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View Full Version : How much does it cost to shoot a short film?



Charles
02-23-2013, 06:08 PM
I have this amazing idea and I really want to shoot it this spring! Im so in love with it and im going to make it happen!

I would like to get a few things straight:

How much to rent a Red or Epic camera?

How much for a crew of 3?

how much for good sounds?

Timeframe? - 3 days

Thank you all so much for your responses!
__________________________________________________ ________________________

Answer: By BLAREmedia


Your main costs are:

Food - both crafty (snacks and water) and actual meals

Permits - if any

Props - if any

Crew - You should pay for sound and probably the camera man. Find someone who lives near you and just ask if they will help. If your project is interesting enough then most DP's that are not super established just want to keep building their reel. And if you are shooting something that would look good on their reel then oftentimes that is enough to get them involved. But I wouldn't get hung up on specifically getting a RED. A 5DMk3, Sony FS100 or F3, Canon C300/500 or any number of other current Large Sensor CMOS chipped cameras can give you remarkably good results.
Expect to pay a few hundred on sound. Make sure you are recording to a separate system and that your audio guy expects to use wireless lavalieres. If he/she doesn't have them then I would look elsewhere. You can typically get by on your first couple projects without paying the rest of the crew. You should try to as soon as you can as you get more experienced, but your pay to the crew should be done by you in pre production by doing your best to schedule, cast, write, scout and plan the hell out of your project. If you do that and create a professional shoot environment, then people will want to work with you for free because it is already a solid alternative to the other projects they typically work on. Make the production a pleasure and people will beat on your door to work for free. That being said, people still appreciate the effort of giving them $25-50. It's not much, but it shows that you value them and it makes it a job for them that they now will owe you something.

Talent - Crappy acting will kill any project. No matter how good everything else is, poor acting will make it look, sound and feel terrible. Spend time in casting and do your homework. Sometimes the 'funniest' person is not the one you want for your comedic role, because they will make it about them and their talents, not the story itself. The same goes for drama. Expect to pay your lead actors $50-100 a day and you will get a solid team.

Music Composition - It's best to set aside a couple hundred for this. You can get a remarkably good score for a short for a few hundred bucks.

Color Grading - A good color grade can make a shit camera look marvelous and a bad color grade can make Epic footage look like trash. This is a very important step. Set aside a couple hundred or find an experienced person to do it for free one day.

Factor in any other things like gas or location fees and go to it!

You should be able to create a quality short for $1000 no problem. Focus not on the camera or lenses or lights as much though as the storytelling, acting, planning, pre-production and ideas. That will always be your most important thing.

Nick Soares
02-23-2013, 06:15 PM
Thats great man, I too have a short I would like to shoot this spring.

Just to give you a heads up, my short is about 25 pages and it will cost me about $2,000 to film it the way I want. I also make sure to pay my crew so everyone is happy. You might be able to get away from spending lots of cash if you shoot on a different camera, maybe the Canon 5d mark ii?

I have a few questions to help solve your issue

RED ONE *or* EPIC - (With an experienced RED operator?) <--- Kind of a must

What do you mean by good sound? Like sound when you watch a movie in a movie theater? That kind of sound?

Charles
02-24-2013, 03:41 PM
Professional Red user - Yes

Well, maybe not that kind of good sound, but not sound that sounds far away

Paul77
02-24-2013, 03:43 PM
I am interested in this info as well. I TOO really want to shoot a short this spring! I have $1,222 saved up so far and I would be will to go to cali to film it!

Nick Soares
02-24-2013, 04:32 PM
Charles, Paul, I have pinged Justin (BLAREmedia (http://www.filmmakerforum.org/members/blaremedia.html)) the top production company in the central valley! I have some ideas, but I want him to give you the most accurate answer.

BLAREMedia
02-24-2013, 05:14 PM
Your main costs are:

Food - both crafty (snacks and water) and actual meals

Permits - if any

Props - if any

Crew - You should pay for sound and probably the camera man. Find someone who lives near you and just ask if they will help. If your project is interesting enough then most DP's that are not super established just want to keep building their reel. And if you are shooting something that would look good on their reel then oftentimes that is enough to get them involved. But I wouldn't get hung up on specifically getting a RED. A 5DMk3, Sony FS100 or F3, Canon C300/500 or any number of other current Large Sensor CMOS chipped cameras can give you remarkably good results.
Expect to pay a few hundred on sound. Make sure you are recording to a separate system and that your audio guy expects to use wireless lavalieres. If he/she doesn't have them then I would look elsewhere. You can typically get by on your first couple projects without paying the rest of the crew. You should try to as soon as you can as you get more experienced, but your pay to the crew should be done by you in pre production by doing your best to schedule, cast, write, scout and plan the hell out of your project. If you do that and create a professional shoot environment, then people will want to work with you for free because it is already a solid alternative to the other projects they typically work on. Make the production a pleasure and people will beat on your door to work for free. That being said, people still appreciate the effort of giving them $25-50. It's not much, but it shows that you value them and it makes it a job for them that they now will owe you something.

