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Sound/Music Budgeting for Feature Films & TV Shows Modular Synthesizers
Old 4th August 2008
  #1
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Sound/Music Budgeting for Feature Films & TV Shows

Hi!
I am taking up my first venture into feature film sound after having worked in TV post sound for a few years.
It is an independently funded film, and it is their first film.
I'm not expecting it to make any money, but in case it does, I will sign a contract for profit percentage.

I am wondering what is the standard percentage of a production budget for a feature film would be allocated for the following:
1) Entire audio post production - ADR, foley, editing, mixing etc.
2) Music score.

We will probably be ADR'ing the entire film!
Also, I would like to know what differences there are between film and TV shows in terms of the allocated sound/music funds.

Thanks!
Old 4th August 2008
  #2
I hope you make back what your lawyer charges you for the contract. Signing a backend deal on an Indie film is about the biggest waste of time that I can think of in this industry. If it's low budget, even more so and if it's their first one.... well, you get the picture. ( excuse the pun )

If you are a professional, then charge for it accordingly. If you want to cut them a break, fine, but don't give away the ranch. Also, if you are goin to sign a deal like that, then add a clause that if it gets picked-up you get a percentage of the upfront signing payment, or perhaps a deal that gets you paid BEFORE anyone else, and that you get paid out of the GROSS not the net, or do a deal that makes sure you get paid RATE for any changes or work doen on the picture in the future. ( like M&Es, remixies, recuts, TV mix, et etc... ) Also, write in a cluase that allows you to call for a financial Audit with the cost of the audit by an independent audit firm to be bourne by both parties equally.

Other wise you are actually, simply, investing in the film what it would have cost them to go to a professional. Therefore, the actual cost that you would have charged is to be considered a financial investment and you WILL be paid, NOT ONLY for your work, but a percentage of the GROSS as a PRODUCER. And your name will be listed with a PRODUCER credit.

As to budgets... There really isn't a standard as every film is different. But you can assume for a start around 10% to 20% of the total budget is post. Out of that the sound budget is a line item. If the Budget is $1,000,000 then I would assume around $100,000 to 200,000 for post and out of that maybe, maybe in the $60,000 ish reigon for sound. But in reality on indie films they usually spend almost everything on production and then go begging for free or no-budget post editorial and sound, or they start looking for people like you who will do it for "backend".

The real problem with backend on ANY film is that unless you have audit authority AND you have a contract written for you by the Devil himself, accounts for the producers can make nay film "lose" money, or basically show a payout that end you up with nothing or next to it... Espically for a low budget film that will most likely lose money without any help.


cheers
geo
Old 4th August 2008
  #3
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dr.sound's Avatar
 

I had an article a while back where Tom Hanks (you know the Actor that makes MILLIONS for the Studios on his Movies) suing a Studio for failure to pay him a percentage of a HUGE movie. He had a whole legal team and contracts and he still didn't get paid!
NEVER EVER take a "back end deal"! That's why they call it a "BACK END DEAL" because that's the only place you get it, in the rear!!

Now I don't know where Georgia comes up with the numbers for the Post percentage, but nowhere do I see a "Sound package" for a 1 Million $ Feature at $60,000.00
It is always much lower.
Just make sure you get paid let's say $25.00 an hour. With all the hours you will put in it's better to get paid a little than promises of nothing.
Old 4th August 2008
  #4
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Do you know these people? Have you worked with them before, and did they take care of you? Are you involved creatively? Does the film say something you believe needs to be said? What are your motives for entering into this deal? Can you afford to do this work, probably ultimately for free? It is good to have solid answers to these questions before you sign on to projects like this, I've found.

Philip Perkins
Old 4th August 2008
  #5
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Kuba_Pietrzak's Avatar
 

Hi,
I have never gone into such deal, and indeed I've lost many opportunities to work feature films, but I find this too dangerous. I always say to such "producers": if you say, that this movie is going to be successful (they always say that it is), take the money from the bank and pay my rate, so in the end you may earn even more money, because as you say it is going to be successful.
From my point of view, audio post-production is a service, not an investment class. This is a producers' risk to make a film successful. Not mine...
regards,
Kuba

Edit: I saw, that the entire picture is going to be ADRed - this is a very bad sign...
Old 4th August 2008
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
Do you know these people? Have you worked with them before, and did they take care of you? Are you involved creatively? Does the film say something you believe needs to be said? What are your motives for entering into this deal? Can you afford to do this work, probably ultimately for free? It is good to have solid answers to these questions before you sign on to projects like this, I've found.

