Hey folks! Howdy! I'd say things are picking up here but in reality things are simply piling up. So my resolution this year is to try and clear out old projects to make room for new. Shoot ideas that have been languishing in a notebook for far too long. And, primarily, just start making things again. House of Yhargoth, the Lovecraftian webseries I've been pushing for almost two years now, is still on the edge of funding. But with that on a precipice what else have I to keep me busy?
One of the concepts I thought I'd try and tackle concerns one of my favorite Tolkien mysteries: The Blue Wizards! I've always wanted to know what happened to these two. For those unfamiliar 5 wizards were sent to Middle Earth to help curtail the rise of Sauron: Saruman, Gandalf, Radagast, and the two Blues, Pallando and Alatar. In fact, Alatar was the second wizard chosen for the task after Saruman. Tolkien explains that they went into the East along with Saruman and essentially leaves it at that. They "likely" failed, he writes, similar to how Saruman failed although perhaps not as epically. But a few years before his death Tolkien gave the wizards a reprieve and rebranded them as heroes without explaining how they became so. I've got a good idea for a storyline that can tackle some of the other mysteries of Middle Earth. To whit: the Dwarf Lords and their rings of power. There are four Gandalf mentions as having been destroyed by dragon fire. But where, when, and how is never explained. And more! This is a fun one.
I've also been working on a project that's a little more personal. More details on that as I can wrap my brain around it.
I plan on releasing the first of some old projects in the next few days. This one has been sitting on the shelf for FOUR years.
What have YOU been working on? Any exciting projects in the future?
This is the first of what will be an ongoing series documenting my attempts to get "House of Yhargoth," my Lovecraftian webseries, made. Some key details may be omitted as I'm actively in talks and I don't want to hurt my chances. But I'll fill you in as soon as I can.
Now, I hate the term "sell out" not because it's a derogatory term for anyone who appears to hold money above art but because it appears to be applied indiscriminately to anyone who accepts a paycheck rather than simply "doing it for the love." What many people fail to recognize is that art costs money, and love alone cannot pay the bills.
This post sprung to mind as I saw many of my fellow filmmakers successfully raising some funding via crowdsource websites like these guys for instance. And they're not alone. If you're one of the many hundreds of creators who have been able to fund your projects yourself, or with the support of friends and family through crowdfunding initiatives, congratulations! If I may be so bold, I'll assume your projects are restrained in scope to a degree you know you can fund and produce well. Or you just have a lot of fans and a good product. Or... you're terrible at budgeting and take a lot of the work on yourself and possibly burden your crew and overstretch your resources. Bottom line is you're making something and for that you should be congratulated!
Now back to me... I've debated using something like Kickstarter to launch my webseries for a long time now. In fact, I have extensive spreadsheets noting best times for starting campaigns, best practices once they're launched, ideas for pledge tiers, sample tweets, interested parties, and more. Lots more. Suffice to say if I were to start a campaign tonight I could probably whip up a pretty good one.
Would It Be Enough?
Here's where things get tricky. I've shot dozens of short films. I've budgeted & scheduled everything I knew would cost me more than $100 and take more than a day to shoot. I know how much things cost and I know how long things take. After going through the script for my Lovecraftian webseries and consulting with line producers galore, I came up with a budget and schedule. I had a number now... and that number did not scream "CROWDFUND!" to me. It was too large in comparison to my meager (but loyal and awesome) fanbase. And even if I was able to excite the audience the show was intended for, I wasn't positive I could get enough of them on board the crowdfunding train.
What Other Options Are There?
Here's where "selling out" comes into play. If you don't have the funds and don't have the network to get those funds, you need to go outside that network. To that end I've been seeking potential distributors to sell the idea to (with the intent of staying on board as producer with Faye as head writer). Shock! Gasp! I can hear you choke.
