We’ve kinda been over this already, but are you in any way involved in film or television? Have you worked in an Industry environment before? (Genuine question because I don’t know you. Maybe you’re sitting across from me in this coffee shop on Sunset. That’d be aaaamazing).
I ask because there’s a lot of misconceptions people have about film and television in terms of cost.
Right out of the gate, whatever the total cost of a movie was (this cost 100 mil, 50mil, etc), cut that number in half. Half of that was the advertising budget. So production costs on a 100mil movie are actually 50mil.
Actors, while not actually part of the advertising budget, are actually kind part of the advertising cost. Tom Cruise charges a ton of money to be in a movie because he knows the movie will make a ton of money because of him. And so do investors. They’re will to risk millions of their own money
Most Hollywood companies are risking the farm on every film. If they had 2 or 3 big flops in a row, they’d go under. Yup, hard to believe, but its true. When I say flop, I mean like Cutthroat Island (100mil production cost, 10mil made in theatrical release, 90mil net loss, I think if I remember right). They’re spending a lot of their money and always at risk.
Most people on a film are making a lot of money, on the surface. But most people don’t work year-round. The other part of the year is spent looking for other work. Plus, outside of unions there’s no benefits.
Again, see earlier, actors and actresses will ALWAYS be paid a lot. They’re generating a majority of the films money. They are part of the advertising by just being in a movie. A film with Nicole Kidman is guaranteed money, as where a film starring me isn’t.
This is probably the largest misconception and the biggest problem in how the world views film. Indie films cut a LOT of corners, yeah. But there’s one corner they’re cutting that they don’t mention: equipment costs. Indie films – ones that look and sound good, not things like Paranormal Activity, I think you and I would both agree if every film that came out was a mumblecore or found footage horror film, people wouldn’t be too happy – indie films subsidize their productions by working on larger movies. They get free rentals. Now, maybe you think people shouldn’t be paid for work, and that labor should be free “for the art.” I’ll roll with that. Now what about hard costs like camera, lights, electrical, generators, portable shitters, and basically any equipment to accommodate anywhere from 30-100 people? Super low budget movies (under 1mil) tend to shoot around 16-20 days. A medium budgeted comedy (~35mil) shoots for about 45 days. Once we’re in blockbuster territory, we’re talking far beyond that. Months and months probably. Who’s gonna buy that stuff outright? It’s so expensive. And if it breaks? Why risk buying an $80,000 camera? Need insurance. Plus location costs, unless you want to shoot every movie in someone’s apartment. Food? Lodging? And safety for locations so that people aren’t killed by trains (Sarah Jones). The average film set goes for 12-16 hours a day. The price goes up exponentially. This isn’t 4 guys in an overpriced recording studio to use a “specially custom build soundboard.”
So basically, what I’m saying is that big cult classics where actually just milking off of the system. They could work on a weird indie thing because their costs were subsidized by bigger movies that rent the equipment. I can give out a free camera rental or a light kit to a film shooting for 15 weeks because I know some other guy will rent it for 90 days at a full rate.
Not to mention, indie films like to brag how low their budgets are (like how big films like to brag about how high theirs are). So they numbers are always honest. If you took most indie films (lets say a bigger one, like Juno) and you wiped out ALL labor costs, the equipment rentals alone were probably close to a million. Eh, probably a bit lower.
Basically, some stuff you can’t cut corners on because its not labor. I’d say a film like The Hangover (i use this because its a nice big example with a medium sized budget) probably had over a million in hard production costs (physical items rented on set) that can’t budge.
Screenwriting is another thing. Whoa, someone sold a script for 150,000 dollars? Figure scripts take about 3-6 months write and don’t always sell (pretty rarely sell, actually). Then, some of that goes to agents, union fees, taxes. I’d say on a $150,000 script sale the writer sees about 40k of that. That’s kind of not a lot of money. And the only reason it sold was because there was someone actively looking for buyers.
Those bloated producer salaries and distro costs, definitely could come down. Some union rates have gotten too high, definitely. Although the nice thing is they provide health insurance.
To be fair, the home theater DID hurt the theater experience. Not the profitability, but only because they charge so much more now. Take a look at ticket sales vs ticket prices. Ticket sales are on a steep decline.