Philip Perkins
Thanks Philip.
I've met these people a few times and I've just seen the final cut of the film tonight. Looks pretty cool!
Yes I'll be involved creatively with the sound FX and also doing the score (with the help of a colleague.

As I said in my original post, I'm not expecting to make any money out of it. I make a living in TV post sound. I just see it as an opportunity to have a crack at working on a feature film and learning new skills!

That said, I will still sign a contract (through my cheap friend lawyer!) for a percentage of any money the film brings in (if any). I was thinking there might be a rule-of-thumb percentage that a production should be prepared to spend on sound post and on music score.
_
Old 4th August 2008
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuba_Pietrzak View Post
Edit: I saw, that the entire picture is going to be ADRed - this is a very bad sign...
Ha yeah I know it could be a rough ride!
Fortunately, I have a tonne of ADR recording experience though and I think we can pull it off. I saw the final cut tonight and there's not all that much dialogue really.
We decided we'd like to do the whole thing for effect, to get that intimate in your ear kind of sound.

_
Old 4th August 2008
  #8
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At this stage I'm thinking I'll ask for 10% of all incoming $ (before profits).
That is for sound post and also music score.
Keep the interesting comments coming though....thumbsup

_
Old 4th August 2008
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by dr.sound View Post
I had an article a while back where Tom Hanks (you know the Actor that makes MILLIONS for the Studios on his Movies) suing a Studio for failure to pay him a percentage of a HUGE movie. He had a whole legal team and contracts and he still didn't get paid!
NEVER EVER take a "back end deal"! That's why they call it a "BACK END DEAL" because that's the only place you get it, in the rear!!

Now I don't know where Georgia comes up with the numbers for the Post percentage, but nowhere do I see a "Sound package" for a 1 Million $ Feature at $60,000.00
It is always much lower.
Just make sure you get paid let's say $25.00 an hour. With all the hours you will put in it's better to get paid a little than promises of nothing.
Hey Doc!
how's life on the Left Coast?

the last few project i've worked on had budgets for post of around 20% of the total budget and these were around $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 overall budgets. my sound budget for these films ranged from $50,000 to $75,000 for post sound without the music license fees included. It did cover sound editorial / Score / music edit / ADR / Foley / Mix / Printmaster / M&Es...
...with a bit of budget set aside for pre-dubs during editorial in some cases.

We got paid around $10k for audio predubs for the Kit Kitridge movie as an example of pre-dub fees.


cheers
geo
Old 4th August 2008
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
At this stage I'm thinking I'll ask for 10% of all incoming $ (before profits).
That is for sound post and also music score.
Keep the interesting comments coming though....thumbsup

_
if you really think it's going to fly. get the audit clause in, and get a "most favored Nation" clause, as well, where you get paid BEFORE others.


cheers
geo
Old 4th August 2008
  #11
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Lipflap's Avatar
 

Run. Don't look back.

Of course, it's your life and your money. But this smells a bit.

You're willing to do this job (probably for free) in exchange for the education and experience. That's understandable and not unreasonable. But when crafts people take on gratis work, it imposes even MORE downward price pressure on the rest of the community. It's very hard to compete with free, even if the bidder is new to films.

Do what you must, be remember that these sorts of gigs affect an entire market.
Old 4th August 2008
  #12
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Henchman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
Ha yeah I know it could be a rough ride!
Fortunately, I have a tonne of ADR recording experience though and I think we can pull it off. I saw the final cut tonight and there's not all that much dialogue really.
We decided we'd like to do the whole thing for effect, to get that intimate in your ear kind of sound.

_
You don't have to do ADR to get that sound.
You just need to know how to mix.
If you ADR it, you'll most likely end up with a movie that sounds like it was ADR'ed because of the bad performances.

Why does everyone think that major movies are all ADR'ed?
Old 4th August 2008
  #13
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starcrash13's Avatar
One more thing to throw in the mix:

Since you are planning on 100% ADR, you will then also need 100% Foley coverage. And, of course, 100% FX coverage. Every car, every door, anything that has dialogue over it or is not usable between lines of dialogue. This is going to be a HUGE job! Hope you've got a few months to spare and a lot of money in the bank.
Old 4th August 2008
  #14
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Kuba_Pietrzak's Avatar
 

Personally, when I read, that there is a need to adr the whole movie, I can see lots of traps - this simply means, that the production team did a spectacular f*ckup... One of the simplest ways to save the money is a post-sound is to record a very good production sound!!! Believe me, I've been there: a year or so I had a similar call from a producer, who told me, that they wanted to save money so they recorded only guide tracks during a set, and they wanted me to supervise an adr for a whole movie, so this way the sound will be clean...
Lots of traps I see...

regards,
Kuba
Old 4th August 2008
  #15
Gear Head
 

I once undertook a dodgy "100% ADR job".