After you choke I can hear you guffaw: "But Dom," you manage through stifled laughter, "Just make something cheaper!" To which I retort, "Why?" I've played in those trenches and I'll definitely be back but I can't make this show in that field. I recognize that the level-headed amongst you will shake those level-heads and wonder why I don't simply prep a smaller, more intimate and affordable show to start out with. Frankly I find those types of shows are not my cup of tea. I got in this business to make shows like House of Yhargoth.
"Why don't you just shoot a piece of it, and see what happens?" I'm terrible at analogies but let me try to explain this one: Imagine having a piece of a pie. It tastes good. So good you want to tell everyone you know about it. You run out, send emails, and notify everyone you've ever met that you just had the best piece of pie in the world. When everyone comes back to try some you find the pie has been decimated by time, eaten away by flies and rats and is no longer edible. You can make a new pie but by the time you're done everyone has moved on to cake.
See, the internet is fickle - that pilot may hit like a hot poker and wow everyone. But if you have nothing to release the following week you're destined to lose any support garnered from the pilot. Crowdfunding for a single pilot is possible, but as I said it's how one can follow that up. There are ways to make this work, of course, but they revolve around having money... I'll reveal in another post.
Why sell off the idea you are so passionate about?
Well to be honest I'm SO passionate about this idea I'm not going to do two things:
1) Make it for anything less than it's worth.
2) Not make it.
That means I need to raise money somehow. Next!
Does That Make Me A Sell Out?
Depends on who you talk to, I guess. There are people who take great pride in eschewing the Hollywood system. It's a tricky tightrope to walk - retaining independence or paying people. And I don't say that blithely. Salaries are the single largest component of film budgets - and the reason why so many modern indie filmmakers become a jack of all trades doing the editing, shooting, writing, directing, etc. themselves. While I enjoy that component and it's certainly made me a better overall filmmaker, I prefer to use pros when possible. Wouldn't you?
Why Is It So Important?
My dream is to take this back to Seattle. At the budget level I'm proposing it would be a not insignificant project for the local community. Money would be fed back to local businesses and people - people who helped me out when I was just starting by donating their time, equipment, and a whole lot more. This is a sustaining project as well, being episodic and all. Not to mention Seattle has all the built-in locations a story like ours needs. It just works.
So that's what I'm doing right now and why I've been fairly incommunicado since my last major post about the show. Not much to report when at this stage it's all unreturned phone-calls or passive-aggressive e-mails. But that's gonna change...
For some filmmakers the perfect budget is $0.00. Many of these filmmakers tend to believe the project itself is the reward and everyone should be happy (even enthusiastic) to work on it for free. When anyone tells you they can make something as complex as a film for nothing you should immediately be wary. Even (especially?) if it's me. Making shows is never free. There's always some cost, hidden or otherwise, that should be accounted for. So just what is a baseline of "no-budget" filmmaking?
Costs come from various sources. I'm not going to give a line-item description of all those costs (that's a whole 'nother blog - do you even know of a good budgeting blog? I don't.) but you still need to know what these line-items are. Without an accurate picture of what goes into making a show (be it a webseries, film or TV project) you can't adequately plan what you need to beg, borrow, or steal. Costs breakdown into a few categories: cast, crew, equipment, food.
When you're planning to shoot with a next-to-nothing budget you need to be more diligent in your pre-production, not less. You've gotta be clear about your vision, what you're trying to accomplish and what your endgame is. Having a clear plan from concept through distribution will help win people to your cause.
CAST & CREW
The #1 cost associated with filmmaking - and subsequently the one most filmmakers try to avoid - is crew salaries. Obviously, hiring people will send your budget skyward. Bringing on volunteers will reduce the budget considerably but it also, in some cases, makes things infinitely more difficult. Suffice it to say, if you're not paying people to work on your show you'll need to give back to them and be flexible. This goes well beyond simply offering a credit and some cold Nalley's Beef Stew.
The question should never be "Can I get a cast and crew to work for free." It should always be "Do I have to?" Once you commit to not paying anyone you have a lot more hanging on the project than just your reputation. Give them a reason to come work on (and finish!) your project. More on this in a follow-up post.
