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Mike Figgis on budgets

Mike Figgis discusses film budgets for the FutureLearn course Explore Filmmaking by the BFI and NFTS. Watch the video.
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What often, kind of, unhinges filmmakers is the fact they write something and it’s expensive. As some wit once said I think in a book about filmmaking, if you write the Red Sea parts, you’ve already committed yourself to a huge budget. When I made my first film, my great friend Walter Donohue, who works at Faber’s, said black and white, you should never go more than five miles from the Bar Italia in Soho. In other words, do something that you can manage. When I started making films, which let’s say was in the 1980s, the world was a radically different place. There was no getting away from it. My choices would’ve been– I wouldn’t even have considered video.
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There was, technically, nothing like this available, so my choice would’ve been very simple. Either shoot on film, of course, Super8, or 16, or Super16. And immediately you are talking about a budget issue, which would’ve been the cost of the film, the cost of the cameras, the cost of developing, processing, printing, et cetera, et cetera. And that was a non-negotiable thing. Now we don’t have that anymore, so I’m looking straight into a Canon 7D. Remarkably good piece of kit on which I shot my last feature film. And so within that budget, looking at the technical costs that would have killed me 30 years ago, I was able to kind of go, OK, well the cost of the camera is very small.
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I already own a set of prime Nikon lenses. I can convert them, et cetera, et cetera. So technically, already anyone who makes a film right now is way ahead on points from my generation. Workout when you are actually either adapting a script or writing a script try and minimise the number of locations that you go to, because they’re expensive. And also changing locations it takes time, and time on a film is money. So you can kind of synthesise it down to some good interiors that you can control, meaning the sound guy’s going to be happy, the easier to light, there’s not horrific noise and interruption going all the time.
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So somewhere where you can get the most, as the Americans would say, bang for your buck. Once you’re there, there’s also somewhere where you can put wardrobe and so on.
Mike Figgis talks through some of the key features of a film’s budget. He discusses:
  • choice of equipment and stock: camera, film, processing
  • number of locations
In addition, a filmmaker needs to consider all the direct costs such as rights, salaries for actors and crew, travel and subsistence, as well as indirect costs such as marketing and distribution.
In the next step, we will ask you to consider how the budget may have been divided up for The Mass of Men.
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Explore Filmmaking: from Script to Screen

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