Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Talkback - Budget

Just out of curiosity, how many of you keep budget in mind when you're writing? Do you just run hog wild or do you make an effort to stay within limits, so as to make the script more attractive on a financial level?


  1. I'm probably not qualified to comment as I'm not writing screenplays, but can I turn the question back to you? If a script, or more importantly its story, is good, do you look at the financial side when you're reading for a client?

  2. I think of story first, always. If I have a great idea I'll write it. A good script is a good script and can get you work regardless if it's "shootable" or not.

    That said I did write something called "The Most Expensive Short Film Ever" as a sample. I estimated the budget around. $300,000,000. It was an attempt to go the other way from people writing stuff that can be shot in an afternoon.


  3. I writing a spec that am a little mindful of the budget. I'm not writing a 100 million dollar script. The other script I'm working on I have chosen outdoor, available light, cheap/no cost locations and limited characters because I am going to make it myself.

  4. I think it depends on what you're writing. There's not too much point in writing a cheap action movie. Go on, blow up that helicopter! :)

    That being said, green screen technology makes a lot of stuff cheaper than you might think. So even if you think showing Los Angeles destroyed is expensive, it might not be. So why keep budget in mind when I don't really know what the hell I'm talking about when it comes to budget?

  5. To the extend that a rough idea of budget can dictate tone or content, yes. Having roughly decided that it's pitched at being a UK indie so somewhere within the £3-5million range (for example) I wouldn't get my knickers in a twist about being any more specific than that.

  6. In response to the question of if I let budget affect my evaluation when reading - absolutely.

    If I'm reading for a company that typically spends $20 million on a film, then a movie with CG alien characters, massive car crashes and global catastrophes is probably NOT going to get a consider. If it's brilliant, maybe it'd get a "consider with reservations" - especially if it seems there's a way to strip out all that stuff and still tell a good story.

    But sometimes you get a script where the writer clearly didn't think things through. A while back we got a submission that took place in the near future on a space ship - and that means that EVERY scene would have to take place in a weightless environment.

    The funniest thing - I'm not sure the writer himself actually realized that fact.

    Do you know how time consuming and expensive that is? APOLLO 13 pulled it off by sending its guys on the "Vomit Comet" but that was due in no small part to the involvement of Tom Hanks and his relationship with NASA. (Also, give the scope of the sets in this film, it wouldn't have been feasible to build them within the VC to achieve the same effect.)

    The kicker? Given the way the story played out I don't know if you could have counted on it begin a big enough commercial success to justify the high special effects cost.

    So I think in some cases you have to be aware of the box your script is going to fit best in, and make sure you don't do anything crazy like throw an expensive car chase and stunt sequence into what is otherwise "When Harry Met Sally."

  7. I definitely keep budget in mind when I’m writing a new TV spec. This is more for practical reasons than produceability since a TV spec should be a typical episode (i.e. a spec of The Office where the characters all win a spaceship ride to the moon is probably a bad idea). If I’m putting in a bunch of expensive and wacky stuff, I know I’ve gone in the wrong direction.

    When I’m writing something original, I allow myself more freedom (what would Lost be without a plane crash?) but I try not to consciously write things that are totally ridiculous unless the story/genre absolutely dictates it.

  8. I do keep budget in mind, considering that I am a newb and completely unestablished. Thankfully, my style tends more towards more modest productions. Limited locations, mostly character-based stuff, so I am lucky in that sense. In one instance, I am writing an action/revenge script that is a little more extravegant, but even then I try to think of financial limitations as a creative challenge.

  9. I always keep budget in mind ( as many interior and day scenes as is reasonable, the minimum of locations I can get away with, 2 big action sequences max, MAYBE 3 if the script really calls for it. But like my ent lawyer and well paid professional writer told me: Studios want tentpole films: If the script you're trying to write is big, it better be f-ing EPIC