Tuesday 23 September 2014

Film Industry: Ripe for Culling

Visiting a stately pile that is often used for film shoots, I happened upon a remarkable document.  It reveals the number of film crew required for the following scenes:

  • Driveway of house:  carriage drives by - 90 crew
  • Back lawn: Lizzie watches Mr Darcy gallop up to house - 90 crew
  • Main stairs:  Lizzie agrees to dance - 30 crew 
  • Ballroom - 50 crew, 150 extras 
  • The Bennetts leave the house - 90 crew

The word "required " is of course used loosely.   I think we can confidently analyse the situation as follows: it would not be plausible to claim that 90 people fit on a staircase, therefore a random number of 30 is chosen.  A ballroom, being bigger, can plausibly accommodate a few more - on top of the generously-stocked company of extras.  However, any number of people can fit into an outdoor location, so the full complement is allotted whenever the open skies beckon.
You can bet the budget reflected this generous allocation of manpower, even if rather fewer than 90 people were actually, errr, working.  A striking reminder of the days before the Times moved to Wapping and put paid to print unions stuffing Fleet Street payrolls with individuals such as D.Duck and M.Mouse, all of whom were said to put in full shifts every night - and certainly drew full wages.

This is what happens when tax-breaks are awarded to a favoured sector of the economy. The filming schedule cited above was from 10 years ago, but did the financial crisis change things fundamentally ?   Still some modest scope for cost reductions in this particular 'industry', I should think.



Electro-Kevin said...

All that the Blair Witch Project required was a few students and a couple of camcorders.

I think one tent got ruined and that was about it.

Surely they could do Game of Thrones that way ? Some rubber dragons on elastic and catering quantities of ketchup ?

Bill Quango MP said...

Always been very loose with time and budgets the film industry. Its quite funny really. The beancounters cost it all out precisely. Source the most cost effective vs dramatic locations.
Higher the best actor/draw for the money.

Then the director says on day 1 - i think this would be better in the Sahara..lets leave LA and ship everyone to Cairo for a month.

If you've ever seen the film 5th Element, I'm reliably informed that the reason it doesn't make too much sense is that Bruce Willis had been telling Director luc Besson that he better get a move on as he was leaving on day X for another project whether the movie was finished or not.

The film continued to over run. The Producer's + director were sure another few 100k would keep Mr Willis on board.
But it didn't , and he went.

So..erm..Maybe that's why its such an oddball movie that only a true French cinema goer can really enjoy.

{I'm also informed that any shots of the back of Bruce, his hands, feet, ears, long shots, man in sunglasses walking through a crowd, and any reshoots, are a stand-in.}

Bloke with a Boat said...

Working as an advisor on a Govt project, one of the civil servants left for a new role. When I asked where it was I was told that it was in the British Film Industry policy unit.

When I remarked in a rather surprised voice that "We have a BFI policy team?" I was told that without one the BFI wouldn't survive.

It which all I could comment was "So even if we don't like or watch their films we get to pay for them anyway?" At which point the senior civil servant just smiled and moved on to the meeting we were having.

So its not just the film crews we are keeping going, don't forget all those civil servants in the policy unit, press unit and of course each of these needs managers and administrators usw.

BE said...

"This is what happens when tax-breaks are awarded to a favoured sector of the economy. The filming schedule cited above was from 10 years ago, but did the financial crisis change things fundamentally ? Still some modest scope for cost reductions in this particular 'industry', I should think."

Nooooo, if we don't give it tax-breaks or subsidies there will be no British drama to compete with the tax-breaked, subsidised Canadian or New Zealand drama!

In the USA they don't subsidise, and have to import all their actors from "progressive" Britain!

Furthermore, all these tax breaks increase opportunities for advisers and compliance people. It really is a win-win-win!


rwendland said...

If you have to pay your star actors on a shoot say £100k/day, maybe it is financial sense to pay 90 crew (at say £45k/day for the lot) to minimise the risk of an overrun? Maybe we should all just be less bothered about having the famous and fabulously rich stars in the films we want to watch.

BE said...

Well that's between the producers and their customers. Why should I subsidise it?

Anonymous said...

Ever since "The Crying Game" all British movies have been about or included gay men. I'm fed up with being asked by foreigners if we are all gay on this basis.

CityUnslicker said...

great post. Filsm are the worst for this as Politcos, notable at this time of year, want people off the telly and films to turn up to their awful conferences.

Throwing a few million in tax breaks at this is easy. PLus if you don't the journo's call you philistines - and all politico's are of course.

Anyway, its other peoples money being chuked around so why should they care.

The BBC even gets to tax us for the same reason of course....

Tim Almond said...

Haha. I'd be shocked if a single shot of people leaving a house required a crew of 90. Go and watch behind the scenes footage of movies - you've got maybe 20-30 people. I don't think they even had a crew of 90 when they did the effects for Inception.

The costs of movie making are falling, because of the use of digital technology. Look at the Game of Thrones or Great Gatsby VFX reels. The bits right behind the actors is real, but a lot of the rest of it is CG. Crowds aren't there - they're created by a piece of software called Massive.

Nick Drew said...

Stigler - yes, you only have to look at how Dr Who has taken advantage of CGI

they only used to be able to afford cardboard studio sets and old gravel pits, now (admittedly with greater export revenues) they can mix it with the best

(still, the old version of the theme-tune was better ...)

also (have we had this discussion before ?), as I discovered on a visit to Shepperton studios (a) very little of what appears to be filmed outdoors actually involves stepping out of the studio, they've just got much better at it (and it's very much cheaper, see above !); (b) all those fancy spacecraft interiors are built of plywood sprayed with metallic paint

Anonymous said...

Re: 5th Element.

It appears you have found the key to success. Tell star he has to leave set by X and use stand-in for rest.

Much better film without him.

Electro-Kevin said...

You'd typically get 90 odd people on set during the average porn movie.

Not many of them are paid though.

Electro-Kevin said...

... even the leading man doesn't get paid if he fails to perform and the producer has to resort to using the Stunt Penis.

Nick Drew said...

I didn't think they were much interested in stunted kit ...

Anonymous said...

This is my first time visit here. From the tons of comments on your articles,I guess I am not only one having all the enjoyment right here!
smallcapstockpicks |

Unknown said...

That would make a sense to them as they are working hard to achieve good result.
charlescmann |

Unknown said...

Dear, I am very like your website and all post. it is great and usefull for us. i will often come here,and support any post which your push. Tks.
http://www.elkinsestateretreat.org |

Unknown said...

I simply want to mention I’m beginner to blogging and really liked this website. Very likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You surely come with tremendous well written articles. Cheers for sharing your blog site.
Green House |

throne rush hack said...

And i am glad reading your article. Want to remark on some general things, The site style is great, the articles is really great:

hay day hack said...

Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantasti c lucidity in your writing.