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Screenwriting : Writing with a budget by Ray Anthony Martinez

Ray Anthony Martinez

Writing with a budget

This post is specifically geared toward the filmmakers who write a script to make themselves as opposed to a script that they write to sell... When writing, do you keep the script with a limited budget in mind? Or do you write it as if you were about to win the lottery and money wasn't an option? If you write within a budget, do you have to can an idea because it will "cost too much to make"????? Any opinions and feedback would be greatly appreciated. I am currently in the process of writing a feature to shoot myself and was curious as to what other talented people like yourselves are doing. Thanks!

Mark Ratering

never hold back on your ideas. do it the best way the story requires don't think about budget, that's the producers job.

Ray Anthony Martinez

Thanks for the input. I am the writer, director, actor, producer, and editor..... The reason for my question is that I find myself not writing certain elements that would add production value, because I'm not sure if said elements would be available So that leaves me searching for another way to write instead of just going with what is supposed to be. Does that make any sense????? It does to me!!! LOL!

Rik Carter

I absolutely write within my budget. I also write for locations I know I can get and never write in a location I can't get. I always hold back on my ideas as a writer. While it sounds great to write what you feel, to be creative, that is more often then not unrealistic. Even if I am not writing to direct or produce I am writing for a producer who has budget restraints.

Marie Milligan

Hi Ray, you've just described the classic scenario of the creative, juggling the many hats of entrepreneurship! You're the creative, the manager, the admin, the marketing, the financier, the operations manager & everything else - right now.... Within your week, you need to find a way to separate those roles out, so you can breathe into the space each needs. If it's absolutely essential that you do ALL those roles right now, and no-one else can support, or take on tasks to help....then it's about you shifting not only role, but the mindset for that role... At the point you're being the 'Creative', you do not want to be trying on the 'Financier' hat, or vice versa! For example, at the point you're wearing your 'Creative' hat, you want to be able to be free with your thinking - think laterally / wild / creative / big / or whatever mindset gets you into your most inspired space.... When you're wearing your 'Financier' or 'Operations' hat...you might be more critical & realist with your thinking! If this is something you find very difficult to do, that's when you might start to collaborate with others who bring that 'realist' or 'smaller-picture' mindset to the table. Take a look at Edward De Bono's '6 Thinking Hats' as it might give you a flavour of that.... If you were to allow yourself to be as creative as you know possible...imagine the benefits to the person reading...they'd get a sense of the real you...the widest scope of possibility...if you limit your ideas, they'll never know what else you had in mind (or heart)?! Good luck! Marie

David Tiefenthaler

I write with a budget in mind. Sometimes when you do that, it can turn a scene from good to great. For instance, I had the idea of having a character living in a mansion because he got rich off YouTube by being a jerk. Instead, now I always have him doing something really mean in every scene, but never in a mansion anymore.

Ray Anthony Martinez

Thanks Rick! Marie, thanks for taking the time to respond with such an interesting outlook. As for me being the Producer, as far as logistics are concerned, I have someone for that... I guess I'll just keep writing the hell out of my script and run with it!!!! Thanks again everyone!

Phyllis K Twombly

Since I've yet to sell a spec script I keep the potential budget in mind. Why hand anyone an excuse to pass on my story? If I can't make my ideas affordable why would anyone else bother to?

Mark Ratering

know1 passes on story because of budget.... they pass because your not a known writer, they don't like the way your story plays. in private industry what designer costs down his product. cars... building... the job of the designer is to design. as a producer i have many options to do any effect cheap or expensive. Use a set or use a sound stage. Let the exec producer and producer do their jobs, you do yours. exec. I've been hired to write a cheap script, that's different, then you have to cost down a script.

Mark Ratering

David I can get a stock shot of a mansion and shoot all the interiors that look like a mansion. If the story calls for a mansion use a mansion, the producer will figure it out, don't worry.

Mark Ratering

Ric I've been producing for 30 years. I can get a director anything he needs with creative thought. any car airplane mansion. Your job is to write the best story. When you cost it down maybe the story goes down too. Let the producer figure out the money puzzle, your hurting yourself as a writer, believe me.

