Regarding the ‘CREEP’ … Budget creep

Working in the world of production and post production we see an awful lot of ‘project creep’ when it comes to budgets. Of course every show has it to some degree, whether it is spending one more day on a location, or some other unforeseeable circumstance. There are always things that make a movie or project go over budget. However, with some careful planning and some good communication on both sides, there are ways to make sure that visual effects isn’t a huge cost overrun.

  1. Know your vendor. Getting to know your visual effects vendor is very important. An honest and open line of communication is going to save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars by the time you are in post. For example, we have a very honest relationship with one of our clients. We will tell them exactly what can and can’t be done for a certain budget. We will estimate the best we can, but even if the bid is a little higher than they would like, they know that it is much closer to reality. Hitting a number is great, and it makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy. But if it is a lie to get the job, then it makes everyone weary on the next big job that comes in.
  2. Listen to your vendor. Now that you know your visual effects vendor, and you have a point of contact that you can trust. Listen to them when they make a suggestion. Make sure that the set is friendly enough for them to keep costs down. Visual effects supervisors can stomp around and be a pain on set, but it is often much better when they are engaged all the way through the project. Our supervisors have all been artists on the box so they generally know when something is amiss by looking at the taps in video village. They will always speak up to make sure that what is in the bid is what is shot.
  3. Tell your vendor everything. The best way to control costs is to make sure that the VFX supervisor and the VFX producer know what your challenges are. They understand budgets, and understand that ‘not getting it on the day’ isn’t the end of the world. They are there to offer solutions when that happens. Sometimes there just isn’t enough light in the day or dark in the night to get everything you wanted to shoot. Visual effects departments are adept at managing that. If they know that something is turning into an effects shot, they can plan for it by shooting more reference or planning a strategy to make sure that they are not starting from scratch in post production. A large portion of project creep comes from the unexpected. Removals, or replacements of signs and TV screens.
  4. Figure out and plan for your creep. This is a tough one, especially in the indy and micro-budget world. To get to your shooting budget, all the numbers have to line up. It’s not an easy thing to do. There are so many man-hours that need to be accounted for, cameras to be rented, trailers to be filled. It’s not easy to have something as ethereal as a VFX budget hanging over your head for all the things that can’t really be foreseen. So much of getting it right for us as a vendor is to get that number in the needed ballpark. To give the production something they are going to be comfortable working with. However, if we say “$75k is going to get you what you need.” Then you say, “I only have $45k” We can do our very best to offer every savings possible, but that first number is very likely to be the number you end up with in post… plus some. In most cases, there will be strategies employed on the day to save money or leave out assets, but the script is what the script is, and there will always be more shots or more designs that come up in the edit bay. Plan ahead with an eye on those first few bids. The shooting budget is what it is, but the post budget is what it needs to be.

Those are just a few of the ideas that can help mitigate something that is daunting and can easily destroy your contingency. Legion Studios strives to have an open and very honest rapport with our clients. We don’t bid low with a plan to charge overages. We bid what we think it is going to take, we will credit back what is not used, and we will charge for overages when something changes or shot counts increase. There are so many chances for things to fall through the cracks in this business, it is up to everyone to be honest and accountable. That is what we offer: Competitive bids, honest engagement, problem solving, and amazing results.

Legion Teaser

This is a video of work from the artists of Legion. This represents a small sample of the skills that can be brought to any project. Many parts of the individual shots were done by many skilled people, what was done by our artist, is listed at the bottom.