Moving on... At the very least, assuming the production is an intimate, contemporary, talking-head, one-location snooze-fest, you're still going to shell out money for equipment and food...
Some people try to argue that they'll just buy the equipment outright and resell it when they're finished production thus resulting in a $0 balance for equipment. This reasoning fails to take into account any possible reshoots where the equipment might be needed and the fact that even the cheapest camera, lighting, and sound set-up will cost a couple thousand dollars, and even the best equipment will suffer a depreciation in the marketplace once used. And what if it breaks? You're out the resell value and will have to either buy or rent new equipment. You'll probably have to buy insurance too.
Sure, plenty of indie filmmakers have shot hours of footage on a used DVX100a without a hiccup. Plenty of indie filmmakers have also never made more than one movie because of their cheap-ass ways.
If you've got someone who wants to be a chef and is up for cooking 30-40 meals a night and keeping them warm and ready to go the next day, someone with that kind of kitchen space and basically no other life... great. You can't do it because you're the filmmaker, you've got other things to do and don't even try to kid yourself into thinking making chili every day of the shoot will satisfy your obligation to your cast and crew. You're gonna need to go to Costco and get a shit-ton of crafty, and plan out hot meals for any day you'll be shooting more than 8 hours. You might be able to get a local restaurant to donate meals but you cannot count on this.
There are a bunch of other factors that could cost money. Don't even get me started on post! Oh man, from editing to music to color grading to distribution (yeah, you gotta buy those DVDs you want to send to fans), you either know it yourself or have a friend you can pester for months on end to get it done. Otherwise it's wallet time again! And locations! Geez... if you want to do something even mildly dangerous (say, having a guy chase another guy with a fake gun that doesn't even go off) you'll probably need to buy insurance to secure a location. Unless you shoot in your apartment and how boring is that?
If your goal is to spend as little money as possible your script needs to mirror that. You shouldn't come to the table with the next Avatar unless you're also willing to do most of the work yourself and do it for the years (YEARS!) it will take to finish it. Regardless of your script's scope, you need to budget out all real and potentially real costs before you can move on.
Woah there, cowboy! Let me clarify. Not ALL webseries suck, silly. Just most of them. But why? And why would anybody want to jump into this game if the odds are so heavily stacked against them? In this multi-part series I'll go into some of the roadblocks facing webseries producers and how they can improve their idea to get an audience and have a successful show.
1) Most webseries suck because they lack originality.
It may surprise you to learn that a lot of people think webseries are all about out-of-work actors/filmmakers and their hilarious dating lives. If I had a nickel for every filmmaker/actor who believed their personal life would be ambitious or hilarious fodder for a show I would probably have upwards of $6.35. Yep.
While there are some good shows out there based on this premise and I certainly don't mean to lump them all together, it's a pretty tired concept. So many TV shows, movies and yes, webseries, have done this better and way before you set your pen to paper.
But this isn't the only tired concept out there. There are dozens of mockumentaries done in the style of "The Office," hundreds of series about a bunch of 20-somethings living life and dating each other a la "The Real World," or "Friends," or whatever. Again, I don't mean to cast aspersions on ALL such shows. I would gladly point you to a decent one of these... had I the time to go through the dozens of shows in this milieu.
As my friend Tom Becker of Ogre Mage puts it, these shows "poison the market." By popping up in Google searches for webseries and flooding review sites these shows form a sort of wall. They prevent the casual audience member from learning about the vast variety of web content out there by virtue of overcrowding the system.
How do these shows generally come about? My guess: The basic motto for beginning writers to "write what you know." Along with "write for what you can get" and you have the combo for a lot of terrible shows about uninteresting people in less than glamorous places. With a dearth of hastily written shows about nothing in particular it's no wonder audiences are shying away from webseries as a whole.
