FOLLOW THE MONEY!
I met with a young filmmaker the other day who told me that she couldn’t decide whether she should try to make her film for $2 million, $1 million, $500,000 or even do it no-budget at $150,000. She said she wanted to make sure that whatever she did, her film would make its money back.
My response was to recommend that she construct her budget based on the creative and production needs of the film as well as the resources she’s able to tap into. But to bring in the specter of profitability? Well, as I explained, a $150,000 film can turn out to be a terrible investment, losing all its money, while a bloated Hollywood blockbuster that careens over-budget can still be a good investment for its studio. When it comes to smaller films, there is just no equation between the lowermost end of the budget and profitability. Either a film sells or it doesn’t, and you just have to make sure that your budget and your creative development process allows you to make the best and most sellable version of your film.
In this fascinating article in Slate, Edward Jay Epstein walks you through the new Hollywood accounting, explaining why films like Tomb Raider and Gone in Sixty Seconds are virtually no-risk propositions for the studios. Epstein is the author of The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, a book I’m going to pick up after reading this Slate piece.