Bluechip on a Beer Budget

That budgets are falling across the industry is no secret, but making a beautiful looking, ‘Bluechip’ production on a Beer budget? Is it possible? A Wildscreen 2014 session review  By Nick Wilcox-Brown.

Nigel Pope - Head of Keo North and Director of Maramedia

Ivo Nörenberg - Cinematographer and Producer: Gulo Film Productions

Oliver Goetzl - Director and Producer: Gulo Film Productions

Steve Nicholls - Senior Executive Producer: Warehouse 51 Productions

Karen Bass - Executive Producer for Natural History at National Geographic Studios.

Garth Lucas - Executive Producer and Director: Talking Pictures

It is possible to make a beautiful looking productions on a small budget said the panelists. Here are their top tips! 

• “Put most of your budget in front of the lens”, Garth Lucas - Executive Producer and Director: Talking Pictures

• “Take your story, then re-write it”  
Steve Nicholls - Senior Executive Producer: Warehouse 51 Productions

• “Do deals, use great business people”  
Nigel Pope - Head of Keo North and Director of Maramedia,.

Nigel Pope, who produced the Panda Series Award-winning ‘Hebrides’ with John Aitcheson,  explained how he relied on the expertise of the production manager, Karen Davidson.

"Mara Media is a tiny company" he said "with very low overheads". He, like many others on the panel stressed the need for story, the use of local contacts and in the case of Hebrides, return visits to characters to keep costs low.

Steve Nicholls
, Senior Executive Producer at Warehouse 51, pointed out that research is cheap and that "guaranteed behaviour can add huge value to a story for a low cost".  His point was demonstrated with a dramatic short sequence showing a trained Goshawk, shot during half a day in a studio with nothing more than drainpipes as props and a high speed camera.

Garth Lucas,
Executive producer of Talking Pictures, reminded people "not to save on sound"
Karen Bass, Executive Producer for Natural History at National Geographic Studios said that "while savings can always be made, professional standards are important and an absolute baseline for commissioners is essential: “Below X price, you/we will not like the results.”

Makers of ‘Wild Scandinavia’, Ivo Nörenberg and Oliver Goetzl of Gulo Film Productions, were convinced that “
money isn’t everything’ and that it is important to spend as much time in the field as possible. “Once we get a good shot, we stay in place and get better”. They rely on “cheap” remote cameras and suggested that a balloon is much cheaper than Cineflex for aerials.
The panelists also mentioned the importance of
using and developing local talent both for cost and logistical reasons.

“ What is a Bluechip budget?”
The panelists quoted figures that ranged from $ / hr as a good budget in South Africa to Nigel Pope’s figure of £ /hour for Hebrides.

Nigel also pointed out that rights,
the backend, has value, particularly for companies who have the time and resources to negotiate and "BBC licenses are reasonable whereas National Geographic want everything (for the price)”.

 Food for thought….?

The Full version of this article appears on: http://www.naturalhistorynetwork.co.uk

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