Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ultra Low in LA: JUST PRETEND days one and two

After two first days of ultra low budget filmmaking in LA, I'm happy to report we're still on schedule and budget. Shooting a feature for under 100k in Los Angeles is hard in some ways and easy in others. It's hard (meaning harder than usual) because of the costs of permits and locations and the expectations that people have about filming. It's easy because there are so many talented crew people who want to help out on a passion project, so many talented actors who want to work on something that will stretch them, and such a great infrastructure for filmmaking. 

Parking Mishaps: At no small cost I reserved parking for our first location through the film office which required me to announce our presence in a small apartment we were shooting in our first day. It cost us a bit less than $400 to have parking spaces held and the neighborhood posted for filming. Normally I wouldn't have done this on such a small project, but the location had bad parking and no room for the cube truck I thought we would have. Turns out at the last minute it was decided to work from a cargo van instead, and the van was able to squeeze into the poor parking and narrow driveway of the apartment. Meaning, it was $400 totally wasted. You try not to sweat the small stuff. But on the micro-budget we're working on, there is no SMALL stuff.

Directing team Eric M. Levy and Juan Cardarelli

     Quick Decisions Lead to Paying Extra: I'm currently saddled with two sets of Lenses and two sets of walkie-talkies. We have two lenses because one had some malfunctions so we were given extras. It was decided we needed the old ones for a specific wide shot. We had a runner pick up the now fixed lenses (Great job James Grabowski driving all over the Valley trying to find theses lenses) and drive them to our set an hour into the mountains... even though by the time they arrived it had been decided we weren't going to do the shot! Not only that, we weren't able to return the other lenses in time to avoid keeping them over the weekend. As for the walkies, I was upset that the rental house hadn't given us headsets and wouldn't include headsets in the rate he quoted. I called another place that had quoted me the same rate but WITH headsets. That rental house is in El Segundo, so when my Coordinator had to go home early that direction I asked him to swing by and grab the radios, not thinking that I wouldn't have time to return the other ones until they reopened on Monday. So now I'm paying two weekend days for radios I'm not using, at a cost that is just a bit less than what the headsets would've cost. Grrr! Again, don't sweat the small stuff.

Filming in Angeles National Park

     To Steal or Not to Steal: The next day we shot in Angeles National Park on a very expensive permit. To save money we scaled down to ten crew members (we were actually eleven -- I told our makeup artist that if any official vehicles pulled up to hide). Because of this the rental cost about $350 less, and we didn't have to have a Highway Patrol Officer stay with us at $80 an hour. Turns out the only Park official that stopped by came as we were packing up. He asked if we had a permit and when I told him yes he said, "Cool," and drove off. We could've totally stolen it! Yet, if we tried that park ranger would've probably shown up right as were were ready to shoot our first shot. Murphy's Law governs film shoots. It's tricky sometimes to know when to chance it and when to play it safe. Tonight we chance it.

It's easy to shrug off $300 here or $200 there, but in the first two days I can add up about $800 of expenses that didn't HAVE to occur. Of course we also saved money in places that we didn't plan on and our budget has room for these types of accidents, but still... it adds up.

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