Want To Get Into Film Production?
December 5, 2008 2 Comments
This is my 23rd year working in the film industry on over 40 film productions. Throughout that time I have never met a new film school graduate who has a clue about handling the most important aspect of ALL filmmaking – the MONEY! Honestly, and brutally, until recently I would rather have hired someone as a production assistant who had worked in a shoe manufacturing plant.
Perhaps I’m maligning the jewelry be-studded faces of film school students. I had always assumed (wrongly, it turns out) that film students just weren’t interested in knowing about the business side of filmmaking. However after a recent survey of film students at a reputable film college we learned that film students DO intuitively understand that knowing the language of film budgeting is crucial to their careers in film. Surprisingly, over 80% were enthusiastic about learning more about film budgeting and raising finances!
Here’s what we discovered from that survey:
1.Over 80% of film students are not only interested in learning more about budgeting for film productions, they are emphatic about it!
2.In most cases, film students expect to find information about film budgeting from the internet, or as recommended reading from their professors.
3.We also learned that most students feel overwhelmed with the idea of researching this kind of thing for themselves.
Those working in the film business recognize how important it is to be familiar with film budgeting and the language of deal-making, if not technically proficient. The confidentiality of film budgets makes it extremely difficult, even for working filmmakers, to get familiar with film budgeting. (I have a true story in my book about a meeting that I had with Ron Howard in 1993 where he wanted to learn specifics about the budget for his film – in spite of having been in the film business for over 30 years as an actor and budding director).
Learning about film budgets while on-the-job comes at the expense of hard-knocks, expensive film budgeting software and late night self-training with a technical textbook (if you can find one). In the 23 years that I’ve been working in the film business, I have NEVER shown a film budget to anyone but a select few insiders – Producers, Production Managers, Studios, Bonding Companies, etc. So, exposure to actual film budgets really is an insider’s privilege – which I am about to open the door to for my readers. (Keep in mind the figures shown are samples only. The figures are real enough, but are not drawn from my actual past/present/future film productions.)
How can film students get familiar with film budgets while they have the time and opportunity? The only colleges with film budgeting in their syllabus (that I could find after hours of internet searching) was in a specialty course for Production Managers at the New York Film Academy, through mentors at the American Film Institute (where, I’m proud to say, parts of my book are being used by a mentor there, who has a long record of producing films including a term as Vice President of Production at MGM), and a quality masters program like the Peter Starks Producers program at USC (where my book is also required reading.).
The only solution that I see for film students, and for working folks looking to get into the film business, is to get familiar with film budgeting and the terminology of deal-making. But… what kind of information, and at what level of detail?
The answer to that rhetorical question is – get the information in as simple a format as possible, yet still be effective. By effective, I mean that any training in that area will actually help you impress producers for those few film jobs, get your script into production, find financing, be rehired for more film contracts, be more cost effective cinematographers, etc. Also, the basic concept of translating creative ideas into a budgeting process is new to most people, so that concept should be presented first.
Film students don’t need to become keen budget technicians. However, they DO need to get enough exposure to film budgets to understand the fundamentals, and to be able to communicate to film producers, film studios, bonding companies, banks, financiers, etc. in the same language as would be expected from professional filmmakers.
All of the above is covered in my book, Walk The Talk. You can see my articles and my book at www.talkfilm.biz .
John Gaskin – 20 years experience in the Film Industry as a Production Auditor. John has managed over 40 major film productions all over the world, almost a billion dollars in budgets. John has worked with some of the industries top professionals, including academy award winning producers Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Frank Oz etc.
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