Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Chapter #41

“Strike Your Final Print”

THE $1,000,000 FEATURE

1. Producer $10,000-$16,000
2. Writer/Script $5,000-$10,000
3. Director $10,000-$15,000
4. Cast/Actors $6,000-$9,000 (+$25,000)
ABOVE-THE-LINE............................................................31,000-$50,000 (+$25,000)
5. Film Stock $20,000-$40,000
6. Film Lab I (Shoot) $15,000-$30,000
7. Camera $18,000-$36,000
8. Expendables $2,000-$5,000
9. Sound Equipment $6,000-$11,000
10. Sound Transfer $3,000-$5,000
11. Light/Grip $6,000-$24,000
12. Dolly $2,000-$3,000
13. DP $10,000-$15,000
14. PM & AD $14,500-$21,000
15. Production Designer $6,000-$8,500
16. Crew $23,000-$35,500
17. Art & Props $5,000-$9,000
18. Wardrobe & Makeup $3,000-$5,000
19. Permits $2,000-$6,000
20. Insurance $3,000-$10,000
21. Dailies $4,000-$6,000
22. FX/Stunts/Car $0-$0
23. Locations $2,000-$10,000
24. Office & Paperwork $1,500-$6,000
25. Publicity $2,000-$10,000
26. Food $6,000-$9,000
IN-THE-CAN.......................................................................... $148,500-$305,000
THE SHOOT (Total Above & Below..…………………………… $179,500-$355,000
27. Film Edit $12,000-$18,500
28. Film Lab II (Edit) $2,000-$3,000
29. Sound Edit $7,500-$12,000
30. A.D.R. $2,000-$3,000
31. Foley $2,000-$3,000
32. Music/Score $5,000-$7,000
33. Mix (Re-Record) $5,000-$7,000
34. Optical Track $2,000-$3,000________
35. M&E $2,000-$3,000
THE EDIT........................................................................ $39,500-$59,500
36. Titles $1,500-$3,000________
37. NEGATIVE CUTTNG $5,000-$6,500
38. Lab III (Answer Print) $8,000-$15,000
TOTAL PRODUCTION COSTS.........................................$219,000-$413,500

You are just two checks away from finishing your film. It was only four months ago that you purchased 50,000 feet of film, spent three unglamorous weeks shooting and a couple of months watching editors, a musician and post-production technicians mold it into 8,100-10,800 feet. You feel as if you have the perfect film. Slow down. You still have two more checks to give the lab to (1) cut the negative and then (2) color correct it to obtain your final print.

The film you now have is only an edited workprint. This is not your final product. Its color is poor. It has been spliced, cemented and scratched. The next step is to get a print without any splices or scratches and superb color. To do this you hire a Negative Cutter (aka: Conformer), who literally cuts the original developed negative, which has been stored at the lab since the shoot, to exactly match (aka: conform) to the 300-500 splices that are in your edited workprint. Negative cutting is a precise profession; one tiny mistake and your negative is ruined forever.

No one on your crew will know a negative cutter. Check your local directory. Then ask your Dp (another $100 check), your film editor and sound facilities manager for referrals. Don’t bother schmoozing a negative cutter with an offer of a film credit. He doesn’t care. It’s just a job. He'll want to know how many feet of film you exposed. The more feet, the more work. Hearing only 50,000’ he’ll figure it's an easy job. He’ll also want to know what type of film it is, and the last thing he wants to hear is “Action-Adventure”, which translates to splice, splice, splice, --a lot of work.

The cutter, thinking not a lot of cuts, will offer a flat fee of $600-$800 per 1,000’ reel, rather than a per splice fee. Write the check and cut the negative to conform exactly to the workprint’s edit list. Your film is 8,100’ (eight reels) so your cost will be $5,000-$6,500.

Your very last check you write will be to the film lab, to secure your final color corrected print from the cut negative. The lab has an employee called a Timer. The name is a holdover from the days when colorizing a film was determined by how long the actual negative sat in a developer. (SECRET) The Timer, or color corrector, is the only person at the film lab who is an artist. Whenever I make a deal at a lab, I always want to meet the Timer who will be assigned to my project and say hello with a bottle of wine. This will be the best $25 you spend on your film.

The Timer takes the cut negative and corrects color (adjusts printing lights) until he gets the right look for each scene. Normally, he starts with skin tones and adjusts accordingly. He can add orange to the sky. He can make the pastures greener. There is a lot he can do. However, he is limited once an actor is in the frame. If he puts orange in the sky the actor’s skin could turn bright red.

The lab then makes a print from the Timer's adjusted printing lights. This is almost your final print. When you view it you’ll gush with pride. It’s as if your first child was born. There’s your film filling the screen with actors, color, fades, dissolves, music and titles. But hold back on your emotions when screening your first attempt at an answer print. Make color correction notes, with your DP, during the screening, and have the lab strike a second print. Wait a couple of days and screen your film again at the lab.

The lab charges $1.00-$1.50 per foot to print your film, with two color correcting attempts. If you have 8,100 feet and negotiate a price of $1.00/foot, the cost is about $8,000. If you have 10,800 feet and negotiate a price of $1.50/foot (sucker’s deal), then it will cost about $15,000. So securing (aka: striking) your final answer print will cost $8,000-$15,000.

Voilla! You’ve made a feature film.

Now let’s add up all the checks. Above-The-Line costs for talent (Producer, Writer, Director & Actors) cost $31,000 to $50,000. Then, to shoot your film (vendors, crew, locations, permits, etc) cost and additional $148,000 to $305,000 for a grand total of $179,500 to $355,000 to get your film in-the-can over a three-week period. Next, the two to three month post-production period (edit, sound, music, etc) cost an additional $39,500 to $59,500 and when added to the final lab (titles, cutting, coloring) costs of $14,500 to $24,500 you have spent $219,000-$413,500 to produce a feature film that looks like a million dollars.

1. Get referrals for Negative Cutters, negotiate a flat fee.
2. Meet your Timer, make sure you get two attempts as color correcting.