Realities of Film Making

  • Tai Campbell
  • 28 May, 2013

It starts with one of two sentences: “I want a music video” or “I want to make a music video”. They sound similar but the approaches are significantly different.

One is about self-investment the other about the realistic realization of someone’s dream. No I’m not getting philosophical; this is actually a part of the (sometimes) harsh realities of film making.



MUSICIANS: If it’s your cash that’s paying for the video then it’s probably hard earned and you want to get the best for your buck, naturally. Of course in this financial climate you also don’t want to break the bank (of you) so spending as little as possible is also a common reality for both individuals as well as big companies. You meet a production team, you tell them what you want, they give you a price, you fall off your chair – “How Much?!” For a first music video this is something we experience quite a bit.

Your money is being spent on:

  • Pre-production (ideas and planning),
  • Production (filming)
  • Post-production (editing).

Each area requires a certain amount of attention and, yes, money. Pre-production covers meetings, location recces, treatment(s) and planning to name a few; all of which require time and precision. Production covers the location(s), crew, props & equipment and Post-production consists of editing, levelling and possible VFX. When you think about it your £’s need to stretch very far.

FILM MAKERS: This is an area you need to be particularly careful. When making a video for a client you can avoid later financial difficulties by quoting a realistic number. A good way of avoiding this is not giving a final number straight away and instead going away and crunching the numbers you know and researching the ones you don’t, if anything give an educated estimate BUT be clear that’s what you’re giving, they’ll understand. You don’t have to break the costs down directly for pre-production, production and post-production BUT thinking about each area means your bases are covered, you don’t want to realise an expense after a client has paid. Oh and don’t forget to factor in editing cost per day, that can easily be overlooked.

Self-funded production? Had an idea in your head and now you want to realise it? This is significantly different to working for someone. You are your biggest fan and greatest critic; you know what you want and what you can get away with not having. True there isn’t the time consuming element of making someone happy with ideas and suggestions but there is the added element of trying to save more money as it will be costing you money instead of making it, so be careful getting deals from friends and contacts; you may only be able to use them once because when you think about it your £’s need to stretch very far.



MUSICIANS: I get it, the sky’s the limit and you want your dreams to be realised by a superstar production company. You want to be floating in space that gradually evolves into you hurtling through the atmosphere crashing and into a prehistoric Earth. Great idea, and if you have the money to pay for it; fantastic! If you don’t; then perhaps you should strip it down a bit. What’s important to this video? What adds the most to the song? There are few things worse than an artist trying to get more than they can pay for, it’s lengthy for the artist to attempt and the production company to explain. Sure you could pose the argument that if this video does well then you will be back for more but to be honest every production company hears that. The best way to make this relevant is comparing it to going into an office and asking someone to do their job for a week without getting paid.

How do you remedy this problem? Simple. Revisit, review or redevelop. What this means is you strip away the more expensive elements, find one visual element from the original idea and base the new concept around it or start from scratch working towards the budget.

FILM MAKERS: For a client you need to be able to deliver what you offer. Sure I am a firm believer of pushing yourself and even sometimes doing something adventurous that scares you; if you know what you’re doing you’ll find a way. However, if you offer an epic battle between two super powered beings across a continent and deliver a schoolyard scrap then that reflects badly on your abilities and your credibility. Have the right people on board, have an honest discussion with the client if you are not 100% sure (yet) or at least have a backup plan.

If it’s your own stuff you have the luxury of knowing what you can afford and if worse comes to worst knowing what can be discarded allowing you to prioritise the most important things. Maybe filming a scene at a record shop is logistically too problematic; maybe that same scene can be filmed in a kitchen? No one will know what’s been changed if they only see the finished product and a great video with compromises is always better than a shite one that doesn’t hit the mark.



MUSICIANS: You want your video to be great, of course you do! You’ve had these dreams of what the outcome might be for a long time and now you’re taking the first step to realising this dream and begin publicising your music on another level. You just don’t have the cash. Now that’s not to say your dreams can’t be a reality; you may find someone who loves your track so much they will go the extra 10% to make your video with the resources they have. You could even find a young up and comer who will make your video for next to nothing for showreel purposes. Both outcomes are a possibility. However, what is a more likely possibility is that people will charge what a video costs because A – it’s their job not their hobby and B – if you’re not paying for it who is? Also if you find a young up and comer they’ll probably lack the experience to deliver at a certain level, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it is how we all started out.

The reality is wanting a lot but only being able to pay a little means that equipment, locations, cast, crew and all the other elements will also be cheaper and/or inexperienced and in this industry you pay for quality, you’ll get quality.

FILM MAKERS: You love the track and really want to make the video a reality, great. Knowing the risks is still important. You’ll be working for free while not making money elsewhere, if you’re sitting pretty for a while then fine, but if you have the same financial concerns as the rest of the country then it’s best to make sure that it’s worth it – the best thing about the creative industry is that in most cases it is. Making deals and calling in favours is always easier for a project that people are passionate about. True, these may be deals and favours you will only get once but you have to trust your judgment and hope it’s worth it.

As for your own production all of the above applies with the added concern of paying for it too making the risk factor three pronged. You also have the added bonus of having a personal stake in the production giving you the extra drive and passion (and possibly desperation) to bring it home. Yet another bonus is that you know what things cost and what you can get away with without taking the piss, hiring the best people you can afford and in some cases better!

One final bit of valuable advice: If you are not paying people well then make sure you feed them well.

Tai Campbell, Creative Director, Epik Music Videos.


Last modified on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:31
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