first of all, thank you guys very much for putting thought into your responses. i really appreciate that. second, from the length of this post it may come off as defensive and that's not my intention in the least. you guys are great and this is just what's in my mind, not
"you're wrong because..."
i still haven't decided that i want to make the movie, and i've put thought into writing something else that can be made more cheaply-- but at this moment i'd really like to shoot this
, not just something. who knows, though-- there just may be one original idea out there that won't require a toddler or 2011 luxury SUV
... but i like this partially because it's a little more than i can chew, just like my first film was when i made that (i don't have director credit on that film, but it was mostly done in post, with 50/50 creative input.)
i crunched the numbers, cut some things from my budget and concluded that if i do make the film for a hard 4k and allowing up to 5k, and if my last paycheck is July 1st, i can allow at least two full months with $0 coming in to find a job (maybe 3 full months if things go well before july), and then i'd be living paycheck to paycheck but not be in debt. so, mathematically and even approaching the lower limits of "responsibly," i think i can afford to make this film at a level of production value that could help me advance my career.
what do i mean by advance my career? aside from having Writer, EP, and Director credit and something new for my reel, it's a learning experience, an exciting challenge, and something new to talk about when i meet filmmakers. in addition to my post experience I have pre-production experience, time on set as a 2nd RED Tech, DP, and PA, and i would like to make something with my name on it. i've also spent most of the past year in a completely non-creative job, surrounded by creative people making other things i'd love to see. people like me and i definitely speak film/tech geek, so I bet that if i were patient i could land a job on a hollywood feature and then from there land a job in commercials or trailers, even without making this film. the issue with that patience strategy is the other guys who work nights on my show. they're in their late 20's or 30's and broken, miserable-- they went to film school and then never made films because they were afraid to about money, or they shot things in SD with a skeleton crew of amateurs and now they can't even stand to look at what they shot, much less show it to anybody and try to get work based on its merits.
i also want more dynamic work on my reel-- actors who aren't 21 years old, stuff shot with a jib and at very high resolution... a film that doesn't look like a student film, or if it does, one that at least looks like a Chapman thesis film or something along those lines. if i were to go ahead with it, i'd be viewing this project as starting point for moving my career toward cutting more polished work and making my contacts in that arena.
since these aesthetic qualities are important to me, i wrote this screenplay with the idea that that kind of polish would enhance the film's "this should be a commercial..." tension that I'm envisioning. RED super primes have a look i'm familiar with from commercial work and it's perfect for some hero shots of the car's features-- not just something that's cool. the RED cred for festival acceptance could also be great. but let's say for a minute that i took the RED out of the picture and decided to go with two or even just one HDSLR for the shoot. the camera(s) would be free but i'd have to let the owners of the cameras DP-- one is a very skilled post tech and the other is just a guy who liked that camera for the money. so, i'd have two non-DP's running cameras on my set and I'd be shooting at 1080p, h264 compressed and 4:2:2 on top of it. (meaning drastically reduced options for negating things like an inexpensive light kit or uneven makeup in post) i'd still have to rent glass, too, because these guys don't own IS lenses. there's also the rolling shutter to think about, in a film that involves a moving vehicle. so, i considered reaching out to my friend with an A-1, one friend with the decidedly "TV" HPX-500, or even friends with DVX's... no. no because there are going to be shots of a moving vehicle from a moving vehicle, a jib operated by me or somebody else who has never operated a jib, and a couple handheld POV shots of the toddler. All of these things will require image stabilization, which blows up and crops part of the image. if i shot 1080p, i'd have to finish in SD or 720p and still only have a 20% margin before i was under-res. it turns out the DP i want to work with won't be upgrading to the MX, as he's waiting for the Epic, so as it is i'd probably be shooting at 4k and finishing in 2k for film-out or 1080p for video. so for what ends up being a difference of $600 over another camera option, i get the lenses i'm visualizing in and more options in post.
