#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – BUDGETS!

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Alright! Budgets! How does THIS work when we’re talking about filmmaking?

I like to put everything into an enormous, flexible spreadsheet doc. I think it’s really valuable for you guys to be able to actually see what it looks like, so this is a blank version of what I use:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KHFmOiQlQ46lqyyUNy5poNtE84VYJTR-dvRZNHyPa88/edit?usp=sharing

It’s a lot, right? I like the flexibility of a GDoc/Spreadsheet because as things change, and things will change, I can easily make adjustments and return to backers with updated figures. 

The first thing I do is I take a script and start to break it down. For our example here, let’s use The Long Dig. Our initial thought was that we would make this movie in 1 day (ha) for 5,000 (ha!) and with minimal cast/crew (HA!). I budgeted for that, then, as I looked at where our script was going (it kept getting longer) and what our actual workload was going to be, I made a multi-day budget for Tim, our contact at Electric Purple, and said: hey. I think this is a better idea. He agreed.

No way in hell this would take 5k and one day.

But rewind a little bit. 

First, what’s ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’. As you can see on the spreadsheet, above the line includes writers, talent, directors, and producers. Below the line is pretty much everyone & everything else.

Every script is different. Shooting ten 5 minute episodes in my kitchen with minimal/no camera movement is very different from shooting a monster movie. The former, I could break a budget with enough for sound, a DP (maybe), and some food. The latter, we needed to pay people for the time & work they put into things BEFORE production even began.  

Productions usually plan for 3-4 pages per day; more than that starts to get crunchy. Knowing how many days you need severely impacts the budget — every extra day is another X amount of dollars. But you need to know roughly how much money you have in order to figure out how many days you can shoot. Budgeting for films is kind of like having to put the cart before the horse & hoping the horse catches up to it. 

I always fill out an “estimate” and an “actual” spreadsheet, so we can track what went over, what came under, and where we can (or can’t) spend extra dough.

As I go, I fill out costs of things I know — actors are 168/12 hour days. Our writers get 200 bucks for the script. Producers get 400. Stuff like that. Usually these are my paychecks, which I don’t have to really negotiate about. I then start to fill in what we can pay crew members — I start by expecting a higher bid and, of course, try to negotiate them down. Once I match crew to $, I fill out the finalized spreadsheet. At this point, I SHOULD be under budget.

A note about salary — legally speaking, if you are employing people, you do have to pay minimum wage. Whatever that is where you are. SAG sets our actors’ minimums and we can’t pay them less than that — SORT OF. If they are deferred, we can. SAG’s a whole other thing. Other unions probably set wages too, but I haven’t dealt with them. 

Big rule of thumb, always tell people there’s less budget than there is — with salaries, I hate doing this, but with stuff like rentals? your DP will ALWAYS want the biggest best tech… and he probably won’t need it. 

Important line items we all like to forget:

  • Publicity
  • Contingency
  • Festivals

Don’t forget those. 

Finally… ballpark numbers vary way too wildly to ask people for general ideas about how much things cost. Best thing you can do is talk to people you want to hire, get quotes, and budget from there.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Producing While Acting

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Do you have any tips/tricks for producing yourself as an actor? 

Huge thank you to all my Patreon supporters who make posts like this possible! If you like what you read here, please consider joining us at patreon.com/katehackett 

In in ideal world, the solution to this is simply: delegate, delegate, delegate. You want to surround yourself with crew members who all know their jobs inside and out so you aren’t forced to answer produer-hat-questions while you’re trying to wear your actor hat.

I have never existed in an ideal world.

Classic Alice’s set came really damn close — I had a team of producers who put fires out and bent over backwards to make sure that I didn’t even HEAR about problems. I delegated production duties, especially on the day, to these wonderful women who tackled everything for me AND we had ourselves surrounded by some top notch crew. 

But, of course, I’m still the end stop decision maker and there were some things that eventually made it to my plate. And at that point, you do your best. If at all possible, separate yourself from one role to do the other — literally get up and change rooms, put your jacket on over your costume, something to make yourself feel like you are taking one hat off and putting on another. Do not take off literal hats, hair will kill you.

Another thing that really helps is checking in with yourself and with other crew members — often times I would simply tell people who needed me “This is a So-N-So question, X department can answer that.” And more often than not, they did!

It’s not fun to keep track of time for shots and meal hours while you’re trying to have emotional scenes, so a great 1st AD is absolutely key. If you’re in both shoes, producer and actor, you 100% need someone who can tag in and tell the director that no, we don’t have time, we need to move on. Because if you the actor are trying to fight for a take, you might be running counter to your own needs. 

Balance. Balance and delegate. Know when to flip the producer on and when the actor needs to come out. Find space for each or either — producer only lives in crafty, for example, and be clear about that with your crew. If they have a producer question, they can ask X DESIGNATED PERSON and if they need ME, grab me on a break at crafty. That kind of thing. 

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Commercial vs Theatrical Auditions part 2

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Is there a difference in process/ prep between screen and commercial acting?

Huge thank you to all my Patreon supporters who make posts like this possible! If you like what you read here, please consider joining us at patreon.com/katehackett 

Yes and no — acting is acting, after all! But generally speaking, you get less time with commercials and they move a LOT faster. So, I’ll present to you a Typical Commercial Audition & a Typical Theatrical Audition! This will be a two parter because it got LONG! Make sure you check out last week’s post about commercials!

