movie is stated. We get a hint of the protagonist’s goal and some insight on what needs to be done. We get to know the psychology of the protagonist. Foreshadow his upcoming changing life (his journey).

Inciting Incident or Catalyst (p. 10): Some sort of news or announcement. Either bad news or some sort of opportunity. The story is set in motion. The stakes of the story are established. Everything after this point has a cause and effect.

Big Debate (pp. 12-26): We get a sense of how difficult things are going to be. Our protagonist needs to go on a journey, but it’s going to be tough (however we don’t know how tough). We get a sense of conflict.

Mini Crisis (p. 17): Our protagonist makes his decision on what to do. This is what the story is about. We know the tangible goal.

Point of No Return/End Act 1 (p. 26): The event after which the protagonist can not be the person he or she was before the ‘Inciting Incident’. We enter antagonist territory. Leaves old world behind. We see just how tough the journey is going to be.

B Story Begins (p. 30): Emotional crux of the movie. The love interest is often introduced here. Gives a distraction from the A story. Possibly explain some backstory here. Before he/she just reacted to things, but now we have some insight as to why.

Testing (p. 45): The protagonist is tested and fails. It is often a contrast to the success or failure of the protagonist in the climax. The first indication of potential love in the ‘B Story’.  

One-Hour Turning Point/Midpoint (p. 60): Our protagonist does something completely against character and takes control of his/her destiny in a way that has not been done before. It is an active choice by the character. For the B-Story: love happens around here.

Bad Guys Close In/Hero’s Melting (pp. 60-75): This is the buildup to the protagonist's life getting really bad. Even though things have been going bad the whole time, here's where the protagonist really feels the pressure.

The Big Pit (p.75): The protagonist suffers a major loss here.  His/her worst fears almost come true.  For instance, if before this point your protagonist had a job and a girlfriend, then at this point, he will have lost the job but still have the girlfriend.

Rock bottom/End Act 2 (p. 90): The worst thing that can happen to our protagonist short of death. The event after which our protagonist is as far away as possible from achieving his/hers heart’s desire. If all he had left was a girlfriend, now that is gone.  All hope is lost. They can be hopeless, alone, and/or humiliated.

The moment where the thing that had been most important is challenged by the thing that had been in growing importance.  He/she has an epiphany.

Climax to Finale (pp. 90  - 110): Action is taken to alter our protagonist’s course/downfall. Use external, not internal, obstacles. Resolution.  The ordeal must equal the 
reward.  This is the final showdown with the antagonist.  The protagonist will try to accomplish what they originally set out to do.

NEW WORLD ORDER:  This is contrasted with the ‘ordinary world’ from the beginning.  It is a new ordinary world that has come to be, due to the protagonist’s journey and actions.  Often times, there will be at least one major flaw that has been overcome.  

Final Image (p. 110): This is the ‘after’ in a ‘before and after image’.  The character has finally changed.