A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a producer interested in “Rocks in My Pockets”. I had sent her a script of my film which is a voiceover driver narration with a snippets of dialogue. 37 dense pages that she read.
– It is a very nice story, – she said. – I really like it. When are you going to write a script?
– But it’s already written, – I said. – You just read it.
– Oh. I thought it was a summary of the script.
A brief spell of horror froze my heart. Not only the script was written, it was re-written and rehearsed and recorded. That someone professional thought my script was just a sketch of a story was very disheartening.
– What you read was a final script, – I said calmly, oppressing my desire to cry and scream.- What made you think it was only a summary of the script?
– I don’t know. It just didn’t read like a script. I can’t imagine how you are going to put images on the story I read. It is all narration.
Of course, it was all narration.
In my inexperience dealing with producers I had assumed they can read my mind, that they can put together 1 (images of my finished film “Birth”), 2 (voiceover of my finished film “Teat Beat of Sex”) and 3 (script of my new project “Rocks of My Pockets”) and see precisely how the future film will sound and look.
The idea to make “Rocks In My Pockets” as a voiceover driven film came from understanding that I cant raise 2 million dollars for the project. The bare minimum, starvation budget for the film is $100,000. The budget came from a simple breakdown – I need $20,000 a year to work full time on the film. If I can hire one person, she/he would want $20,000 as well, or more. The two of us might work for 2 years to do animation and coloring. Together that comes to $80,000 for 2 years. A sound designer needs $10,000 to work half a year on the sound. A composer needs $10,000 to work on the music. Voila: $100,000. And I am not even talking about transfers and other depths of postproduction.
I have never seen $100,000 in one place, especially on my bank account.
2 million sounds like traveling to Moon on a bicycle, in bikini .
So, to be realistic I decided to make a very low budget production that I can scrape money together myself. That was my start position and from that point I wrote the script. Voiceover can explain everything what is going on, so you can save a lot of animation, labor=time=money of drawing and coloring.
My “Teat Beat of Sex” is a voiceover driven film and I was able to make 1 and half minutes every 10 days. It was great fun to make it, too.
I do understand that a feature film is a different kind of enterprise, that a 90 minute voiceover might get tiring, but thought I can pull it off, or at least try.
An independent production won’t be able to hit the mainstream audience anyway, and the niche audience that the film is aimed at would have the patience and forgiveness to go along with the story.
Besides, making an independent film on ultra low budget makes sense business wise. If the niche audience for my film is about a half a million people, and each of them gives me $2 to see it, it is $900,000 profit.
To invest more than $100,000 – $500,000 in an independent production, an adult animated feature film about depression (even if it is funny) doesn’t really make sense.
It does make sense to invest more than 20 million dollars in a story aimed at children about how to train one’s dragon.
I heard “Mary and Max” budget was 8 million dollars. A very nice film. Well done. Unique. Very popular at festivals. Won countless awards.
I also heard, the producers might never see a profit.
But profit is something that drives investors and producers, while artists, hopefully, are motivated by an exhibitionistic desire to tell the darn story.
– But Signe, aren’t you supposed to make a perfect story first and only then think of money to find a perfect budget? – a friend of mine asked. – Isn’t that the correct way to do it?
I have seen hundreds of perfect stories waiting for their perfect budgets. People loose their youth, some people lose their teeth and health waiting for the perfect budget money match.
I just can’t sit still with a perfect story for 300 years like a princess in a glass coffin , waiting for the right hero to rescue me and my story. I tell a story I think I can tell and I think I can get the money for. I am skilled at working low budget.
Thinking of the story and the budget is simultaneous for me.
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