It takes an experienced line producer to come up with these early time estimates and budget research – and that’s where we come in to help our clients out. There are four major steps we take in order to arrive at a schedule and budget that give real insights to producers, investors and creative staff alike.
We sit down with you – in person or over the phone – and find out what kind of logistics have already been committed, prior to our involvement. Usually, there have been some payments made for screenplay, casting directors are soft-attached and so on. We also survey our clients over available assets, like real estate or vehicles, planned time of the year for shooting, the state(s) production will take place in and so on. Is there already a ballpark figure for the budget in place that has been discussed with potential investors? We account for all of these variables at the outset in order to know which costs are still variable (and can responsibly be reduced if needed), and which are set in stone.
We start with the script, extracting all the smaller and larger pieces that will influence the budget: from actors to props, from locations to explosions. This is called a “Script Breakdown”. Nothing can stay untouched here – only once we have a full view of all the gears that make up the big clockwork is it truly possible to make realistic guesstimates.
The breakdown then turns into a list of locations and actors, all logically linked to each other by the story. We have experience both working as producers as well as Assistant Directors – the time-makers in production. Armed with extensive logistical experience, we can optimize the preliminary schedule for a real production environment – with turnaround considerations, overtime and so on.
Now all the work done on our initial meeting as well as the breakdown and schedule come together into actually costing, researching and estimating each line item. This process involves a lot of decision- and assumption-making. Unlike other prelim vendors, we keep track of all of these assumptions, which become part of our final delivery as an “Assumption Report”. Budgeting is a two-way street with our clients, as we need to find out wether production is willing to engage certain tax credit schemes, which unions the production will be signatory to and so on. A feature-length budget can easily be 50-100 pages long.
Depeding on turnaround speed – usually 2-5 weeks, depending on complexity and time constraints – we deliver schedule, budget, breakdown and assumption report in neat PDFs, and as Movie Magic Budgeting (MMB) and Scheduling (MMS) files – that’s the industry standard, and will come in handy once you are financed and go into pre-production.