Q: How do you make a budget?

August 31, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q: How do you make a budget?

Carla M., Gainesville Florida

I always say, “the budget is the script for a producer”. Meaning, without a budget the producer cannot do their job effectively.  Making a budget is a very creative process. It’s kind of like writing a script. When you first start to make budgets there will be a lot of research involved. You will need to make phone calls and look online for quotes and the cost of certain things in the budget. Once you’ve done a few budgets, you have less research, but there is always some research involved. Then when you get those quotes, you will need to use those numbers to fill the budget in. Like writing a script, the process of making a budget is different for everyone. You need to know the parameters:  How much money can likely be raised? How many shoot days? What SAG agreement do you fall under?  What level of crew can we afford?  Are you making a movie with friends and neighbors?  Where are you shooting?  How many locations, cast members, scripts days, etc?  For me, once I know these parameters and I’ve filled in the budget for the first time, I tend to need to process it. It is usually well over what I want it to be so I then go back and start dwindling it down. Sometimes, I need to leave it alone for a day and just let it sit in my head and I’ll come up with a creative solution to the budgeting issues I’m having. The thing to remember is that the budget is an ever-changing thing. For example; you will find that someone on the production team knows someone who can get something in the art department’s wish-list for free that you had budgeted at $100 but that the grip equipment you thought was going to cost you $50 is actually $150 and so you move the money for the art department into the grip department.  The budget is constantly changing so remember that it’s a guide and don’t get too stuck on where you put the money initially. You must be able to see the big picture and stay within your total budget cost while being flexible within those parameters. Measure twice and cut once as they say.  Make sure you’ve done enough research that you can confidently say you can make the film for the amount in the budget. There’s nothing worse than not being able to finish because of budgeting incorrectly.

Episode Sixty-Nine: Producing Challenges Big Budgets Vs. Small

April 27, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under episodes

Having unlimited resources at your disposal while making a movie doesn’t mean that you’ll make a great movie, but it sure helps. What luxuries do you have on a larger budget production? What must you sacrifice to make a smaller budget work? Producer Scott Fort joins us to discuss what it’s like to make features ranging from half a million dollars to 5 million dollars. In this episode we also kick off our new feature Support: From Start to Finish, in which we’ll highlight a different crowd funding campaign every month. Steve Everson joins us this month to talk about the Indigogo campaign for his film A Midsummer Nightmare.

Scott Fort- Producer


Robert Scott Fort has been a working professional in the film industry for over 20 years.  During the first stage of his career, Mr. Fort worked as a Director of Development at Walt Disney Studios for Stuart Gordon, the director of RE-ANIMATOR, developing projects such as DYNOTOPIA, AMERICAN PSYCHO and the sequel to HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS.  He also worked with Indie film producer David Lancaster on various Showtime projects, and later with writer/producer, Jim Kouf, also at Walt Disney Studios.

Mr. Fort began working in physical production as a Production Coordinator and Production Manager for Full Moon Pictures, where he supervised over 25 low budget horror films.  From there Mr. Fort worked on numerous television pilots and movies of the week at such studios as Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Television, Showtime and Lifetime.

Mr. Fort has also worked as a UPM or Line Producer on numerous independent features with directors such as: Ken Loach, Christopher Coppola, Andy Fleming and Joe Dante.  He has worked in locations as diverse as Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Mississipi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Texas and North Carolina, and has developed an expertise in putting together budget scenarios for film financing packages.

Most recently Mr. Fort Line Produced THE COVER UP based on an infamous Iowa crime case and directed by Sundance winning director, Brian Jun, and Production Managed ACT OF VALOR for Legendary Pictures slated for release in 2011.  He recently Line Produced the teen action thriller, BIG BAD for Eye Vox Entertainment, and is currently prepping a psychological thriller titled CHAINED to be directed by Jennifer Lynch.

Mr. Fort is an alumnus of California State University of Fullerton, graduating with a degree in Communications, with an emphasis in TV & Film. He is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America.

Credits include: THE THACKER CASE, MARK BURNETTE’S GOLD RUSH, KISS KISS BANG BANG, WAITRESS, and LOVE SPRING.

Jenna Edwards- Producer

Jenna Edwards began her film career in Minnesota where she was signed on as talent with Easter Hailey. Quickly after being signed Edwards was hired by the agency as a full time employee giving her a head-start on her Hollywood education. After two years of rising through the Minnesota film community Edwards made the move to Los Angeles.