So what CAN you do? Taking all this into account you simply need to ask yourself "Is my story worth telling." Is it something that you need to tell, or is it just something to put your face on the map? Who would benefit, i.e. enjoy watching this? You're going to have to narrow it down from "all people ages 18-45," friend-o.
Think niche, baby. High concept. There's such a vast audience available to you via the internet why focus on an audience that is split so much already? Find a story that ignites your passion and tweak it to fit your available resources. Sure, you might not be able to do that zombie western you've always wanted, but maybe you could do that stepping stone project. The point is if audiences are rejecting your show your show probably didn't have a cohesive audience targeted in the first place. I guarantee if someone told you to watch a show about their lives you'd groan too. Unless maybe they were a time-traveling astronaut werewolf. That's something I'd watch.
You may only have access to one other friend and your only location may be an apartment (although I'd argue with you here). That's fine... it's all in what you do with what you have at your disposal.
Next week I'll go into more depth about why webseries producers fail to see the problem inherent in their shows and instead blame the medium or worse, the audience! Let me know what you think in the comments!
Let me tell you how this whole thing came about. I wanted to make something based in the Cthulhu mythos ever since I played my first round of the Call of Cthulhu RPG about 20 years ago. Thoroughly creeped out after each adventure, I'd track down any Lovecraft story I could find to remind myself that they were just stories. Amorphous blobs of floating jelly with dozens of eyes and a haunting wail didn't really exist! Right? Didn't help. I loved it.
I sort of lost track of Cthulhu and those wacky Elder Gods once I left college. It made for nice icebreakers with friends but I hadn't read any of the stories since high school. Then late last year I started working on an idea for a web-series about a down on his luck guy who hunted monsters. Rolling the idea around in my head - and yeah, that does sound like a fun premise - I couldn't figure out how to make it work. I remembered Lovecraft and his twisted imaginary abominations and suddenly things started to gel.
The bulk of the writing on the series is being handled by the esteemed Faye Hoerauf. Many of you (6?) blog followers know Faye as part of the writing/directing team of our short zombie-comedy "Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day" which is STILL playing in festivals around the world. She's taken my initial idea and expanded and informed the world allowing it to become something personal and convincing. To be sure, our Cthulhu series is a distinct departure from the comedy bits we've produced in the past (and will continue to produce in the future). This is also a project that I'm already extremely proud of and can't wait to share with you!
Over the next few weeks I'll be dropping tidbits about the production, ways you can help and when it'll be available for all to see. We're aiming for September, keep your fingers crossed! There's a lot going on here and I just wanna say thanks for your continued support and I think you're gonna love this show.
EDIT: Since I wrote this more research has revealed some specifics. I'm sharing that now. Thanks!
Lots of exciting things going on here at GadZook Films. First off I started a Twitter account. You can follow me and the GadZook crew by clicking the little icon in my sidebar.
GadZook Films is also on Myspace and Facebook, so add us to your friends and group lists! You'll feel so smug when all of your friends marvel at how GadZook Films was your friend months before we accepted their friend request. There's a link in the sidebar to the Facebook group as well, if, ya know, you just like to watch.
But here's the real issue: can independent filmmakers, like us here at GadZook Films, raise money using the internet's vast social networking resources? The folks at IndieGoGo believe we can. They have an interesting, albeit not new, business model. You, as Joe Filmmaker, set up a project on their site, establishing a specific fundraising goal. You e-mail friends, family, fans and let them know about what you're doing and how they can help. Theoretically the whole 6 degrees of separation should nab you more fans and more potential donors.
With regards to the fundraising aspect of IndieGoGo, it's a pledge system. Donors may pledge money to your cause using Amazon Payments (a filmmaker must setup an Amazon Merchant account). Money is not taken out of the donor's account, however, until the project meets its goal. IndieGoGo charges a 9% administration fee against all the money you end up actually raising. If you don't get any of the money then you don't pay. 9% is pretty high, more than some of the film-related non-profit umbrellas I've worked with in the past charge anyway.
