This is the second in a three-part series of articles about the film value chain. In the first, we examined the first two parts of the chain, development and pre-production. In this article, we look at the next links in the chain, production and post-production.
Production starts with the words every budding director dreams of: “action!” This is when the film is shot and the director has the chance to convert his or her creative vision into something real.
It’s at this stage that the director has most control over the film. He or she will take charge of the shoot and ‘direct’ the actors, as well as decide what CGI or special effects are needed, what music to choose, etc. How good the director and his production team are will go a long way to determining whether the film finishes on budget and is a box office hit or a miss.
Most of a film’s budget will be spent during production even though this is the shortest section of the entire process. (Although of course, both time and expense will vary from genre to genre and film to film).
This places a huge responsibility on a director. They will be under constant scrutiny and if they fail to retain the producer’s confidence they can face the sack.
Director Carl Rinsch was removed from 47 Ronin by Universal after going dramatically over budget (some estimates say by as much as $50m). According to a one report: “Rinsch came off as ‘creative and competent’ during pre-production, but struggled when shooting got underway and eventually ‘buckled under the pressure of the ambitious shoot.’”
The pressures on a director are twofold, as veteran film producer Christine Vachon told Filmmaker Magazine: “It’s very hard to separate the creative and the financial. Directors these days really have to understand the business of film otherwise they can’t keep making films. I have to continue to make the creative and the financial work together and still make the film that we want to make.”
The freelance nature of producing independent films can make it difficult for a producer to keep a director and creative team together for more than one film. People move from project to project and, if they are talented, will often get snapped up by a large studio or bigger production company.
As a result, many independent producers form close bonds with directors they trust and work well with. Having someone you can rely on is preferable to being forced to try out a new director every time you make a film. Award-winning producer Andrew Eaton and director Michael Winterbottom, for example, have worked together on a number of films including The Trip, 9 Songs and The Look of Love. Similarly, producer Andrew Macdonald and director Danny Boyle’s joint credits include Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and A Life Less Ordinary.
One positive from a production point of view is that technology has drastically cut the cost of filmmaking. As Wired stated in its article How Tech Has Shaped Film Making: The Film vs. Digital Debate Is Put to Rest, “Digital… means production companies complete their shoot schedules with less waste, keeping the entire project under or close to budget.”
The benefit of this to producers is huge, as Vachon explains: “Making films is cheaper than it ever was because of digital equipment and stock. We shoot our films quicker than ever before so the budgets have changed hugely. When I first started making features, we thought a super-short shoot was 35 days. Now we shoot features in 20-21 days. The idea that you can take the same material and take off a third of the time… I didn’t think was possible.”
Post-production covers video and sound editing as well as adding CGI and special effects. A director can find his control waning during editing as the producer and financial backers try to influence the creative process in order to protect their investment. Conflict between the director’s artistic vision and the backers’ financial vision is not unusual and wrangling over who gets approval of the final edit fairly common. (Aggrieved directors can take solace in the popularity of ‘Director’s Cut’ versions of their films, for example, Ridley Scott’s Aliens and Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers.)
In the third and final article on the film value chain, we will be looking at how films are distributed and exhibited.
In the meantime, to find out more about how Iron Box works with film producers to finance films, please call Raimund Berens on 020 7628 7587 or go to www.ironboxcapital.com.