Mark Ratering

Ray don't do it!!! I worked for several years with the legend Ted Mikel's. You can't believe, with a little bull---- what we used to get. Casino's anything and everything with bull.

Bob Schultz

We are currently in preproduction on our second feature (the first can be seen in festivals -- visit www.belowzeromovie.com for screenings), and I really think it's important to be thinking about budget, cast, marketing, and worldwide sales from the moment you sit down to write. Limiting your cast, locations, and special effects can dramatically affect budget. In addition, story and creativity really flourish when forced to work under constraints. BELOW ZERO had a cast of five (and two of them had no lines). BREAKDOWN LANE has a cast of one (plus some extras & a voice actor). Though I respectfully disagree with Mark -- some will pass because of budget, be it too big or too small -- I also think it's more important to keep budget low because there will be less interference with your story creatively. If someone brings $20 million to your project, you better believe they are going to want some say in protecting their investment. The fewer players, the better your chance of influencing the creative direction of your story.

Mark Ratering

you have to get it right. if you going to produce your own work of couse cost it for budget. but if your writing for submitting, forget about it!!!

Ray Anthony Martinez

Thank you all! You all have been very helpful!!!!!

Rik Carter

I'm sorry Mark and I mean no offense but my writing has not been hurt by writing to a budget. I respect everything you are saying except that I will be hurting my writing if I write with a budget in mind. So far I have had a nice career as a writer and some of my most creative work was when I needed to "cost it down". In my experience it hasn't hurt my writing at all to write to a budget. In most cases I enjoy the challenge and I rise to it - making a better story in the process.

Mark Ratering

SO YOUR TELLING ME THAT IF I NEED A MANSION NO PROBLEM I'LL USE A HOUSE, NEED A ROLLS IT'S O.K I'LL USE A CHEVY. THE PROBLEM WITH YOU DOING ALL THE JOBS ON A FILM IS ONE AREA MESSES UP ANOTHER AREA. I WRITE A ROLLS OR A MANSION CUZ MY STORY NEEDS IT. NOT BECAUSE I'M TRYING TO BLOW AS MUCH CASH AS I CAN. AND IF MY PRODUCER CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT I GET RID OF HIM. I HAVE BUT DON'T LIKE TO PRODUCE WHAT I WRITE. LET PEOPLE DO THEIR JOBS, YOU WRITE, WRTERS ARE NOT GOOD ACTORS. DIRECTORS MANY TIMES CAN'T PRODUCE. I WAS AT THE PREMIRE OF EASTWOODS FIRST FILM IT SUCKED REAL BAD. BORRRRING, DO YOUR JOB THE BEST YOU CAN OR YOUR STORY WILL LOSE,

Ray Anthony Martinez

I definitely respect your opinion on the matter. I can't agree with you though. My last two short films were award winning. In the first one (which I am writing as a feature now) I wrote, directed, acted, produced, edited, did the special fx, stunt coordinator, DP, color correction, and color grading....I also operated my own camera if I wasn't in the scene. Everyone who has seen it, loves the acting, from everyone in the picture, as well as the writing, editing, etc. Now, this may not be the case with some, but then again, look at Stallone's career. He isn't the greatest actor, or writer, or director... but he is passionate about what he does. The reason I enjoy doing so many of the jobs is because I in fact LOVE movies. I have been writing skits since I was about 6.

Mark Ratering

for sure small $ film for sure and good for you. but when you get even $100,000. budget you need a great producer.

Ray Anthony Martinez

Absolutely, it is definitely hard to juggle everything that goes into a production on your own... Even still, no matter what the budget, I think you can wear many hats, as long as you are willing to delegate tasks properly

Ray Anthony Martinez

Unprofessional? How do you see that? Craig Brewer is a Writer/Director. Jon Favreau constantly writes/directs/acts in his films. Woody Allen? Ben Affleck? Vin Diesel got his start because of a movie he wrote/directed/acted in. Sylvester Stallone had been a Writer/Director/Actor for over 30 years. And let's not forget one Mr. Robert Rodriguez, who is the writer/director/editor/composer/producer/camera operator on the majority of his works. With all that being said, how is this Unprofessional?