For the record, Fundable.org, another web-based fundraising tool for filmmakers, charges a 10% admin fee. They use PayPal instead of Amazon to delivery payments.
It's basically a method of leveraging any sort of social network you've constructed for yourself to help raise money for film projects. And I'm going to be a guinea pig and try it out. Head over to my IndieGoGo site, become a fan of GadZook Films and stay tuned. I'll be uploading a project in the next week and try to raise some financing for it. Help me out and you'll see first hand how it'll help! Questions, comments?
In next week's column I'll discuss paying for online video content.
I've been talking with a couple filmmaking friends of mine about this bailout crap. OK, cutting through the mumbo-jumbo and what it means for your money, what does it mean for your future potential financier's money? More to the point, if you're looking for financing how is the disaster at Wall Street gonna affect your chances of finding it?
Well, let's try and lay it out. If you know or knew investors personally then you're going to have the best chance of convincing them to part with their hard-earned dollars. This was the case before the collapse of Wall Street and it'll be the same long after this hullabaloo is over. The most difficult piece of the puzzle has always been finding the investors - those people with enough money to drop into your production and not bankrupt themselves if they lost it all. If you know a person like this, now's the time to talk to them about diversifying their portfolio with non-stock market investments.
If you don't know a person like this, now's probably not the best time to approach an individual who may be wealthy but also may be undergoing cash flow problems due to the economy. They are looking for safe options and probably can't or won't take a chance on someone they don't know who can't (legally) guarantee them any return on their investment. Most financiers have their money tied up in the very things that are tanking right now. Many of these things are not insured due to their speculative nature. Even real estate is taking a hit. It won't be as easy for folks to draw out their assets or borrow against them.
So what do you do? My suggestion? Brush off those scripts you had that you know you could make for say $100k or less. Scripts with budgets that are modest enough that you could feasibly find a few accredited investors who have maybe $10-15k in liquid assets that can come together to finance the project.
But better yet, make videos for the 'net. Production values aren't as important, but story is. Hone your craft, focus on telling a good story and make it memorable. This will build your audience and help you find future investors down the road when the economy is back on its feet.
While the "rescue" (don't you dare call it a bailout!!) plan is very, very, very far from perfect, there are some aspects that are beneficial to filmmakers. Richard Verrier at the LA Times had a story on those pieces. To whit:
Specifically, the legislation would allow filmmakers who shoot in the U.S. to qualify for a tax deduction granted in 2004 to domestic manufacturers that capped the top tax rate at 32% instead of 35%. Additionally, the tax package lifts the budget cap on the existing tax deduction, which was limited to movies that cost less than $15 million to make -- in effect excluding most studio films, which cost a lot more.
Now producers would be able to immediately deduct all production costs up to $15 million, regardless of the movie's total budget. The change also extends the existing credit, which was due to expire this year, to December 2009.
Don't get excited yet, friends. The bill still has to pass the House who shut it down last time it came through. It's tough to support such a dastardly bill simply because it offers support for us filmmakers, but it is good to know there is some consideration being taken (although this has more to do with major studios than Jane Filmmaker).
What do you think?
Whell... back to the drawing board. With interest in "Plight of the Living Dead" beginning to wane, we here at GadZook Films are looking for new projects to focus on. That's not to say POTLD is out of the running just yet. No indeed. It's slowly churning away in the back of people's minds. People who know people. People with money. It's only a matter of time before they realize the gold mine they're sitting on.
Until then, we're starting to work on some new scripts for short films. The goal is to make one this year or early next. Something for the history books. Or at least, the local film history books. A fun, well made, somewhat funded, masterpiece. No concrete story ideas are out yet so I won't divulge anything. And we're so far away from actual production I can't even speculate what it might consist of or when it might take place. Suffice to say we plan on keeping things small in the cast department and shooting something with a hint of genre in it so that it gets wide play at prospective festivals.
