the cost of covid for features

Most of you know me as an in-front-of-the-camera person. However, I also produce and line produce. Recently, I was tasked with working on two movie budgets. One was a completely new budget for a action-caper comedy. The other (which I am still working on) is a cost revision to reflect price increases for COVID-19 and adapt the movie to adhere to the guidelines.

Movie budgeting is part art and part science. In the Corona-scape, it’s also a bit of prognostication.

In the case of the action-caper comedy, as written, it’s nearly impossible to do it socially-distant according to the new guidelines with a crew of 80+, not including speaking roles, extras and stand-ins. I was specifically asked to project costs based on a post-Corona world, for filming some time in 2021 (or beyond, sadly).

If you’re considering a movie that fits into this category, consider inflation and scale-wage increases. I added an additional contingency for inflation, which is at 2.5% currently. Insurance rates now also have COVID riders as well. Insurance is up and I expect it to stay up for years after the pandemic. The memory of the pandemic is going to cost the media-making community for a long time.

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I am also still working on converting a pre-Corona budget I prepped to reflect the changes necessitate by COVID. PPE cost and availability are concerns. Shoots are going to be longer and will need more space.. The need for more distance means more trailers and more support space in general. More space means more cost generally. If you have budgets prepared prior to the outbreak of the virus, you will probably need to adjust it by 25% or more to accommodate the new guidelines. Until we refine best-practices for the virus, get with your directors and AD-s about how many pages can be feasibly shot with the new guidelines as well. You may also incur re-write fees if scenes need to be re-written to reduce crowd scenes, extras, et al.

For me, budgeting is not coming in at the lowest price. It’s about coming in at the budget that best protects the investors’ risk and gets the project made. We’re in a period of high risk. Budget accordingly.

POST SCRIPT: After publishing this blog, I happened upon this NY Times article about travel restrictions between states. If you are planning a production, take these travel restrictions into account as you budget as our COVID-19 response evolves in each state. Many of the top filming destinations in the US are affected. The cost here would be to quarantine an actor or crew member you bring in from an affected state, which would be a hotel cost in all likelihood and per diems-s and possibly compensation as work days for the quarantine days. Trucking equipment across state lines seems okay, but check with your film commissions and contact film commissions regarding COVID quarantining.

Here. Now. Today.

Here. Now. Today.

It’s my new mantra.

Too often, we are not in the present.  We’re mining the middens of the past trying to explain away our bad feelings or bad behavior or we’re floating into painful projections of a future more akin to a post-apocalyptic world.

Lately, I’ve been dealing with my anxiety.  Part of my job as a movie producer is to prevent potential problems with production and minimize liabilities as much as possible.  My job is to look at a script and ask myself, “What could go wrong here,” and “Where is there a waste of money or other resources?”

abstract analog art camera

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Therefore, as part of being in a leadership position, I do have to put some mind-space in the future and the what-ifs.  People count on me to anticipate and solve problems.  And if I solve a problem that never grows into a full-blown “issue”, all the better!  However, once it makes my heart race or prevents me from moving forward, I’ve started to go to:

 

Here.  Now.  Today.

Here–where I am–the space–my office, the coffee shop, etc.

Now–what am I doing in the now–data entry, memorizing, budgeting

Today–the actual date and time

Here. Now. Today.

I also have to accept there’s enough entropy that I won’t be able to anticipate all the issues.  I recently toured a movie ranch that lost 20 structures in the last California wildfire.  There’s no way anyone could have predicted that specific facility would have lost all those structures–iconic ones.  There are limits to what we can foresee and anticipate, even if we have keen minds and heightened intuition.

If you’re feeling anxious, or are tasked with trying to lead a group, especially projecting the future, know that you can’t project or prognosticate everything.  You can only do the best you can do.

Here, now, today is our greatest point of power.