Or like 80% but its pretty much the same problem. We were forced to tackle this approach because the production sound was out of this world. Really, it sounded like the mic had been placed somewhere off the planet, near a burning sun.

This was really unfortunate as I felt the film had something to say and the picture was beautiful. I don't know how the production side was so neglected but it was.

I couldn't honestly convey to you how unusable it was but it ultimately led to the awkward decision that more or less whole feature should be ADR'd.

We should have stopped there but we didn't and I can only stress what starcrash13 and henchman have already said:

If the production sound is usable and you are simply after an intimate sound, improve your mixing skills to attain this.

If it is a case like above that 100% of the production sound is unusable, it might just be wise to duck out now. It really will take months, and even after all that you are going to end up with a very very plastic sounding film.

Certainly not worth all that effort for a back end deal!
Old 5th August 2008
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
You don't have to do ADR to get that sound.
You just need to know how to mix.
If you ADR it, you'll most likely end up with a movie that sounds like it was ADR'ed because of the bad performances.

Why does everyone think that major movies are all ADR'ed?
There's quite a bit of screaming in it, and with that alot of unfixable distortion.
The bits that aren't screaming, are about 50% off mic. I've done quite a bit of TV mixing over the last few years, but I'm still learning, so how would you go about getting an intimate sound from off mic, echoey sources?

_
Old 5th August 2008
  #17
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Kuba_Pietrzak's Avatar
 

You said, that you have an experience with recording adr, but do you have experience with supervising such recording? - it is really difficult to establish when to stop. It takes really long time to catch the performance, which could be similar to the one from shoot. It is also really difficult to have this "movement" inside the adred dialog, which is just natural in production sound. Some actors can recreate the original performance within a minute, but for some it is almost impossible and it takes really long time to have something acceptable...
I would also like to say, that during such productions many other "nice" things may happen: unexpected recuts, strange deadlines (because of a "really important festival") and so on and so on...
regards,
Kuba
Old 5th August 2008
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuba_Pietrzak View Post
You said, that you have an experience with recording adr, but do you have experience with supervising such recording? - it is really difficult to establish when to stop. It takes really long time to catch the performance, which could be similar to the one from shoot. It is also really difficult to have this "movement" inside the adred dialog, which is just natural in production sound. Some actors can recreate the original performance within a minute, but for some it is almost impossible and it takes really long time to have something acceptable...
I would also like to say, that during such productions many other "nice" things may happen: unexpected recuts, strange deadlines (because of a "really important festival") and so on and so on...
regards,
Kuba
Yeah I have experience with supervising ( I have done ADR for quite a few half hour drama shows), but nothing yet of this scale.
I am getting the editors to prepare DVD's for the actors with just their scenes on it, for them to rehearse with. I actually think we will be able to improve a couple of the performances which were possibly slightly over dramatised IMO.

_
Old 5th August 2008
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuba_Pietrzak View Post
Personally, when I read, that there is a need to adr the whole movie, I can see lots of traps - this simply means, that the production team did a spectacular f*ckup... One of the simplest ways to save the money is a post-sound is to record a very good production sound!!! Believe me, I've been there: a year or so I had a similar call from a producer, who told me, that they wanted to save money so they recorded only guide tracks during a set, and they wanted me to supervise an adr for a whole movie, so this way the sound will be clean...
Lots of traps I see...

regards,
Kuba
Yes, I agree, they did f up! I'm planning on giving them a written breakdown of how much the studio/production time I'm putting into the film is worth along with how much money/studio-time they would have saved by actually recording the audio with care whilst filming.

Fortunately I quite like the people, the project, and the enthusiasm they have for it, which is why I'm quite willing to help (even though I know I may get little-to-no direct monetary compensation).

_
Old 5th August 2008
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lipflap View Post
Of course, it's your life and your money. But this smells a bit.

You're willing to do this job (probably for free) in exchange for the education and experience. That's understandable and not unreasonable. But when crafts people take on gratis work, it imposes even MORE downward price pressure on the rest of the community. It's very hard to compete with free, even if the bidder is new to films.