Soon after Edwards moved to Los Angeles she was hired by agent Jamie Ferrar. It was while Edwards was working for Ferrar that she developed an interest in the casting process. Before long she had moved from talent agencies to working in casting with such industry leaders as; Sally Steiner (Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Boy Meets World), Barbie Block (Jonas, Pepper Dennis) and Allison Jones (Superbad, The Office).

During this time Edwards was also able to gain valuable production experience working with studios like Disney, MTV, FOX and CBS.

After several years of successfully navigating her career through the Hollywood studio system Edwards made the leap to independent film with her first feature April Showers and has since successfully produced 4 feature films as well as co-hosting the Film Method podcast and teaching producing classes at New York Film Academy.

After her success with April Showers Edwards formed Mattoid Entertainment with partners Jeremy McGovern and Andrew Robinson where they produced the first ever made-for-internet movie, In the Darkness, which premiered on Hulu.com. Mattoid has recently made the leap to distribution, where they have acquired three feature documentaries to be released in 2011.  The first, Adopting Haiti premiered as the #1 documentary on Hulu.com.

Aside from continuing to work at Mattoid, Jenna is busy working on budgets for several independent films, producing 2 feature films and developing projects for television as well as teaching producing at New York Film Academy.

Producing Sunflowers Website

The Slash Phenomenon

April 21, 2010 by cindy  
Filed under news

April 21, 2010

For my first official Film Method blog post I thought I’d write about something very near and dear to me. It’s what I refer to as the “slash” phenomenon. Maybe you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve read about it. Maybe this is you. I recently worked on a film that was produced by two actors. The two actors also happened to be the producers of the film and one of the actors was also the writer and director. He was the actor/director/writer/producer. That would be 3 slashes and 4 titles in case you’re counting.

I’m not sure exactly what makes people say, “I’ve never directed anything before, so I’m going to start by directing something that I’m also starring in”. Why does this make sense to people? Many times I wonder if these people who have suddenly decided to take the huge leap into the world of directing have been on set in any capacity other than as an actor. Have they ever been a producer, an A.D., a grip, or, god forbid, a P.A.?? I have to say that I’ve learned more about filmmaking as a P.A. then I believe I ever would in any other position with the exception of producer and maybe 1st A.D. This is because you see how every department works and you interact with every department.

Being a film director requires so much more than many of these new directors seem to take into account and this is reflected in the extremely inefficient way the set is run. Planning the shot list with the DP is just the tip of the iceberg. You will also need to work with all the department heads to ensure that everything that’s in frame will fit with the look of the film (art dept, make-up, hair, costumes, props, etc). Have you or your DP done any storyboards? Do you know anything about lighting (you might want to learn in case your DP doesn’t)? All of these things must be considered in addition to knowing how to get the performances you need out of your actors. If one of those actors happens to be you then how do you know you are getting the performance you need from yourself? Are you going to depend on your DP to give you performance notes or will you just rely on camera playback? Have you figured that into the planning? I hope so, or you most definitely will not make your day or any day in your schedule.

Something else I notice when watching these very new directors direct is a behavior pattern that is quite disconcerting. It seems that the less experience they have, the more needy and entitled they act. They are more demanding and less concerned about respecting the crew’s time. This is quite an insult considering that these are normally very low-budget films where most crew-members are working way below scale.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that it can’t be done it’s just rare that it can be done well, especially at this level of filmmaking where everyone is generally very green. I’ve listened to new directors talk about their reasoning behind why they feel that they are the best person for the job and honestly it’s pretty frightening. They’ve written a script and they haven’t been able to find anyone to direct it that will understand their vision. Translation: I can’t find anyone that I will be able to manipulate into doing exactly what I say. If that’s the case, then you’re right, you don’t need a director, you need a P.A. Film is a collaborative art, but you wouldn’t know it from working with some of the people that I’ve worked with lately. If the vision and scope of your story can’t be correctly communicated or translated to another director, then maybe it’s not a story worth telling. If you can’t convince one other person to believe in your vision, how are you going to convince a room full of people at your first screening?

The title of director is a prestigious one, but one, nonetheless, that comes with a heap of responsibilities. Are you ready for the challenge to direct/produce/star/write? If so then I hope you’re ready for the ride of your life. Oh and remember, a little respect goes a long way when it comes to how you treat your crew, so does a good pancake breakfast.

Soonami Productions