Ray Anthony Martinez

My point wasn't that I didn't include my name above. The was that the ones listed above constantly do more than just act, or write, or direct. They are not considered "unprofessional" in the industry. As a producer, you can or should be able to see that the filmmakers who can do more than just one thing are going to help in saving money for a production. Example would be, the writer is also operating the camera, as well as directing. The producer just saved money because technically, you don't need to hire a storyboard artist. If I had a budget that gave me the option of hiring an editor, writer, director, whatever.... I would still want to do most of that myself, because I "CAN" do it. Because I am lucky enough to be blessed with the ability to do many things. I have spent the last 6 years working on numerous projects on numerous film sets. I have been a boom operator, cameraman, writer, script supervisor, storyboard artist, editor.....and everything else I can do to help the production. What's "best" for you, may not be best for someone else. So, while I do respect your opinion, I can't agree with you.

Ray Anthony Martinez

The thing is, when you are making a low budget film. You may not have the luxury of paying your cast/crew as much as they deserve. So, although someone may be a great "editor" or "director" or whatever, they will never have the same passion as you to complete this project. If I gave all footage to an editor, he may work on it, he may not... If I have the footage, I KNOW it will get done.

Mark Ratering

I have always hated low low low budget. when you do everything yourself you have the same flavor to the project. a different director editor d.p. has more and better idea's, if i don't have the bread i'll wait till i can make a masrterpiece.

Mark Ratering

i love hollywood. the prodution people are soooo good, there brains are on a different level. i pay top rates but it's worth it.

Mark Ratering

your right doing manys jobs can be done. i worked for warren beatty. but for every 1000 writer director actors 1 makes it,

Mark Ratering

10 millon not 1000

Ray Anthony Martinez

So what you are saying is that if I just stuck to directing, I'd have a better chance?

Ray Anthony Martinez

Also, what you are saying is that "low low low budget" means bad film? Another point I'd have to disagree with you on. "Paranormal Activity" was low low low budget, and it made close to $2,000,000. "Blair Witch" - budget -$35k - made $248,000,000 "Primer" - budget 7k - made over $500,000 "Clerks" - budget $27k - made over $3,000,000 "Bellflower" - budget $17k - made $167k.... not millions, but considering the budget, that's a pretty good return. My point is that low budget doesn't mean bad movie.

Mark Ratering

Produced by Jason Blum .... producer Oren Peli .... producer Steven Schneider .... executive producer Jeanette Brill .... line producer: additional photography (uncredited) Rick Osako .... line producer: additional photography (uncredited) Amir Zbeda .... associate producer (uncredited) Cinematography by Oren Peli (director of photography) Film Editing by Oren Peli Casting by Oren Peli (uncredited) Makeup Department Crystal Cartwright .... special makeup effects artist (uncredited) Production Management Danielle Daly .... post-production supervisor (uncredited) Mark Graziano .... post-production executive (uncredited) Richard Stirling .... post-production supervisor (uncredited) Sound Department Greg LaPlante .... digital mastering David Barbee .... sound designer (uncredited) Mark Binder .... sound designer (uncredited) Mark Binder .... sound re-recording mixer (uncredited) Edmond J. Coblentz Jr. .... sound designer (uncredited) Mark DeSimone .... adr mixer: New York (uncredited) Jim Fitzpatrick .... sound re-recording mixer (uncredited) Nick Shaffer .... sound effects editor (uncredited) Nick Shaffer .... supervising dialogue editor (uncredited) Stunts Craig Jensen .... utility stunts Camera and Electrical Department Dale Robinette .... special still photographer (uncredited) Casting Department Ricki Maslar .... additional casting (uncredited) Editorial Department Phillip Dawe .... post-production coordinator Jay Warren .... digital intermediate producer Tricia Chiarenza .... color timer (uncredited) Reinhard Feichtinger .... digital cinema mastering (Austria) (2009) (uncredited) Faust Pierfederici .... colorist (uncredited) Lee Wimer .... color timer (uncredited) here is the crew for p.a. does not look like one person to me.

