The Director's Chair Issue #55 – June 30, 2005 (MAKING IT in Film Production!)
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
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June 30, 2005 Scene 6 – Take 6
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1. IMPORTANT NOTICE – PLEASE READ
4. Feature Article – MAKING IT in Film Production!
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Welcome to Issue #55 of The Director’s Chair (June 30, 2005)
1) This month’s Feature Article is called “MAKING IT in Film
Production” by John Gaskin. Whether you are, or want to
become, a film director, or already work in some capacity in
film production of any kind, this article will help you make
This is the first of three articles from John Gaskin who has
written a book called “Walk the Talk.” “Walk the Talk”
started out as an effort to answer a question that Ron
Howard asked John in 1993. The purpose of the book expanded
from that question into a way to help Directors understand
that ‘Talking Money’ is a simple, but necessary, tool to use
during the film production.
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about Directing; or a “student of film” who just wants to
know more about Filmmaking from the pros, Action-Cut-Print!
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Take a moment now to visit http://www.actioncutprint.com
where you will find over 1200 Online Resources for
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4. FEATURE ARTICLE – MAKING IT in Film Production!
MAKING IT in Film Production!
©2005 John Gaskin
Whether you are, or want to become, a film director, or
already work in some capacity in film production of any
kind, this article will help you make it!
Why aren’t there more AD’s becoming Film Directors,
graduating Film Students becoming filmmakers, Film Crew
becoming Line Producers? Why aren’t more crew reaching the
level of Department Head? Why aren’t more film school
students finding work? I’m sure there are lots of reasons,
but take a quiet moment to really look. Let’s see…. It’s
not competence – most crew disappear pretty quickly if
they’re slow witted and incompetent. Film students who
graduate have shown they’re pretty smart. It’s not a lack of
drive – again, for the same reasons. Wouldn’t you agree that
the biggest hurdle is getting the opportunity? Well, that’s
true and not true. The biggest hurdle is MAKING the
How do you increase the odds of landing a contract as a Film
Director, a Line Producer, a Department Head (if you’re not
one already), or even a UPM on a small independent
production? Lots of film school graduates are ready to burst
with ideas to get their scripts into production; how do they
get to produce their scripts?
First you need to get the confidence of the person in front
of you. That single person in front of you needs to believe
that you can control your sphere of work so effectively that
you can get on with creating a film from words on a page.
If you’re already a working professional in film production,
you can easily convince someone that you can control the
heck out of your area of expertise – focal points, schedule
breakdowns, casting – whatever professional avenue you’ve
traveled before can be handled with past experience. But,
what do you do when you want THAT film or video project. You
know – the project everyone else wants, too. What’s the
thread that will convince the Executive in front of you to
hire YOU. (In the big leagues of sales it’s called the GO
BUTTON). What do you know about the relationship of your
department to all other facets of film production? How do
you convince that one person in front of you that you’re the
one for the job?
Well, you need to be able to convince others that you
understand the underlying, common denominator of all
filmmaking. Some people feel that a creative mind is all
that’s needed. Nobody denies that you need to have a
creative bent in film productions. But let’s lay it on the
The driving force behind film production is MONEY.
By the time we, as working filmmakers, start working on a
film production, our creative bent is totally bent by the
amount of MONEY available to us. We want to get the best
product we can out of every buck. Like it or not, your
performance in film production is measured, to some degree,
by how well you control the money. It’s like ‘Directing’,
only you’re ‘Directing the Money’.
Do you want to be the best? Do you want to get that
wonderfully creative script to work on? Do you want to get
that opportunity? Then, learn the language of those who
‘Direct the Money’. To my way of thinking, that’s the only
way to be taken seriously.
Here’s the deal – you need to show them, with attitude, that
you will provide them with a controlled environment from
which you can create a vision – to create something from
nothing but a script. The only way I know of to do that is
to graduate to a ‘Director of Money’. From that position you
can be the go-to Film Director, Line Producer,
Producer-For-Hire, Department Head, UPM, etc.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve met a hot new Writer,
Director, Actor or Executive Producer, etc. with a script.
Whoever you meet, they’ll be in love with their script and
they’ll be very excited to talk with you about it. They want
someone interested in their baby and they want someone to
contribute to its success in any way. After the first _ hour
or less, how do you segue into being their Film Director,
Line Producer, Producer or UPM?
You already know the creative side of things. But, have you
thought of translating those creative ideas into money? Here
are some real questions that would knock their socks off and
show that you’re the one to ‘Direct the Money’ (if you’re
foggy on some of these terms, be patient, you’ll be very
familiar with them after a little reading):
1) Do you need help with the budget? (Don’t agree to build it
from scratch – but know someone who can; find out what you
can about the script breakdown)
2) Do you have an idea of the Above-The-Line costs budgeted?
