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I'm shooting a super low budget feature soon and am currently working on the gear package. The entire production budget is around $50k shooting in 12 days. Looking at local rental house catalogs, I'm not able to find a low enough day rate for a basic camera, grip and electric package. A c300 rig with a few Joker HMIs, 2 Kino 4x4s, some Arri tungstens and basic grip gear is still way too expensive.

 

What equipment tricks do people use for micro budget features like this?

 

Thanks.

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You basically do a deal with the rental house, that's something that producers negotiate all the time. You'd get a reduction for 12 days compared to the daily rate. However, you may still find that the numbers don't add up and you have to make a compromise on the gear.

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Yep; it depends on who you go with and you can bid them against eachother. I will tell you to beware of places with too low of a price-- they will nickle and dime the hell out of you for stuff (such as giving out lights w/o stands).

May work best to get a truck for the lighting/grip stuff.

 

HMIs will cost you more than tungsten units-- but are helpful since you don't take as big a hit on filter corrections, and are more power efficient. Still, it may work out cheaper to rent tungsten (bigger heads) and then using CTO if need be, assuming you have ways of powering the things.

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You don't get equipment trucks or experienced crew on budgets like this. You get vans. You get hampers. You get interns. It's back to film school days. Which is why I left a film recently with a budget like this cause the additional funding didn't come through. Be prepared for a rough 2 weeks.

 

Whether they up the budget or not, you should draft a budget for what you need and explain why you need it. Many new inexperienced producers don't listen to or fully understand why you need this or that. Not really. It's only numbers to them until it's a problem on set. Then it's automatically your fault because really, who else can they point the finger at? So have everything you want documented in emails so it's clear that you were responsible and upfront in your requests for the appropriate crew and gear. Good luck on the shoot.

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Sometimes people don't really see that big camera rental houses are super open to this kind of filmmaking if they find the project interesting (which is a lot of times)

For the camera package I'd suggest going to Panavision and talk to them about what you might want, what they realistically could offer and show them what you want to achieve.

 

You might get a lovely surprise :)

 

Kindest regards.

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I'm assuming that the $50K being the budget for the entire film will likely only leave $30k at best for the crew/gear situation. Considering every film has above the line costs and expenses associated with attorneys/producers/directors/scripts/ talent/locations/insurance/catering/transpo/DIT & post etc. So lets pretend for a moment that those costs are removed leaving $30K.

 

Assuming sound takes $3K per week that leaves about $23,000 Then pull out the camera budget at $3K per week for an Epic or equivalent. Assuming there's some ridiculously generous soul at CSC or the equivalent.

 

Leaving you with $17,000 Then say you want a small HMI and Kino package. All plugins, no gennies or distro. Basic wall units w stands and the usual flags/clamps. That's also a steal at $3K per week with some amazing hookup for 4 decent pars and a small tung package with the steel and stingers, beach etc

 

Now you have about $11,000 to spread among the entire crew for 12 shoot days. The whole crew. Not just camera/g&e. Everyone but sound which I just deducted. No money for prep at all. Oh, and the van has to be donated. You have nothing in the budget for one. No money for the checkout btw. You have to do that on your own by yourself.

 

Everyone must prep for free and pay for their own departments expenses. Art has no budget. HMU has no budget. Unless you allocated some upfront before the $30 for that. And most of the crew is at $100pd making it impossible to get a good 1st A.D. or a good focus puller or gaffer.

 

I did the math a hundred ways for my last project and it just didn't work. The best you can do, with all departments and a solid team starts at $80K assuming that most of the locations are small residential and commercial spaces and you mostly do day for day and night for night. That and the talent doesn't kill you with expenses. But even at $80K you don't have a pre-light team or the gear for one.

 

This is why I suggested drawing up your own budget and showing the producer what's necessary and what they have to cut since they likely haven't thought about all that. Maybe when they see it all laid out in front of them, it'll be the necessary push to find the additional funding required.

 

Or perhaps a line producer already did this and the producer and director have tons of experience and they are guerilla shooting this from the hip for fun as a pet project. If they are all very, very experienced, they can do that cause they know the drill and it might be a fun adventure where they don't expect you to do 5 jobs onset by yourself. You have to feel it out and see what their expectations are so you don't end up in one of those "set up to fail" situations.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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I recently did a pilot where Panavision gave a 80% discount. You can't lose if you don't play. Can't hurt to ask!

 

G

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Yeah, but - there's a marked difference between:

 

1) Taking a full blown package out of Panavision for a TV series that has a realistic chance of becoming a 24-episode, multimillion-dollar season, and

 

2) Renting a couple of HMIs and a C300 for an indie short that's going to kickstarter.

 

There's a degree of perspective in effect here - various people have wildly differing definitions of what "a production" is.

 

P

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There's a degree of perspective in effect here - various people have wildly differing definitions of what "a production" is.

 

P

I completely agree.

 

G

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Well, you can moan about your tiny budget and sit on your hands assuming no-one cares about the small stuff like Phil (although he does it with remarkable panache :) ), but like Gregory said, there's nothing to lose by asking around. There are longer term discounts beyond day rates, and package deals. Some equipment that may not be "so hot right now" and sitting on shelves might get a better discount. A few years back the rental house I work for did a deal exchanging camera rental for some website work because the film maker was also an IT expert. Some places might be willing to undercut another quote just to get the work if things are quiet, or if they're trying to build relationships etc etc.

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A good time for doing deals is a quiet time of the year for the industry. The large rental companies can do this for a number of reasons, it can build up a relationship with film makers who are starting out on their careers, rather like banks give offers to students. Some have been around for many years and feel that education and training is a part of their business. As mentioned, don't go for the latest hot camera fashion, having it probably won't produce a better overall film.

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In that vein, I did recently price up a show for which we needed 25p HD and found somewhere that had an F750, which they were willing to let out for fairly cheap. The intention was to use it with a modern flash recorder, which would have been a reasonably low-cost solution. Glass remained reasonably expensive.

 

P

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Hopefully that's an option. Usually I run into completely unrealistic expectations with producers where only a Red Epic will do despite the fact that there's nothing in the budget for one but they insist on it anyway and compromise every other area of the shoot for it. If they're open-minded to another camera option you'll have a shot. And if they agree to schedule day for day and night for night. But it's unlikely Panavision-On-Location will deliver a package for $2500 a week. Even f they did, I doubt it comes with a full G&E team. That would indeed be a "lovely surprise" so please follow up and let us know what the houses tell you and the quotes you get.

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