Ray Anthony Martinez

If you actually read what I wrote, it had nothing to do with cast/crew.... It was in reference to the fact you stated that "low low low" budgets films aren't good

Mark Ratering

if you want to direct take a different persons script if you direct have a different producer, dont make your work incestuous, try to bring new blood to your work. i know it'shard with no bread!!!

Frank Wood

A good idea cares nothing at all about budget. The idea should rule all other considerations in filmmaking. A low budget film that works is better than a high budget movie that fails to entertain. Some great ideas result in a low budget; some require megabucks. It all depends on the idea. Therefore, don't serve the budget; serve the idea. If you want to write a low budget movie script, choose a low budget idea. I have found that in music, some artists can do it all and some cannot. I can't play bass, drums and lead, but some people can. I say more power to them. However, to reproduce a multi-instrument song live is quite a trick for one individual. Likewise, I would think that common sense would advise even the most versatile filmmaker to show some humility were a talented and proven production company to show interest in one's script. I don't think most people realize how unique each project and each person is. Some people like to eat strawberries, but they cause other people to break out in a rash. Obviously, a lot of high budget films are sold, and many low-budget films are not. I would hate to see someone limit their destiny because they kept writing low-budget screenplays that did not sell, trying to conform to an ever-changing market, when that high-budget Idea that would have sold remains a note scribbled on an index card. This is the 21st century; there's plenty of money out there to do anything. If someone somewhere didn't take risks, would we all just settle for low budget projects to satisfy our entertainment needs? And, why should I advise a young screenwriter to only write low-budget projects? What if that person is more brilliant than me, more industry-connected, or has a high-budget idea that would make Stephen Spielberg green with envy? I had a friend whose mother wrote the Connie Francis hit, "Where the Boys Are". He told me that she spent the rest of her life trying to write another hit song but could not because she was trying to write a hit song. He thought if she had been able to reconnect with that original creative spirit, she could have done it.

Mark Ratering

i agree frank. i write for myself and been lucky to sell my fair share of my work. i think about story first. i dont cloud my brain with budget or awards but do i like the script. make people think and enjoy then you are a great story teller. leave the money to the producer.

Rik Carter

Isn't it great that people with completely different methods can make movies and sell scripts? I write for others and have sold my fair share. I think of story first and keep budget in mind at all times. It's my method and it works for me. Some filmmakers do everything - some work with others. There is no right way - there is no one path. All of can point out specific examples of one path, one method working and come to the conclusion that that is the "better" path. Then someone can point out that a different path worked for someone else. To me, that shows that anything is possible and that every writer, director, producer should at least try.

Jaclyn Abergas

When I'm writing for myself, I don't really take budget into consideration while writing it. It's only when I'm directing/producing it when I tweak it to fit the budget. When I'm writing for other directors though, I try to make it as low budget as I can. In this case, I try to simplify the number of locations to be used and the type of locations. I don't include high profile locations, where we'll have to pay for permits and staff. It also depends on the director or producer, if they want visual effects, I try to make it minimal but effective.

Ray Anthony Martinez

Thanks for all the comments. For those who have different opinions as to what a writer or director or actor or producer or editor should, then this discussion wasn't meant for you. It is CLEARLY stated above that this discussion is "geared towards filmmakers who write a script to make themselves as opposed to a script that they write to sell"

Ray Anthony Martinez

*should do

Mark Ratering

yeah nick gotta take the four months and write the scripts for the treatments. when that door opens they will want a script. i can do a night scene as cheap as a day.

Mark Ratering

Jaclynit's a pain but my first draft I write the script I want. I then write doing budget repression and see does the limited budget hurt the story. make your changs informed. good luck

Mark Ratering

here here ric i've been feeding my family from film for 30 years and lets face it art is really important but eating is kind of nice too.

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