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Preproduction

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David Zietz
Preproduction
on Sep 23, 2009 at 5:53:22 pm

Hi, I'm brand new in the tv/film industry and was recently hired by a startup production company to develop one of their pilot tv shows. At present, I'm setting up the budget and preproduction plans and I'm looking for some good sources from which I can construct a realistic budget.

I've read through the the threads here regarding rates, so I understand the variability involved, but what I'm not sure about is where to look to get the mean rate around which the variability occurs for a given crew position.

I'd also welcome any and all suggestions, recommendations, caveats, or whatever to help me ensure that I'm on the right track and being as thorough as possible. I'm reminded of a statement I read here that "you're crazy if you think you've thought of everything," so I'm sure I can use as much input as I can get.

Thanks in advance, all :)

David


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Mike Cohen
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 23, 2009 at 6:46:02 pm

David,

Congratulations on your new responsibility. It can be exciting and challenging. You just need to know what you are getting into, especially with a tv pilot project. There are a lot of people with grand ideas, but who have not thought everything through. Always look at the big picture.

In any budget, you need to get estimates or quotes for prices. Budget for known rates plus some leeway for the unknowns. And as others on this board have said, along with our former SecDef, there are the known knows, the known unknowns and also the unknown unknowns.

But don't get too caught up in trying to figure out a "mean rate of variability" - that sounds like something a Six Sigma blackbelt would say - just be realistic. One area you do not want to skimp on is hiring qualified crew, especially if, as it sounds like, you are somewhat inexperienced.

if you have specific questions do not hesitate to ask this group - we are all very helpful (and occasionally sarcastic). Non-specific questions will likely get you non-specific responses.

Good luck.

Mike Cohen



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Bill Davis
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 23, 2009 at 7:46:10 pm


Need a line item cost for make-up per day?
Go to Mandys or any of the other long time qualified crew sources for your area - look up someone under MAKE-UP. Call them. Tell them who you are and that you're doing preliminary costing for your new job - and ask them for their day rate. I

Then call someone else and get THEIR rate and average them or go with the higher price to give you wiggle room in the budget.

Repeat for each job description.

All you're doing is acknowledging that you're new to the market and are researching rates. Any professional will be happy to talk to you because you'll eventually be hiring and it's a new source for possible work.

The working pros in your market know the rates better than WE ever will - because most of us aren't in your market.

Simple as that.





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Chris Blair
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 24, 2009 at 5:59:25 am

Once you do your budget based on all your research and info, immediately add about 25-40% to it if you hope to come up with a realistic figure that you'll be able to actually stay within.

We've pitched a few program ideas to networks, with one being accepted by The Learning Channel but eventually falling through, and we were surprised (actually shocked) by how low the proposed budgets were for entertainment type programming. Most of our show pitches were in the vein of HGTV style shows, where you have a host, do a handful of segments and basically stick with one theme.

The show they accepted was about beer and we pitched a budget of $1.3 million for 26 episodes (22 minutes each). That's roughly $50,000 per show and they told us that was too high. We'd done a lot of research and we just couldn't make money doing the show for less than that. They also required delivery of ALL the episodes before they'd contract to buy them. That meant we had to come up with over $1 million to produce the programs. It just wasn't feasible.

We produced a pilot to sell the thing and a guy that does a beer blog put it up on his blog and YouTube if you're interested.

























That was a few years ago, but I've heard from others that the second tier networks still aren't willing to pay much for unproven ideas, and still want you to deliver an entire season of shows before they'll commit to buying them.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Mark Raudonis
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 25, 2009 at 2:22:18 pm

[Chris Blair] "and still want you to deliver an entire season of shows before they'll commit to buying them."

Chris,

That's just one way of working with the networks. We do shows for MTV, E!, Lifetime, Oxygen, Spike, VH1 and others. We NEVER have had to produce the entire season before getting a "green light". In fact, we don't start rolling UNTIL we have "funding" in place. But, typically, the networks retain copyright... not us.

The economic model you're referring to is more of a "licensing" agreement where the producer (YOU) takes on all of the financial responsibility, retains ownership, and then sells limited rights to as many buyers as possible worldwide. It's a deep pocket game that CAN be very rewarding... or bankrupting.
You're essentially counting on your own creative and business skills to get you through. Any ONE network will not pay enough to cover your costs. You have to look at a global market to make any money on the project.

Mark



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Chris Blair
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 25, 2009 at 3:38:35 pm

I was primarily referring to people that don't have a track record. We were consistently told by networks that since we hadn't produced an entire season of shows before, they wouldn't commit any funding during the production phase, but would commit people in the form of executive producers who would advise us during production.

The Learning Channel and one of the Discovery Networks both expressed interest in that regard, and The Learning Channel even assigned producers who we had discussions with. I don't blame a network for operating that way. Until you prove you can deliver, it doesn't make sense to commit much more than that.

But both networks told us our per-show budgets ($50,000 per show) were too high, and that they were producing shows with similar production requirements for $30-$35,000 per show.

That's what we found mind-boggling. Again, this was about 7 or 8 years ago, but even then, $35,000 for a 22 minute network-quality show seemed ridiculously low. Production values have increased immeasurably on many of these networks since then, but the whole experience dampened our enthusiasm for pitching programming ideas, since it seemed pretty difficult to make much money doing it at those dollar amounts. Hopefully it's changed since then.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Mark Raudonis
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 26, 2009 at 6:32:50 pm

[Chris Blair] "since we hadn't produced an entire season of shows before, they wouldn't commit any funding during the production phase, but would commit people in the form of executive producers who would advise us during production. "

That's NUTS! They won't give you any money, but expect to "advise" you during production. Run, don't walk from a deal like that!


Mark



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David Zietz
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 26, 2009 at 11:34:12 pm

Those are GREAT! I'm aware of producers always wanting something for nothing, but that is just crazy. Too much to ask for that amount of work.

David


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walter biscardi
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 27, 2009 at 1:06:43 am

[David Zietz] "Those are GREAT! I'm aware of producers always wanting something for nothing, but that is just crazy. Too much to ask for that amount of work. "

It's even better when you come up with an original idea and a producer walks away with it to sell it as their own. THEN it gets really fun! Lawyers make the best pals in the world......



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Owner, Biscardi Creative Media featuring HD Post

Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Read my Blog!

Twitter!


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walter biscardi
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 24, 2009 at 4:43:51 pm

We have some budget proposal for 13 and 15 episode series. They run about 15 pages or so. Tons and tons of line items for everything from catering to insurance to travel to insurance to props. Yep, insurance and more insurance....

The main key is to work on the budget, then review it a day later, add the things you missed, show the budget to someone else, add the things they mentioned and repeat this process for about a month. After about a month, you should have been able to figure out all "the little things" you forgot the first 28 times you did the budget and be ready for a realistic budget proposal.

Be prepared to really spend a lot of time on this because you don't want to be wrong the first time you present to a network. If your series costs $50,000 per episode and you only propose to them $35,000, well you're going to be stuck $15,000 in the hole for each episode.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Owner, Biscardi Creative Media featuring HD Post

Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Read my Blog!

Twitter!


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David Zietz
Re: Preproduction
on Sep 26, 2009 at 11:45:20 pm

Thanks for all of the really great information everybody. That all helps quite a bit!

David


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