sound, lights, a generator, transportation, a MUA with a kit, a mix engineer, and finish colorist won't happen for me for less than $1500 to $2000 on any 15 minute project I do. as for this project specifically, the camera, DP, and lenses tack on another $1,000, and the car, actors are another $800+.
i trimmed out money for a casting studio, some of the thank you money for the actors, RED tech, AC, PA's, and scripty, and decided to do the titles and rough grade myself. athough i'd prefer to buy virigin CF media for the shoot, i trimmed that too because i do have the option of using the DP's REDDrive instead.
finally, there's the issue of what i'd like to actually do
with this film. basically, i'd get through the DI phase of production and then if i were confident in the film I'd put festival submissions on credit cards and get this thing to every serious festival i can. who knows-- one festival prize could recoup the film's entire budget and then some. but going to the festivals as a competitor is also very intriguing personally and professionally. mostly, though, it would just be for me to show, to be proud of, and to have learned from.
less importantly, there's the issue of not only giving up my security blanket, but also nixing my plans to go to iceland this summer (maybe i'd take a little camping trip in canada on my way home from Pitchfork instead). a travel dream deferred again, and likely yet again if i'm trying to go to festivals.
I was also wondering how good this DP is, and whether she or he shooting on the RED is really any better than someone better shooting on, say, a 7D. (Or, the camera I love love love: the Sony EX-1) Yes, the price is a good deal... but maybe through the people who know people who know people + making several less expensive films that lead you to your soulmate DP, who can do things for you with the dinkiest camera that most people couldn't do with the RED, who really can capture an image better than you can imagine it.
I'm aware that the RED thing isn't the major expense here, but I think all the things you mentioned are not necessities at this point; you could make a film without any of those things. If there's something in the content of the film that makes it truly impossible to shoot otherwise, then make other things.
the DP is technically competent, but I haven't seen much of his work since he's trying to establish himself right now. that being said, as long as he has light and a good assistant so that he can focus on his work, i'm sure that this will look good. i'd be in charge of composition and we'd be shooting for 2.35:1 in 2.5:1 so, horizontally at least, there's a little room for error even before i consider the fact that i'm finishing around 2k. is he magic, though? no, not really-- probably not. but i don't know anybody who is, and if i did i probably couldn't afford both them and a camera.
but i agree don't geek out over equipment, if you got a rock solid story and rock solid acting you're gold. let someone pay you to get a hard on for stedicams later in life.
getting there with the rock solid story. i believe that with a couple rewrites this will be a story that i'd love to see. as for rock solid acting-- please god let that be the case. we'll see.
a dp is TOO IMPORTANT to be decided upon because he has access to certain equipment or not. It doesn't mean that it can ruin your movie if you choose unwisely, but it will be harder and stressfull if you work with someone at the end of the day is not seeing as you are seeing.
i wouldn't work with this guy if i thought he was incompetent. also keep in mind that he's doing me a huge favor by shooting a film for almost no money that was written and directed by a first time filmmaker, with no actors attached. he's a strictly no stress kind of guy, and i think all he needs to work well is a good assistant.
get the best dp you can find who should be a guy you both deeply admire and respect and a guy you would be happy to have a lot of beers with.
this guy, on a personal level, is wonderful. i mean, spectacular in a way that you just don't find in most people. he cares, he makes a point to say hello in the most urgent and brief of conversations, and he loves the process of cinema-- he bought his camera and takes time off from his extremely lucrative software engineering job specifically to put this kind of equipment within reach of emerging filmmakers that he likes. he also un-fucked me pretty significantly when i ran into tech problems on the last short i cut/colored.
edit: i just added food for production meetings, rehearsals, and shooting to my budget, and it could be as much as another grand. that knocks almost a month off of my get-a-job comfort zone but that's still not too much of a big deal if things go well before july. and who knows, the show could stay on the air.
anyway, i think i've put enough thought into the money for now. i need to stop talking about shooting it until the script is ready to go, and then just commit to making it great if i'm going to do it at all.
thanks for your help, guys.