Hi Oliver,

First of all I have to say for someone who doesn't consider themselves a
teacher I've learned more about film and cinematography from reading your Q
& A's on the imdb than I have from countless readings of magazines,
tutorials and books on the subject.

My questions are, when it comes to film stock , processing at the lab on
most movies, what are the average costs for 16mm and 35mm film on say the
usual 90 minute film. On $100 Million budget movies where exactly is the
budget going and how much of it is really up on screen.

David Bailey

I am afraid there is no answer to the first part is as there is no such thing as the "usual" 90 minute film.  By this I mean that different Directors use wildly differing amounts of film.  When I made the low budget films here in the UK in the 80's, all with budgets under $8 Million, we reckoned on a shooting ratio of about 7:1, meaning you shot about 7 times as much footage as appeared in the film. So with a little bit of maths and a few phone calls to Kodak and the Lab, you could work out the answer yourself: you will have to decide whether to include dailies in the budget - many studios are trying to do without them these days on smaller films.
As for the second part, I had a call a couple of years ago to shoot a movie in New York. I asked what the budget was and they said "About $60 Million." I thought this was Ok, but then I asked who was in it.  After they told me, I worked out we would have $18 Million to make the movie.  This is a very low budget to shoot a film in New York of any magnitude.
There is no rule for how much of a budget is up on the screen: but it also depends how you define the expression... If Mr Superstar is on the screen most of the time, I guess you could say most of the budget is on the screen!
Sometimes the most amazing epics are made for very little money: no stars and shot in third world countries - low crew rates, very low rates for background (human and otherwise), and cheap hotels and food.

I am planning to produce/direct a feature with my own money. Considering the difficulties with my budget and the high cost of 35 mm film stock I want to shoot with super 16 mm, hence I would like to know how much will it cost per meter for the final blow up of the negative to 16:9 ratio for the theatrical projections? ??--Murugesh

If you call the sales department of any Laboratory (say Technicolor or De Luxe), they will give you this figure on the telephone. (By the way, theatrical projection is 1:1.185, not 16:9 which is a widescreen TV format).

Hi Oliver, I am a producer in Los Angeles, and just got this really great script in my hands. I am looking for cast and crew. What are the rates that I should expect to pay a cinematographer on a daily basis???--Lenny

Local 600 publishes a "daily rate" for cinematographers. It is a guide, although you get people working for much less than this for non-union shows, and then "Oscar-winning" DP?s for a couple more zeros on the end of whatever it says. In other words, there is no amount that is "correct", but I expect any LA line producer could give you some averages. I don't know that they are!


How do you define an independent film?

An "independent film" is one that is not financed by the Hollywood studios although there is a grey area which came about because the studios don't like it when small independent companies make a lot of money so they also produce "independent" films. They do this by setting up smaller companies (like Miramax, Fox Searchlight etc) and these companies supposedly make independent films. However, they are very different from truly independent films as they have the studio behind them to come to rescue if things go wrong.

True independent films are financed in a million different ways from people with credit cards to an Uncle who happens to own Walmart etc. They are sometimes "bonded" to guarantee the money should they go over budget. Quite a few collapse before, during or after shooting.

They also pay less money (or no money) to the crews who make them. Sometimes the crew gets paid if the film makes money and sometimes.. well.. they don't! It could also be taken to mean a film that is made without a distribution deal in place: distribution deals can influence casting and several other things making an "independent" film not as independent as one might think. Actors agents also do the same thing in an increasingly unethical way.

Dear Oliver,
Thank you for taking time to thoughtfully answer so many questions over the years. It's very much appreciated.
I am a director-producer of a movie somewhere between development and pre-production. It takes place in three major locales: US West Coast, US East Coast and India. I'm crunching numbers right now and I'd like your advice about the practical -- and aesthetic -- advantages/disadvantages of using local crew.
The producer in me is thinking that using local crew saves a lot of money (especially on travel, etc.). But the director in me is concerned that, even if the local crew is top-notch, the film might have an inconsistent look. I mean, wouldn't having two different camera operators on a film be risky?
My question doesn't stem from runaway production issues in LA or any of that. If I was an Italian Producer-Director, I'd have the same question. I'm mainly interested in the artistic and practical on-set consequences. Things like -- Does using a local crew on location tend to upset the smoothly running machine? Or, does it sometimes inject new energy to the production? Do local gaffers tend to be a good bet, because they understand the local quality of light better?
So, in short, I'm keen to hear your experiences and insight about the little-known pros and cons of using a mix of crews vs. having one-team throughout.
Again, many thanks for all your guidance and help.
Best regards,

The convention when changing locations to another country or in the case of the USA, to another Local, is to take the DP, Gaffer and the Operator and possibly the Key Grip and 1st A/C. There are pros and cons in any situation and each situation usually demands a unique solution. Recently we moved The Waterhorse from New Zealand and back. In this particular case, I took the Operator (for continuity in the working relationship with the Director) but not the Gaffer. The reason for this was that I knew a UK gaffer well who could get the situation ready for me in Scotland before I arrived. However, in another situation, whilst working on Casanova in Venice, I brought a gaffer from the USA who I knew well because he had already worked with the Venetian crew and they liked him.

In general a good local gaffer will have the best crew in the part of the world he operates; the same for any other HOD. This is usually an advantage, but diligent research is needed to make sure your choice is a good one! The most important thing is to trust the DP you hire to make the right choices on your behalf: generally when a Producer interferes with the DP's ideas it does not help anyone, least of all the Producer. In your particular situation I would start with the notion of the DP and Operator remaining constant, and then discuss the rest with the DP. Sounds like a challenging project so Good Luck!

How do I turn a Public Policy Paper into a documentary film?
Topic Roe v Wade with interviews of past clinic workers...I only have experience in radio documentaries and "The Other Side of The Looking Glass" won three national awards.
I would like to rent a camera and just go out and interview the clinic workers whom I know as a past Administrator of an Abortion Clinic. The paper is a publishable paper according to the experts in the arena.
Thank you,
Linda Bourgeois

It's pretty tough to make a film on your own - even a small documentary. There's a lot more to interviewing someone than just renting a camera! Whilst it seems you have the skills for the interview, you would be better off to get someone else to handle the camera and the lighting. Then the material has to be edited and put together along with all the illustrative research that may be required. There are, obviously, a whole host of "permissions" that also need to be cleared in order to use the material. Just as you have been visualizing your radio programs, you have to carry this out for a Documentary: but remember that a string of interviews does not make a very interesting doco. Gathering and editing the visuals is a complex and time consuming task: if you want to learn to do it yourself, the best way would be to use an experienced colleague on your first one, with a view to doing it yourself after that. Documentaries are often scripted just like a Feature Film: the best ones are certainly as engaging as a Drama.

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