(Cast, Director, Writers, Producers)
3) What kind of bottom line do you have in mind for the final
4) Who needs to approve the budget? Will it be an independent
film or studio driven? (This is important for your chances –
if it’s studio funded, you’ll need all of his/her backup,
and if it’s an independent production, find out which
bonding company is involved.)
5) What locations are in the script? (Suggest using the
services of various Film Commissions to scout for cost
efficient locations compatible their vision)
6) How many days of shooting are planned? (If no script
breakdowns are completed, recommend somebody you know to do
7) If union crew are planned for, find out how many shooting
hours a day are planned for? (Insist on at least 13 worked
hours per day, as well as a storyboard artist)
You get the idea. You need to know the ‘lingo’ of budgets
and you need to understand that those budgeted numbers need
to be directed. You’ll also need to inspire confidence in
the Financiers, or the Bonding Company, that you know what
the weekly financial report card is all about (that is, the
universally standard Weekly Cost Report).
Most of those questions, with a little imagination, can also
apply to anyone who wants to upgrade to a Department Head.
Take my word for it; a Production Manager would be
completely blown away if a crew member started showing an
informed understanding of how budgets and costs could
advance the Production Manager’s career!
So how does a Film Director (let alone a crew member) get
familiar with Budgets and Cost Reports? I’ve been a
Production Accountant for 20 years and I’ve NEVER shown a
crewmember a Final Budget or a Weekly Cost Report (the
universally standard financial report card issued to the
Financiers and Producers every week) in that entire time.
They are considered sacrosanct by Studio Executives,
Financiers and Bonding Companies everywhere.
Well, I’m about to tease you with some relevant articles
that will open the door enough to let you walk through.
They’re written for the complete novice, so be patient if
you’ve already been exposed to budgets and cost reports.
The articles are NOT techniques on budgeting. They are
techniques on being FAMILIAR enough with budgets and cost
reports to be able to ‘Direct the Money’.
Let’s better define the end result of my five articles:
Budgets: The reader will be able to make comments about
budgets with the confidence that financiers and producers,
not just in Hollywood, but also throughout the world,
universally accept the words and topics. You will also be
able to read and follow the style and format of the industry
leader of budgeting software, Movie Magic Budgeting©. It
won’t make you into a master, but it will certainly give you
the confidence to upgrade at your next opportunity. If at
any time you need help, you can always email me by visiting
my web site http://www.talkfilm.biz and I’d be happy to
point you in the right direction.
Weekly Cost Reports: The Cost Report at first glance looks
incredibly detailed, and to some, even complex. As a direct
result of these articles, the reader will be able to
understand the layout of Cost Reports (remember they’re the
same the world over), and be able to make comments about
them intelligently. You’ll have the confidence that you’ll
be using the same terms, and are looking at the same topics,
as the pros. You won’t become a production accountant, but
you’ll get the drift, and with experience it will become
second nature. There are several more examples and charts in
my book, “Walk The Talk,” which will expand on your
familiarity with Cost Reports.
The reading is six more articles – all only about 3 to 5
pages each. The practice comes from drilling the content of
the articles, asking pertinent questions at work and bugging
me whenever you get stalled. There is a seventh article that
could have been added for those who haven’t been exposed to
the simple administrative procedures like petty cash,
purchase orders, check requisitions, etc. But in these
articles I’m going to assume you are already familiar with
those procedures. If not check out my book at
http://www.talkfilm.biz,or simply click this link Walk The
Talk to buy the book now.
Here are the remaining article titles:
1. Introduction to ‘Directing the Money’
2. Translating Ideas Into ‘Money Talk’
3. Your Participation In Above-the-Line Budgeting
4. Your Participation In Below-the-Line Budgeting
5. Your Report Card – The Internationally Recognized Cost
6. Presentation of the Weekly Cost Report – It’s As
Important As the Dailies
When you read my articles, print them out. Make your own
examples. Reread them. Send me your questions if you get
stuck. You’ll find that you’ll be way out in front of the
John Gaskin – 20 years experience in the Film Industry as a
Production Auditor. See ‘About the Author’ at
Visit his web site at http://www.talkfilm.biz. The articles
are available FREE. Or, just buy my book, “Walk The
Talk” for the full information and training on ‘Directing
NEXT MONTH – “Introduction to ‘Directing the Money’
The topic of money in general is a little scary to most of
us. When you approach the topic of money in film production
– steel your nerve! There are reputations at stake and
careers on the line.
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