I'd like to keep us around $5-7,000 (like Snow Day) and I think we can be even smarter with budgeting to stretch the dollar further. That means we need to raise $5-7,000!! I'm always looking for new ways to raise money without going to the proverbial well of non-profit umbrella status. Any ideas are welcome.
Story ideas, however, are not. We're not on the hunt for scripts so please don't send any. Danke.
So after a long hiatus (our last filming endeavor resulted in two trailers for Plight and Fetch) we'll be getting back behind the camera soon. Not to mention a return to the 48-Hour Film Project - which we won two years ago. Time to show those artsy-fartsy types what makes a good film! Hah. I kill me.
Aw, crap. You mean people actually READ this thing? Crud. I hope you don't think this means I'm gonna go easy on you guys. Yes, that means you too Mr. Genius Award (ha! you don't know which Genius Award winner I'm speaking of! THE POWER!). So a bunch has happened since we last chatted, my blog, you and I. Let's discuss.
Where to start? We completed our business plan a while ago - as complete as a business plan can be without being proofread by a lawyer. See the tricky thing in all this money-raising is that you can't raise money without seeing a lawyer. Contrary to popular opinion, lawyer's aren't free! Go figure! So we had to dance around the subject within the plan about how the investment would play out. That's really info for the investment memorandum anyway. So we finished the plan and I must say it's quite a document. 35 pages not including the multitude of supporting documentation. It has gone through a number of hands to get feedback and mostly the feedback has been great and good (as in great feedback that was also construed as telling us we did a good job).
With this completed plan we approached our first investor - a connection one of us has through a day-job. The lunch meeting went well, most of his questions were answered by the business plan and the questions we didn't immediately have answers to we handled well. While this didn't turn into an immediate offer, I think we laid some good groundwork and it was a great experience.
While contemplating with my office-mates about a potential move, the motivation was upped a notch when our office was broken into last week. Here's the scary thing - it was an inside job. From what we can tell someone who had access to the building (possibly a resident) and knew the business we engaged in broke in. It appears they mildly tried to jimmy open my door, then turned their attention to the main security door - a door that is not our main and generally off most people's radar. It looks like they used a screwdriver to try and pry the door open - and boy they tried hard. The wood is all dented and the paint chipped off. Apparently frustrated by this they decided to break the glass on one of the main french doors that open to our office.
Instead of taking any of the flat screen monitors, G5s, harddrives, DVD player, TV, they instead went straight into my friend's office, opened up a camera bag, removed the DVX-100a located inside, took a couple of the wireless microphones also in the bag, and then left. Why didn't they just take the bag and run? Why just take that if it's money they're after? This could only be the work of someone who knew what they wanted. Our office is located in an apartment building which is apparently full of poor Art Institute students. How anyone poor can live in Belltown is beyond me, but this is what my office-mates tell me. Now I'm not pointing fingers, but the burglar knew our office, knew where this camera was, and had access to the secure building (they didn't leave out the front door anyway). So that sucked. I was lucky in that it appears I got off scott-free, but we shared that camera as opportunity allowed and so the loss is felt between both of us.
The news of the break-in traveled fast and my office-mates were soon on the phone brokering a deal to move to a new space ASAP. It's all up in the air right now, but hopefully we'll be out of there in the next couple of weeks. Naturally this adds yet another layer of complexity to this whole movie business thing.
In better news we have managed to work out some financial issues and are moving forward with our development plans for "Plight of the Living Dead". In still better news "Snow Day, Bloody Snow Day," continues to wow audiences winning an Honorable Mention at the HorrorDance Film Festival and was recently accepted into the 2006 World Horror Convention. Buy your copy TODAY!
