There are really only two tricks to producing on a small budget – hire the right people and do as much as you can yourself. Gone are the heady days when budgets were plentiful and the Brinks Truck backed up to your office and spilled piles of money onto your doorstep. We’re living in a time where we have to learn how to produce on smaller budgets while producing the same great quality work. I affectionately call these minimalist budgets, “Working on the I and I tour. “ (The insult to injury tour). Where once you had 3 production assistants at your beck and call, now you’re the beck and call girl. No shame, it’s just people aren’t shelling out large sums of money these days.
So, to keep costs down and value high here are a few recommendations –
1. Don’t bring people on board until you absolutely need them.
2. Hire the sharpest production manager or line producer you can afford and have them negotiate the best possible terms with crew and vendors. Make sure they run the production schedule as if they were directing the Rockettes – not a single mis step. This will ensure you don’t have ANY overages. An overage is not a friend to a minimalist budget.
3. Hire Production Assistants who will work as Production Assistants but are really ready to be Associate Producers. They’re smart, seasoned and will go the extra mile. And since you’re abusing them on this project, make sure the next time you have an Associate Producer spot open you hire them. Karma. I’m just saying.
4. If you can work an Avid or a Final Cut system string out the initial rough cut and then bring in the pro for the finish
5. Farm out only those things you can’t do yourself, i.e. animation, musical score, etc.
6. No fancy lunches, and by the way, you’ll be doing your own manicures for the run of the production.
Keeping costs down, really isn’t that difficult. If you run tight control, stick to the budget and the schedule, you’ll turn an I and I tour into a tour de force production.