When you are making a micro-budget movie, every sandwich counts! Now, obviously what I’m referring to is money. More mouths to feed, the more things cost. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to make several feature films that have gone off to win awards and score major distribution. One way that I can attribute this success is to keeping my cast size small.
In this post, I explore the idea of cast sizes, and point out a few things to consider when making a “micro-budget” movie.
A screenplay with a limited cast count:
Cast matters. A small cast matters more. In recent years I have worked hard at developing stories that require a very small cast count. My recent movies typically involve 3-5 actors, and rarely exceed 10 people. When making a micro budget movie, consolidation is key. Too many performers can drive up labor costs and inhibit your ability to stay on budget. Keeping your cast size smaller, forces you to do more with less, and places the priority on performance, more so than scale.
Movies that have large ensembles are very difficult to manage even at a big budget level. If you are making a movie with five actors or less, you should be able to make a $30,000-$50,000 micro budget movie. On average, you should expect to have your cast on set anywhere between 10-15 days. This is minding that your script is within a 75-90 page range. If you have more cast members to consist with, your daily talent cost will escalate.
Now you may be asking, “what if the actors are doing the movie for free, or for copy and credit?” And to that, I would still suggest you keep your numbers low. Let’s explore a few points.
Less mouths to feed:
The more folks you have on set, the more mouths you need to feed. Now this may sound trivial, but it adds up. Every sandwich counts.
Insurance costs may rise:
If you’re cast and crew numbers are large, your general liability and worker’s compensation insurance policies may be higher too.
You still need to pay your talent something:
Whether it’s deferments, gas money, or just screeners to the completed film, keeping your post-obligations will make your life happy. (A special note here: I don’t recommend not paying your talent. Pay them some money, whether its a flat fee, or daily rate. It may not need to be SAG scale, but it should make it worth the actors time. This makes for good relationships and places a professionalism on set that you can’t create without compensation.)
That’s all for now. Make Movies!
Kelly Schwarze is an Emmy © Nominated filmmaker who has written directed and produced 6 feature films, dozens of music vides and commercials, and has owned successful media companies in Las Vegas.
Kelly also does one-on-one consulting for filmmakers. Click here for more details.
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