On Wednesday, Ms. Jessica Baxter and I attended an industry screening of Hard Candy. Seattle doesn't get industry screenings like this. We get press screenings, sure. Sometimes they masquerade as industry screenings, but really they aren't. This was a full-fledged industry event. There were cameras, the mucky-mucks of the production company and distributor were there (though the distributor sadly didn't make themselves known to us lowly serfs). The movie was good and it was nice to receive an invite directly to ME directly from Lionsgate. How I got on THAT list I have no idea. But keep me on it! 🙂
Thursday I attended my first Filmmaker's Saloon at the NW Film Forum in like, a couple years or so. It was generally pretty good. They hold them quarterly, have a fairly well-known guest-speakers and allow for some networking. My only gripe is that it's less a social and more a panel discussion. The night got interesting when the floor was opened for questions and the questions finally were steered towards Seattle filmmaking in general. While I certainly didn't disagree with the panel's assesment (that Seattle filmmakers are "getting better all the time" I wasn't sure I agreed with some of the other comments made by them or some members of the audience (one gentleman said that if you accept money from anyone other than yourself you will make a mediocre film, but that if you spend all your own money that movie can never be mediocre - I'm not sure if he was speaking from a purely artistic standpoint from the filmmaker's point of view, or if he just had a bad experience with studio-money grubbers). The networking was... tight... and I sadly didn't get to say hi to the panel moderator Andy Spletzer whom I've been e-mailing back and forth about a future project. Anyway, was nice to get out and see some new faces. The current film editor from the Stranger said she thinks Seattle film would be better if there were more people making movies. I dunno, but there are nearly 7,000 filmmakers in this greater Seattle area by my last count. I don't think it's necessarily a quantity thing...
Coming up we've got SIFF, STIFF, our first ever investor party, the 48-hour Film Challenge, another fundraiser and general good times. Stay tuned.
So how about some updates, yeah? The budget is nearly finished and we've made some headway on the business plan for "Plight of the Living Dead". We're in mild talks with some producers to help co-produce the movie - I say mild because most of these talks are mainly getting to know you talks and "Oh, this sounds interesting... keep me in the loop," type things. Talking to some sales agents (and of course, they need some attachments and a business plan before they can even think about committing) and also have a couple lines out at some of the more independent studios like First Look and Anchor Bay. What does all this mean? Bupkis. I haven't special conversations with Hollywood mucky-mucks, no secret "ins". I've followed most of the basic channels that practically anyone could follow. Bottom line is, it's not hard to get HEARD in Hollywood. The hard part is actually being LISTENED to.
While I was doing research for the business plan I came across an interesting formula for determining an accurate budget for your film. You take five or so recent (~5 years) films that are similar in size and scope and story to your picture. Tally their gross revenue. Average the totals between the five and divide by four - this is your "perfect," conservative even, budget point. The point where you will likely see a revenue stream if you made your movie for that amount and assuming you received the same amount of distribution options as those other films. So, as an example, let's take five imaginary film grosses for 5 imaginary romantic comedies (because EVERYONE loves romantic comedies, right?):
Lovin' and Squeezin' - $5,000,000
When Gary Met His Hand - $14,000,000
Two Friends, Two Passions - $7,500,000
Lover's Quarrel - $8,250,000
Urinetown (okay, this is really a musical, but I needed a fifth film!) - $2,500,000
Total Gross: $37,250,000
Average Gross: $7,450,000
Your Ideal Budget: $1,862,500
And really, anything under $2M is usually jackpot territory. If you can find a story that can support a budget of $2-5M, in a popular genre (and they keep changing every year!), you should take the time to do it right. Of course, if you can make that movie for $500k - more power to you and ask for an upfront fee because the studio will have a veritable goldmine. I'm of the mind that it's difficult to make any feature for under $250k - especially if you intend on finding a buyer for it. Sure you can cut crew and cast your friends, not pay anyone, get things for free - but the meat and potatoes is in post production and deliverables. This is where your movie comes together. And if you lowered your budget in the front end to save a few bucks, you may just find yourself shit-canned in post with a difficult to sell picture. Is that to say you couldn't sell it? No, but your workload will increase exponentially. I suppose there's some formula I could come up with that states basically the budget amount and your personal workload as producer affect each other at inverse rates. The higher the budget, the less work you need to do. And vice versa.