Talent - Crappy acting will kill any project. No matter how good everything else is, poor acting will make it look, sound and feel terrible. Spend time in casting and do your homework. Sometimes the 'funniest' person is not the one you want for your comedic role, because they will make it about them and their talents, not the story itself. The same goes for drama. Expect to pay your lead actors $50-100 a day and you will get a solid team.

Music Composition - It's best to set aside a couple hundred for this. You can get a remarkably good score for a short for a few hundred bucks.

Color Grading - A good color grade can make a shit camera look marvelous and a bad color grade can make Epic footage look like trash. This is a very important step. Set aside a couple hundred or find an experienced person to do it for free one day.

Factor in any other things like gas or location fees and go to it!

You should be able to create a quality short for $1000 no problem. Focus not on the camera or lenses or lights as much though as the storytelling, acting, planning, pre-production and ideas. That will always be your most important thing.

Nick Soares
02-24-2013, 05:19 PM
Thank you Justin, I have updated the original post to allow users with the same question a fast answer!

Charles
02-24-2013, 05:23 PM
Hey Nick, any chance users that post info like Justin can have a badge? To allow for donations in forum topics like this one? I know you have it in the tut section, just kind of thinking out load know what i means?

Nick Soares
02-24-2013, 05:25 PM
Hey Nick, any chance users that post info like Justin can have a badge? To allow for donations in forum topics like this one? I know you have it in the tut section, just kind of thinking out load know what i means?

I will look into this for you Charles, I am happy you received your answer!

Richard Ragon
02-25-2013, 10:36 PM
Richard here, my first post here..

I'm a production sound mixer, so I can give you a bit of my take on this, with a few tips in the sound department.

While some jobs on set are artistic in nature with a direct benefit to the artist, the Sound Mixer is only a technical job. He's a hired gun on set, and he (or she) is here to solve the problem of getting good sound, while production filming. Mostly I don't give a rats ass about the project.. I just do the craft, and I do it the best I can, given the circumstances and the tools at my disposable.

The sound department is broken up into 3 parts, with an option of a 4th. Sound Mixer, Boom Op, Cable Util, and Equipment. They are billed different because Labor is usually per hour, and equipment is a flat rate. Labor can be a flat rate, but it's basically calculated at 10 hours.. Anything over that would be Overtime. A base salary for low budget sound mixer is between 10/hr to 30/hr. Figure at least 10/hr for the boom op and utility. If your working on a feature, short, or some kind of scripted dialog project, then your going to have a sound mixer, and a boom op at the least. Don't make the sound mixer, do two jobs at once (i.e. boom op), because while this MAY be possible, your project suffers greatly. He wont be able to keep sound reports, or track down noises, or put mics on actors if you make him do two jobs at once. Your poor sound guy will have to hold an 80lb bag, while standing on set all day. Those sound gear bags are for 'run-and-gun' reality work, or ENG work.. not 12 hour film days..

While sometimes I've been known to forgo my salary, equipment is another story. Sound equipment is insanely expensive. While editing can be done on any laptop computer now, and cheap LED lights flood in, and DSLR cameras costing only about 2K are on every set, every price of sound gear goes up in price, year after year. The gear needed to do sound right, cost a lot, and there's NO way around it.

So, here's the hot tips.. for creating a budget for the sound department.

Everyone's salary for labor on set, is very negotiable. Figure about 100-400/day for the sound mixer, and 100-200/day for the boom op. If you find a guy or girl for cheaper, consider this is gift but make sure they have the experience. A sound mixer is a Key on your set, experience in keys is important.

If you look at most sound rental places, they have something called 'indie rental package'. This is a basic sound gear package for most indie type films. Rental houses charge about 600-700/day for this kit. Most sound mixer will rent their 'indie' gear for 350-500/day, HALF the cost of renting from a rental house. Sound Mixers can ALWAYS do rentals for 50% lower than any rental house. If you plan on filming for 1 week, you can ask for a 4 day rental too.

Make sure the sound mixer is using a multitrack recorder. In post you'll want every single mic on set, with it's own track. This way if one wireless drops out, it doesn't ruin your recording.