Theatrical

I receive an email from my agent at 1pm. I have an audition! It’s for VERY HILARIOUS COMEDY SHOW and their offices are ALL OVER TOWN but I lucked out, I’m going to Burbank! My agent has included the breakdown, sides, and all pertinent information. 10am, Warner Brothers, I have a “walk on” (which means I have to park and …walk on). I print the sides and read them over. 

2 pages, 4 lines, nothing crazy. I start just by saying them to get the feel of it. Great. Cool. Got them memorized. I start building the character by asking myself some questions — who am I? who is the person in the scene with me? what do I want? what’s my obstacle? who does that person remind me of in real life? And this can take as long or as short as I want – this is just creative work. Play. I play with the lines with different circumstances and see what works well.

I call my acting coach and ask to schedule a quick coaching. We meet that evening at 8 at his house and keep playing. I get to choose my movement for this one, unlike commercials where I’m told what to do.

I go home and chill – time to put it down. I know it. I live it. I’m ready.

The next morning, I’m up and out the door by 9. I don’t need an hour to get to WB but you never know if there is a delay getting on the lot or what. I beat casting to their offices and just wander around for a little — hey, it’s the Gilmore Girls set! I text a friend who has a gig on the lot but he’s not in yet. Too early.

At 9:45 I roll back over and wait outside for casting to bring me in. They call me in and the entire thing is a more intimate experience than a commercial audition. They know me here, they called maybe five girls in for this part. I’ve decided to do the audition standing so I can move around and keep my energy up so they adjust the camera for me, I read with the reader, and off we go! 

When I’m done, I head out knowing I did all the work and I was good — and I had fun. 

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – Commercial vs Theatrical Auditions

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Is there a difference in process/ prep between theatrical and commercial acting?

Huge thank you to all my Patreon supporters who make posts like this possible! If you like what you read here, please consider joining us at patreon.com/katehackett 

Yes and no — acting is acting, after all! But generally speaking, you get less time with commercials and they move a LOT faster. So, I’ll present to you a Typical Commercial Audition & a Typical Theatrical Audition! This will be a two parter because it got LONG!

Commercial

I receive an email at 6pm — it’s a message from my agent! I have an audition tomorrow with Name & Name, a casting director who has brought me in a whole lot lately. Yay! They’re in Santa Monica and the audition is at 4pm. Boo. 

Sometimes I ask for a window to see casting, but it’s just easier to move my students 99% of the time, so I send an email to my family and tell them we need to reschedule because this audition is in the middle of the afternoon & across town. I’m going to be in traffic for 2 hours. Each way. I confirm with my agent and…

Back to the break down — I read it over. They’re asking for “casual”, so like, jeans and a T-shirt or something. The role is “girlfriend”, so young. And it’s described as “UCB/Groundlings, FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY, quirky real people” which means “not hot girl”. This role is right up my alley. “MUST BE GOOD WITH DIALOGUE”. Okay, great, no problem. Presumedly there are sides.

There are no sides. 

There is also no shot list, storyboard, or anything else. Well! Nothing to prepare. I’ll figure out what I am wearing tomorrow and just roll on in, I guess. 

I do leave a little early and get to my audition around 3:30pm so I have time to review any boards or notes — sometimes they’re there, sometimes there’s NOTHING. The casting associate will bring everyone in for a group explanation where he tells us the action (and dialogue) of the shot. Some auditions are a LOT of movement and really specific moments, others are like “just make it your own” which is code for “improv” (they can’t ask us to do that, a whole guild thing). The camera is almost always far back – they’re getting full body shots for these, so you have lots of room to move.

The audition lasts maybe 30 seconds to 5 minutes and then you’re out the door. I have no idea what just happened in there. I hope it was good. Callbacks happen within a week and the shoot is usually within 2.

Come back next week (early for Patrons!) to read the next half — where I talk THEATRICAL!

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday – $5 Exclusive, the Q&A

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Our #FFF is the Q&A! If you missed it, hop on over and check it out. If you saw it… congrats! I HAVE ANSWERED EVERYTHING (jk I have not). 

Stay tuned — I’m on vacation the next couple weeks and really embracing it, but I’ll be back the week of the 7th for sure. Hit me with your questions at kateonset@gmail.comso I can have a nice big nest to dig through. <3 HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

#FemaleFilmmakerFriday iPhone Movies

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Can you really make a “real” movie with an iPhone? They say you can, and I remember hearing about one, but it seems implausible.-Mignon Fogarty

Huge thank you to all my Patreon supporters who make posts like this possible! If you like what you read here, please consider joining us at patreon.com/katehackett 

Absolutely, though it’s not something I’ve really jumped headlong into. I think it’s a great way to start out, to test — for The Long Dig, Tom and I used our iPhones to help visualize some blocking (in my garage, with the actors; it was a v high tech situation). The “real” movies you see on big screens that are “shot entirely on iPhones!!” are also shot entirely with fancy ass lenses, so it isn’t quite as cheap as you think it is. 

Cameras and lenses do add up though, so it’s not a bad idea to tinker around with what you already have when you’re starting out. You can absolutely shoot YouTube series on iPhones now and you probably don’t need the extra gear. You probably DO want a steadying rig so you don’t have someone holding a phone for hours and sound is still a problem you’ll need to tackle, but visually you can do it.

Has anyone out there made a movie on an iPhone? Want to talk about your experience? Drop me a note!