Ron Howard – A Director Who Wants to Know
September 24, 2008 1 Comment
As a Director you want to transfer your vision to the screen. If you can trade-off one area of costs against another area without getting stuck in the details, you can control the transfer of your vision to the screen. I guess you could say that you’re “directing” the money.
For example, if a Producer says it’s too expensive to have that crane shot during the opening titles, you’ll be able to trade off other costs with authority, getting your crane shot and earning the respect of the financiers at the same time. A few years ago I worked on a film production in New York with Ron Howard as the Director. He called a meeting with the Accountant (me), the Production Manager and the Executive Producer to ask,
“Why is the budget so high?” If Ron Howard is conscientious about costs, it behooves the rest of us to learn what we can as well.
I’m using a true story about Ron Howard because he’s such a well known person – and a true gentleman – but I could have used similar stories about a number of directors. Since I started with Ron, let’s examine Ron’s view about film production:
Ron Howard is well respected and well known. He has grown up in the film & TV business and it’s immediately evident that he’s been alert the entire time.
He certainly is the only director that I’ve met who took a personal interest in lowering the budget. He’s a powerful man with the experience and sang-froid to direct the best talents in the world. Also, he goes against the grain of the usual image of a Hollywood director – he’s a friendly and personable guy. (When I called him Mr. Howard, he told me to just call him Ron.) Because of all that I had a tendency to believe that he had all of the answers to everything in the universe of film making – including the various ways to control cost, the in’s and out’s of budgeting, etc.
When Ron called that meeting with the accountant (me), the Production Manager and the Executive Producer he was simply asking a direct question:
“Why does this film production cost so much more than earlier ones?”
and, he wanted as uncomplicated an answer as possible.
And my thought was, “Gee. You already know everything.”
Here’s the point – most director’s and producers have elected to stay away from budgets and costs. The heavy grinding SHOULD be left to accountants — BUT, the control still needs to rest with the Director, Producers and Production Managers.
Get a degree of familiarity with the money flow, especially with the budget creation and the weekly ‘Report Card’ – the Cost Report. Find a comfort level where you can, AT THE VERY LEAST, KNOW WHAT TO ASK. Know how to formulate the questions—you’ll impress the money belts off Studio Executives.