Monday, May 18, 2009

Alternate Realities

I've heard it said that "There's no RIGHT or WRONG way to do something." There's a Creative Way, a Practical Way, an Economical Way, a Fun Way, an Intense Way, etc. but no Right or Wrong way. I disagree. There's a Right and Wrong way to do Every way. If you set out to do an economical picture and succeed, you used the Right Way. If the picture went way over budget, then that's the Wrong way to do a cost effective picture. If you set out to make a commercially successful film but it failed at the box office then you did it the Wrong way. If you decided to make a Creative or Artistic picture but it was critically panned in every country that saw it, then you failed to make it the Right way. Simply put, a picture is made the Right way when it succeeds at its established goals and is made the Wrong way when it fails to achieve those goals.

If a film wins the Academy Award for technical excellence but is rejected by the paying audiences when the filmmaker was striving for a Blockbuster hit, then it is an example of the Wrong way to make a movie. It's hard to make a film that succeeds at All Ways. Making a movie that's economical, popular, critically acclaimed and a financial hit rarely happens because it's so hard to do.

So how does a filmmaker beat these odds and continue to make movies? Use Common Sense and achievable goals. Start with absolutes and add extras from that point. Here's an absolute: financial investors expect to make money. I can hear you "arty-types" groaning but this is an actual achievable goal. Just how much money is mere fortune telling. "Exceeds Expectations" is always a good goal so strive for that by keeping expectations realistic (Never say "low"). A solid, "No frills" budget increases the chances of making this goal. Keep your cast and crew balanced between proven professionals (costly but dependable) and talented new-comers (hard-working but inexperienced). If you're an experienced artist but a "new-comer" to financial matters, partner with a veteran producer with artist-friendly skills. Here's another absolute: money drives the production (lack of it kills the dream). So, have your money in the bank as you proceed according to an approved schedule. If money is slow in coming or always delayed...shut down production! That will kill the production but save the picture. If there was no money to finish the first attempt, don't assume it will be different the second time around. Find the problem! If you can't fix the problem, take inventory of the assets and the costs remaining. Do a new budget and schedule on the production elements that remain. This will allow production to quickly continue once the monetary problems are resolved. Remember, artists are the only people willing to work for nothing so fix the monetary problems before re-starting production. Setting up a well-oiled production takes time so be patient, that's another absolute.

Money isn't everything when it comes to making a movie, so we'll touch on the other, more fun, elements next time.

1 comment:

John said...

A lot of what you said in this post applies quite well to theatre productions too. If you can't cover the expenses, you can't keep making art. We fight this battle all the time at our theatre. We need to talk more, it's been too long Hodag.