Different Ways of Telling your Story
Often, when we write a screenplay, we’re more concerned with story than we are with the film budget. After all, there’s no monetary limit to our imagination. And then there’s the, hey, they can just use CGI. As if CGI is cheap. Reality check. It’s not.
Of course, nothing should compromise your story. But there are different ways of telling your story while keeping a film’s budget in mind. Why should you consider the budget when writing your screenplay? Unless you’re writing a big-budget film, producers today need to consider costs, especially as the industry is changing with respect to where a film is released.
Even once we move past our Covid-affected world, the way movies are viewed have been changed forever. Streamers like Netflix and Prime Video, even Disney with Disney+ have altered the delivery of films. Movies viewed on smaller screens don’t require the large budgets that those shown in theaters do. And who knows how long it will take to get people comfortable watching in theaters.
Film Budget vs Story
As a writer, there are some key ways to mind the film budget without compromising the story:
- Locations – telling your story in fewer locations will save, not only location costs, but shooting days. The more shots that are done in one location, the fewer days are needed to move and set up a new location. Rather than have an office in the back room of a shop, for example, where business work is done, move it to a laptop and small desk in the corner of the shop itself. Or, if one character appears in a second location for one scene, can that action be moved to the location where the character appears in the other scenes, thus potentially saving having to pay the actor for an extra day?
- Characters – think about how characters can be combined to save money on actors. Likewise, a character with fewer than five lines is paid differently than a featured player. Programs like Final Draft can give you a line count of your characters. See if you can reduce lesser characters to under five and/or have another “under-five” character speak the line.
- Children – if you have children in your script, that adds another layer of complexity to the budget. Minors require additional personnel on set, such as a teacher, and can only work a maximum number of hours per day. If you have more than one child, can you cut one without altering your story? Can you remove them from scenes where their presence doesn’t really affect the scene?
- Set pieces and effects – Scenes that are set in a different time period or have big effects, like explosives, are very expensive. Think about how you can reduce these by being creative. Obviously, a specific historical story can’t avoid elements from the past. But can they be done in “smaller” ways, such as using an old photograph instead of the actual setting. Can you focus on the aftermath of an explosion rather than showing it as it occurs. Little things you can do to be creative will go a long way on reigning in the budget.
Remember, it’s the story that will sell. Keeping your script simple in terms of production pitfalls will light up a producer’s eyes without lightening their wallet.