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What should a DP need to do before a film has financing?


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#1 Justin Marx

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 08:08 PM

Thank you in advance for your info!

I have worked with these guys before on shorts, and now they are trying to get a feature together.. I am a fairly new DP, although I have shot a feature that was sold to lionsgate, and many shorts (not tooting my horn, just stating who I am) I have been in the business for over 14 years as a PA/AC and really like to think I have an idea of how this business works..

They want me to DP this film that currently has no financing or actors attached and are looking for about 1.5 million, and they want ME to tell them my needs for Lighting, Camera, and Crew.. To that I gave them a very "GENERIC" list of what the minimum would be and told them there is NO way I can give them anything more specific until we do a scout of every location, now they are asking me who I want as my gaffer because they are going to start "crewing it up".. WHAT THE HECK?!? Crew it up before they even have ACTORS or MONEY!?!?! He even asked me what film stock I want (which I told him) then he came back saying "oh, how about this film stock, it's newer!?!)

At this point I am loosing interest just because I feel like they are going to get NOTHING QUICKLY and are over producing.. The director is an ok guy, but also says stupid things like "we don't need a dolly"?!?! I basically told the producer to don't ask me anymore questions until he has money, and whatever money he gets we will make the best film we possibly can with the crew we can afford.

My question: What as a DP should I need to give the producers before they have any idea of what their budget is?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 08:19 PM

If you have worked with them before, just be honest and tell them that there is no point in being more specific until they have the cast, the money, and the shooting dates. If they need info in order to draw up a proposed budget, fine, but ultimately you don't get the money you ask for, the money you need, you get whatever money you can. And that drives the schedule, and that drives everything else. Rarely in low-budget filmmaking is the budget and schedule determined by what the script needs or how the director and DP want to shoot it, it's determined by the money available, and hopefully THEN the script will be adjusted to reflect this reality, and thus the schedule, and then finally the crew & equipment.

These producers are over-producing because they are not able, for whatever reason, to do the hard stuff WHICH IS FIND THE MONEY. So they are doing the easy stuff, talking about gear and crew, etc. Sort of an intellectual game until the money arrives.

If you are a beginner and need more breaks, by all means, get involved with this, but don't let them waste your time and their time by deciding stuff in the wrong order because you are just going to be doing it all over again once the money and cast are locked down.

I remember a director telling me that a producer came to him and said "we have everything in place... except the money" to which this director said "then you don't have anything."
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 02:45 AM

As David says it's rather early, the most you can really offer is advice as to what needs to be put into the camera & lighting budget plus logistical problems that may have to be budgeted for. This just so they'll have a production budget for potential funders (they also tend to ask for the actor names attached - a catch 22), although as he mentioned there could be some cutting of their cloth to match the funds actually available.
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#4 Karel Bata

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 06:14 AM

I once lit something where the producer refused to tell me the budget! I was perflumoxed. So I just ordered whatever I wanted (within reason) and waited for someone to tell me to stop. But that never happened. The financial shenanigans on that shoot were very strange - the director bought a house shortly after, which raised a few eyebrows among those working on union minimums...

So I'd agree. Way too early to get involved, and you never know what kind of deal will be cut later. Think of number. Double it. Add six. ;)

OK OK, that's not very helpful. Here's a suggestion. If you want a ball park figure go here and er.. multiply above the line costs by 4, camera hire stock and lab by 2, and everything else by 3. It's not really the way to do things, but I've seen worse, and it looks like you've been busy. :D

BIG tip to your producers - get a really good casting agent on board as soon as poss. Pay them! They will get the talent, and that will get the money.
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#5 Justin Marx

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 11:10 AM

Hey guys, thank you very much for the input! I don't know why but I usually get an email when I subscribe to my posts.. I didn't even know their were any responses ???
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