Make sure that mutlitrack using a TimeCode. If so, the sound mixer is responsible for a TC slate, also known as smart slate. This makes your editing a bit easier, so as to match the video with the audio.

Make sure your sound guy gives you IFBs. Headsets for each person on set, needing to listen to your audio.. scripty, boom op, director, producers, etc.. anytime a 'video village' is in use, you'll need IFBs so you can hear the sound. Remember digital film making, is different than analog. Use those tools.

If your going to use a secound camera, your going to have to get another boom op. The boom can NOT cover 2 places at once.

The sound mixer should provide you with a flash drive, CD, or USB with ALL the audio, at the end of each day. Check and make sure he is filling out a sound report, as this can speed up your post department allot.

I can give you tons of details about how to hire a sound guy, or girl.. But the bottom line is.. like any valuable crew member, your going to have to 'stumble' upon that one person you like!! A huge part of my work is referrals from other producers. Or someone runs into me on set, I give them my card..

I've heard some real horror stories from producers about the sound department.. There's some really bad sound mixers out there, unfortunately. I recommend that you don't drop the ball here, do your research, just like your DP, and call those references.

And, finally, you need to get used to Deel Memos. Deel Memos spell out exactly what your getting, and for how much. Get used to reading, writing, and understanding those.

I'm a firm believer in 'an educated producer, is a much better producer'. Feel free to email me, with any question about hiring sound. I'll try to give you my honest opinion..

Good luck.. Richard Ragon (production sound mixer). (soundguy[at]hanaho.com)

Nick Soares
02-26-2013, 01:19 PM
Wow, Richard I didn't even see this post. Fantastic job on explaining your experiences. Thumbs up man!!!

Richard Ragon
02-26-2013, 07:59 PM
No Problem Nick,

I realize the sound department is a black art for most new producers. Many new producers, simply don't even know what questions to ask, when it comes to the sound, and take the simple approach where they think it's just one guy holding a boom pole. ITS NOT!

Because of this confusion, many producers also try to solve the 'sound' delima by just acquiring or buying a bunch of sound items, and then try to fill the position with the first person who says yes to that job. THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE. Handing a bunch of gear, that was assembled by someone who doesn't know anything about sound, and then expecting someone to fix it, is a receipt for a disaster. If a key component of the sound gear fails or is missing.. and you just have some guy standing there.. I can guarantee, the producer will NOT be blaming the gear for the failure!!

Because most sound guys (and girls) have their own (tested and true) sound equipment, they know that gear, and they have plans for backups just in case. And, they lease that equipment to the production, at much better rates that any sound rental place could.

And, finally.. NEVER EVER wait till the week before your shooting to go find the sound mixer.. Most good sound mixers are booked up months before. Include the sound mixer as part of your KEY team, and location scouts if at all possible too!

So remember, every film-making book thats ever been written, always talks about how 'the sound department' is always the best investment that pays well after your in post. My personal goal is ZERO ADR, and total asset organizations... a goal that can save you thousands while in the post process, and make many people very happy later on.

Thanks

-Richard

payperfilm
02-26-2013, 08:32 PM
Hi Richard,
I have a question. What is considered good or acceptable on-location recording? No matter what the situation, there are always background sounds in my dialogue recordings. Sometime I only hear them when I have the headset on but not through the speaker. I'm using an Me-66 Sennheiser. Are these background sounds in the dialogue tracks of professional recordings also?
Phil

Richard Ragon
02-26-2013, 08:58 PM
This goes off from the point of this topic.. which is about budget.

But, in general, bad is anything that can overtake your dialog level, or bring attention to your edit. Inconsistency will bring attention to your sound. Which means camera is facing actor 'A', then camera cuts to actor 'B' and if we hear a difference in sound, this brings attention to the edit, which is bad!

Lets face it, we live in the city.. sound is always around, but we need to do our best to minimize any background noise, and if we can't, keep it low and consistent.

-Richard

directorduncan
02-27-2013, 06:04 AM
Charles,
It really all depends on your skill level. The more you know, the less you have to rely on other people for.
I've produced several shorts and the only money I spent was on craft service for the cast and crew.
You can find good cast and crew members to work for free, but you definitely want to feed them.

I only spent $100 to make my fan film Jason vs Leatherface.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqEhrKy5CLQ

Of course I did all the preproduction, filming, directing, and editing/sound.


On the other hand, I spend $10,000 on this short film


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFmWO2NbEWM

When it's all said and done, I've seen more Return on Investment from the Jason vs Leatherface Fan Film...

Director Duncan

Nick Soares
02-27-2013, 10:02 AM
Those videos deserve there own threads :)

Paul77
02-27-2013, 01:23 PM
Holy smokes, just got back on during lunch and so many topics to read up on. Great information here guys! Great information!