Do what you must, be remember that these sorts of gigs affect an entire market.
I have thought about this quite a bit... I don't want to do work that is undervalued and I know it is difficult times for studios without undercutting everyone by doing things for free. There is a bit of risk, but I guess I just have to weigh up if the potential benefits outweigh the possible drawbacks.

I really want to get a film under my belt...the enthusiasm these people have for their project and the way they've gone and got it done, leads me to believe that they will find funding for a second film.

_
Old 5th August 2008
  #21
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jahtao's Avatar
In case it hasn't been said already. ADR-ing everything = also foleying everything!!!

+SFX...

+Mix....

For a 90min film, one man working... if they aint paying somethign apporaching a living wages, surely this is economically unviable!!
Old 6th August 2008
  #22
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Henchman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
I really want to get a film under my belt...the enthusiasm these people have for their project and the way they've gone and got it done, leads me to believe that they will find funding for a second film.

_
First off, the fact they have no money for audio-post, And the need to ADRian the entire feature tells me they in fact do NOT know what they're diing.

If you want to get to mix features, you'll have to work somewhere where they do features regularly.

One no-budget film means nothing. Honestly it doesn't.
Old 6th August 2008
  #23
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charles maynes's Avatar
 

I think an average rule of thumb is that 1% of the total budget goes to sound editing and 1% to sound mixing.


it varies of course

good composers can get up to 10% of the total budget (Elfman has been getting around a million dollars per score in recent years, though he might have raised his rates....)
Old 6th August 2008
  #24
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Don't do it

Any film needing 100% ADR just screams out that neither the producers or director cared enough or knew enough to about filmmaking to even attempt making one.

Subtitle it, add music and a few effects and call it art. Now if they want to give you 100% creative control over all things audio, and you just want to have some fun, then go for it.
Old 6th August 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
First off, the fact they have no money for audio-post, And the need to ADRian the entire feature tells me they in fact do NOT know what they're diing.

If you want to get to mix features, you'll have to work somewhere where they do features regularly.

One no-budget film means nothing. Honestly it doesn't.
Yes their approach (especially with sound) has been amateur at times, but their film (which I've already seen) is fun and looks pretty good...the fact that they have put together an entire film (minus sound in their early twenties is encouraging and makes me kind of willing to look past their shortsightedness this time.

It's a learning experience for me...there's bugger all places that do film sound in New Zealand, but there are a lot of people that produce independent films that forget to allocate money to sounds stuff. I'm going to educate them and change that! I think if I get one under my belt and know exactly what kind of time frames are needed to post produce good sound for a feature I'll be able to plan a strategy for future projects that may come up and work with producers to make sure they put aside a budget appropriate for their style of film. Sounds tough i know, but I'll give it a whirl!

_
Old 6th August 2008
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Sanchez View Post
Any film needing 100% ADR just screams out that neither the producers or director cared enough or knew enough to about filmmaking to even attempt making one.

Subtitle it, add music and a few effects and call it art. Now if they want to give you 100% creative control over all things audio, and you just want to have some fun, then go for it.
Yeah I can pretty much do whatever I want with the sound for this project...

_
Old 6th August 2008
  #27
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Henchman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
there are a lot of people that produce independent films that forget to allocate money to sounds stuff. I'm going to educate them and change that!
_
Uum, no, you won't. Trust me.
Old 6th August 2008
  #28
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charles maynes's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
Uum, no, you won't. Trust me.
Listen to Mark....those are words to remember....
Old 6th August 2008
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
Listen to Mark....those are words to remember....
Ha yeah, I'm listening, but I'm also relatively young and naive so I'll continue to dream....

I've been enjoying this discussion, thanks fullas

_
Old 6th August 2008
  #30
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jimlongo's Avatar
 

Quote:
As to budgets... There really isn't a standard as every film is different. But you can assume for a start around 10% to 20% of the total budget is post. Out of that the sound budget is a line item. If the Budget is $1,000,000 then I would assume around $100,000 to 200,000 for post and out of that maybe, maybe in the $60,000 ish reigon for sound. But in reality on indie films they usually spend almost everything on production and then go begging for free or no-budget post editorial and sound, or they start looking for people like you who will do it for "backend".
Quote:
Now I don't know where Georgia comes up with the numbers for the Post percentage, but nowhere do I see a "Sound package" for a 1 Million $ Feature at $60,000.00
It is always much lower.
Quote:
I think an average rule of thumb is that 1% of the total budget goes to sound editing and 1% to sound mixing.
Yes it really is true that budgets are shrinking all the time, they just shrank in this thread from 60k to 20k in a matter of days. heh
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