View Full Version : What budget-fattening elements could kill a newbie’s script?

08-24-2004, 04:01 PM
Things like:

Too many scenes or scene sequences
Too many locations
Foreign locations
Fantasy monsters
Sci-fi androids
Awesome buildings or structures (coliseums, ships, etc.)
Amazing gadgets or weapons
Huge crowds
Period stories
Underwater cities
Military might (parading battalions, etc.)
Other worlds
James Bond type car or boat or aircraft chases
Computer animated effects (which ones?)
Costly special effects (which ones?)
Star Wars or Aliens type of stories
Nuclear destruction of armies or cities

And what expensive-looking settings or special effects are actually cheaply made?

Thanks! :D

08-24-2004, 04:50 PM
and you know the weird thing? those are all the sort of things that can get a spec script noticed.

and, in my opinion, if you're worried about the special effects then you're telling the wrong story.

08-24-2004, 04:52 PM
Multiple locations and foreign locations can be faked relativly cheaply with a bit of dressing and superimposed background.

Large crowds can be inexpensive as long as you don't actually need them to do anything specific or all wear costume or make up.

Perioid costume and sets don't need to be that expensive as long as they are modest exteriors or simple interiors.

Futuristic buildings can be found if you look hard enough. Many houses, offices and factories look quite futuristic and are unknown enough to be used as locations if the owners can be persuaded.

mwc scribe
08-24-2004, 05:25 PM
What you don't want to do is tell a small tale against a large background.

You want to tell and epic tale against a grand environment.

08-24-2004, 07:28 PM
Just a thought on this, one of my scripts currently has some pretty big space fights in it (imagine Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi for a scale comparison), but the way I imagined it, it'll probably be done CGI anyway (I figure spaceships will be much easier to "animate" than say, a giant dragon that breathes and moves around). And yes, beneath all that, there is an epic tale.

Would having something like that hurt my chances on the script (the battles do have a purpose, they're not just there for the sake of having a battle). Or would it help (since the tale I'm telling in the script is rather huge, right now it could easily become at least a trilogy with the things I've been developing for it).

08-24-2004, 07:34 PM
Personally, when trying to break in from outside the system, I suspect that keeping budget in mind can only help. A movie that can be made for less than 5 million is going to be feasible for a lot more companies, meaning a lot more chances that someone is looking for your type of script.

In my own case, it's my lower budget horror script that got a production company interested.

08-24-2004, 09:40 PM
Speaking from an admittedly limited experience, I second spp's suspicion that lower budget gives you more chances to place a script... I don't think this is reason enough to only write low-budget stuff if your sensibilities lean toward bigger budget material, but it makes sense that more producers/prodcos can produce or find financing for projects that cost 5 mil than something that costs 20 mil or higher.

The script that's gotten us the most mileage and piqued the interest of the most producers could be made for probably 5 mil or less below the line as a feature. The Canadian company who currently has the option threw around numbers like 3 mil if they made it as a TV MOW. The American producers who brought it to the studios for us were thinking 10 mil tops.

On the other hand, our most "commercial" script, in my opinion--a supernatural thriller that would require a much bigger budget (CGI effects, a big set or two, action sequences) probably in the 25 mil range, has done better in contests, received good coverage, had several managers offer to rep, attracted Taye Diggs to the starring role...and has yet to earn us a dime...

And I think it partly boils down to the simple fact that there's more folks capable of getting a low-budget film produced than a big budget one.

Right now, we're working on a sci-fi thriller that could be made on a budget--it's a conceptual story that relies more on a conceptual hook for its thrills than f/x or spectacular set-pieces, in the vein of THE RING or THE SIXTH SENSE. Certain kinds of conceptual premises offer one way to tell a cool, intriguing story on a small budget.

It'll be interesting to see how this new script is received. Will the lower budget attract more interested parties? We'll see.

Unca Leo
08-24-2004, 10:50 PM
Write the best damn story you can. If that involves blowing up every planet in sequence from Pluto inward, do it.

08-24-2004, 10:51 PM
Add to your list: Child actors and Animals.

08-25-2004, 01:23 PM
I've also heard that child actors and animals are problematic, but the script that's done the best for us so far in attracting interest and option money is a kid-and-his- animal family drama.

So not sure if these elements fatten the budget so much as complicate production. (In fact, when the script was sent out wide to the studios, most of the passes were attributed by the studio execs to the script being "too small" for a studio project. One of the majors that passed, sent the script over to their low-budget label, where we had our most promising meeting before they passed too.)

Movies like MY DOG SKIP and LASSIE look relatively inexpensive, and most of the producer folks involved with our project have estimated its cost at somewhere between 3-10 mil, depending on where it's shot, whether done as a TV MOW or feature, whether done independently or with studio backing etc.

So animals and kids are a complication, I think, but not necessarily a budget buster (unless your animal's a killer whale or a giant squid) :D Hey...I like that..."a troubled youth alienated from his career-focused marine biologist parents befriends a giant squid and...." Think I'll call it FRIEND CALAMARI. Meet you guys later in the logline thread...let me get to work.

08-25-2004, 09:01 PM
Larger budget scripts are problematic, only because there are fewer buyers for them, and fewer production entities that can produce, market, and distribute them. But that is not a problem strictly for newbies.

What you need to think about is making sure your budget matches the story you're telling. If you're writing a romantic comedy, it shouldn't cost $150 million to make. Don't set it on the QMII. Don't include an epic sea/space battle.

If, on the other hand, you are writing that summer blockbuster, go for it. If you economize they won't have a big enough movie to justify the vast sums they'll need to spend to market it.

Match the movie to the money.


Winter in New York
08-26-2004, 01:53 AM
Big concept small movie.

That's the ticket to getting noticed.

Winter in New York

08-26-2004, 12:36 PM
as one of my writing teachers is fond of saying: "write about the big things but do it in the small spaces. Stories are much more interesting that way."

08-28-2004, 04:15 AM
I can tell you at least 3 different stories about guys who had some great ideas and were affraid that noone would love to hear their stories (in fact they didnt at first) and convert them into movie magic

A guy who was trying to sell his story into all major studios, a story that began a long time ago....in a galaxy far far away....

A guy who had a story to tell about a little boy and a little alien who wanted to "phone home"

And two teenagers who loved janimation and wrote a story about a guy who woke up one day, and discovered that "there is no spoon" and he could dodge bullets.

so YES.
ANYTHING is possible, if you keep doing it day after day after day, talking, writing, re-writing, pitching,
you wildest dreams, can com true if you really believe you belong to the Hollywood world, and work on it.

Augie Kestrel
08-28-2004, 06:21 AM
Hey, wait a minute! Wasn't ET John Sayles' idea? He gave up on the project!

08-28-2004, 02:11 PM
listen to Unca Leo

08-28-2004, 03:19 PM
Your mom's catering bill?