Director
02-27-2013, 02:25 PM
Charles

Let me be the voice of reason here.

First off, shooting a short using a Red is probably a little over kill for what you need. And Nick is right. If you don't have someone that really knows how to use the Red, you will wind up with footage that you could probably have gotten from a Canon GL1. Not that I'm putting down the GL1, because I shot with that camera for years.

The Canon 5D is a great camera for shooting, but if you plan on shooting any Slow Motion, the Canon 7D can shoot at 60fps, giving you a smoother slo-mo effect. But for a short, either camera is fine. And remember, even with a crappy camera if you can do a lot in post, and especially with After Effects, to make your film look like a bigger budget. Just be sure your lighting is good.

Regarding sound. Many use the sound from 5D & 7D cameras, but I don't like the audio results you get from them, but if you look around, you might be able to get your hands on some older dat recorders for pretty cheap. In fact, here's one I just found on eBay that should do the job nicely. Tascam DA-P1 Portable Recorder DAP1 DAT W Mic Preamps w/ Headphones on eBay! (http://compare.ebay.com/like/251222798226?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar)

As for the actual cost of shooting, it really depends on your script and how complicated it is, how many shoot locations, actors, crew, etc. Too many variables to nail down. Regarding permits: If you don't plan on doing in heavy shooting outside, I have gotten away with some guerrilla film making, and only once was I ever approached by the cops. I told them I was just shooting some student stuff and they let it slide.

payperfilm
02-27-2013, 02:45 PM
Allow me to rant for a moment. Set design. Set design. Set design. The world's greatest camera doesn't mean anything if you don't have a good background. You have to factor this into your project also. Sometimes I watch a studio production and I am amazed how much stuff is there.

Director
02-27-2013, 03:48 PM
If you love set design, you gotta love Ridley Scott, the master at set design. Just watch Blade Runner to see what I mean. I read the book on the making of Blade Runner, and Ridley Scott went over budget in just the first two weeks of shooting that film.

Mark
02-28-2013, 03:15 PM
Director, do you know what the name of that book is?

Director
02-28-2013, 05:12 PM
It's called Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner

Here it is on Amazon
Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner: Paul M. Sammon: 9780061053146: Amazon.com: Books (http://www.amazon.com/Future-Noir-Making-Blade-Runner/dp/0061053147)

BLAREMedia
03-03-2013, 03:00 AM
Production value is almost always created in front of the camera and behind the camera. Not in the camera. Locations, set design, wardrobe, makeup and the talent themselves are the things that people notice. If you have a dynamite location and strong production design situation then you will always be ahead of the game way more than spending a lot of money on a camera rental.

Josh Hughes
03-03-2013, 10:55 AM
You can save money on actors and food easily. Go to a few college campus' and put up audition posters. It's a great way to find hidden talent and they will almost always work for free. Same with food-- go to nearby restaurants by the campus and say you are making a film associated with the school. I'd say 3/4 of the time I've gotten sub platters, pizzas, and coupons for discounts. You don't need a RED camera to make a great film-- a 5D with great lenses and a DP who knows his stuff will be more than adequate for a short. And honestly for crew you could find at a college as well. Those guys really know what they're doing and will do anything to get experience. Good audio is probably what you'll have to spend the most money on. But for 3 days should only be about 100-200.

Brandon Podell
12-30-2013, 10:46 AM
A RED Epic package costs about $1,500 to rent for 3 days and $6,000 to rent for 4 weeks. For this price to just rent, you might as well just purchase your own camera unless you plan to profit from your short film.

For a crew of three, you'll need a director, a director of photography, and a boom operator/sound mixer. If the boom operator is also the sound mixer, he or she won't be able to monitor and mix the audio levels while holding the boom mic, so I would recommend a crew of at least four. For a crew of three, you could spend anywhere between $0 and $4,500 for three days, depending on their goals and experience. Crew members who are looking to build their portfolio will work for less, while others who are already established will cost more. Finding crew members who are almost established will allow you to create your short as inexpensive as possible, while finding people who are already established will make your short turn out slightly better for a lot more money. It's up to you how much you want to spend. When deciding on your budget, I would ask yourself what you want to gain from making your film, and then from there decide how high of a quality you want your film to be. At the minimum, I would reimburse your crew for travel expenses and provide meals, which would cost about $350 for all three days.

A compromise between between experience and a budget costs about $100 per minute of edited footage. If your short is 15 minutes, it could cost $1,500 to produce.

Newmanrector
03-07-2017, 07:06 AM
Very helpful tips... Thanks everyone!