Thursday, June 13, 2013

Anatomy of a spiral

While we're on the subject of costs spiraling out of control, here's a relevant post from Ken Levine (who knows a bit about television and movie production):
I once wrote an independent feature set in Bakersfield. I hired a line producer to come up with a budget. I almost passed out when I saw the final number. $10 million dollars. I was hoping for something like $40 thousand.

So I went through it line-by-line and saw that he approached this as if it were AVATAR. There were thousands allotted for plane flights… between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. First class yet. It’s an eleven-minute flight! Thousands were set aside for gifts. Towncars on stand-by, separate hair, make-up, and wardrobe people for each star.

And this was my favorite: There’s a half-page scene where a character comes out of a club at night following someone and discovers it’s so foggy he can’t see his hand in front of his face, and of course he loses the person. (Thick Tulie Fog is a Central California staple in the spring.) Again, a half page scene. The producer had it budgeted for $1 million. This was the conversation (almost verbatim):

Me: Why?

Producer: Are you kidding? Do you know the amount of fog machines I would have to rent to make fog that thick in an open area… and sustain it? Not to mention renting them from LA and hauling them up here and hiring extra personnel to man them. This is a huge undertaking. I hope I can do it for just a million.

Me: Uh huh. Okay, fine. But let me ask you, is there possibly any other way? Can you think of any other options for doing this scene?

Producer: No. Not really.

Me: (exploding) It’s FOG! We can’t SEE anything! Shoot it in the corner of a sound stage with one fog machine! Do it optically and don’t film anything! It’s FOG. At NIGHT.

Needless to say, I did not use his budget.

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