Putting a production together can be expensive. When factoring in all of the needed elements – cameras, audio, venue, lighting, staging, labor, etc. – costs can add up fast. But every project has a target budget and clients don’t have endless funds to work with. Sticking to a production budget can be a challenge, but here are a few tips on how to keep your production dollars in check.
Refine Your Equipment Package
Technical equipment can have a big impact on your budget. If money is tight, you may need to evaluate what equipment you can spare to lose. It’s not always an easy decision – you want your production to look good – but you and your client will have to decide what are the most important technical components of the production. If money is tight, you may have to cut some cameras or maybe lose a jib (it pains me to even write this). Depending on the show, robotic cameras might be a budget-friendly option. Robotics should be less expensive than broadcast cameras and can help to reduce your headcount. Another option may be to evaluate whether you need a mobile unit or a flight pack – each have their pros and cons as well as budget implications. It all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re willing to live without.
Keep Crew Travel to a Minimum
The last thing we would ever suggest is risking your production by not having enough technical personnel to support your show, but there are some adjustments you can make on the labor side to help with costs. Book your crew locally whenever possible. By booking in the local market, you negate airfare, hotel and travel days for personnel that would need to come in from outside markets. Sometimes travel is unavoidable – it all depends on the project – but keeping it to a minimum will help keep your travel expenses in check. Adjusting your equipment needs may also impact your labor as well, as discussed above.
Optimize Your Production Schedule
When it comes time to dial in your logistics, make sure you optimize your schedule so that you minimize or negate any overtime hours. Stagger your call times if you need to, or plan to cut people loose at a certain time to ensure they don’t go over 10-hours. If you have the benefit of an ESU, evaluate who you need to help with your setup. You may not need a full crew, or you might be able to book certain positions for a ½-day to help with labor costs. Prioritize what you need to make your project a success, but take a close look at your schedule to make sure you’re not clocking any unneeded hours.
Find a Production Friendly Venue
Your production venue can have a big impact on your budget. If your venue doesn’t have much infrastructure – power, lighting, staging, etc. – those are all elements that you need to bring in yourself, which can greatly inflate your budget. By finding a venue that has existing infrastructure in place, like a theatre or a studio, you reduce the amount of outside rentals that you need to bring in, thus keeping your venue costs at a more manageable number and impacting your overall production budget.