Category: Management

What a Screenwriter Needs to Know About… Production Budgets

Writing and money… am I serious?

In the collaborative spirit of the film industry… yes.

I’ve taken a moment (ok, 4 min and 45 sec) to highlight a few things that writers should know about production budgets, because… well… when you write a movie, the script is not not going to be the story’s final form.

Here ’tis :

Cheers & insightful writing to you,

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For more info on production budgets and on many more details about the production process, come over and check out my book “Film Production Management 101.”

You can also see me in person at the UFVA Conference in Las Vegas, July 31 – Aug. 4. I’ll be on several panels or at the MWP Books booth.

I’ll also be at the Future of Story Conference on August 1.

What’s It Good For? The P.O. (Purchase Order)

posmplThe P.O. (purchase order) scores its own column in the cost report. Lucky, eh?

In a collection of columns, the cost report summarizes what’s been spent and what is yet to be spent, so you may wonder…  since purchase ordered goods and services are not yet actually paid, why not clump those costs into the “to be spent” column and be done with it?

That’s because the “purchased ordered costs” are quite literally between “costs spent” and “costs to be spent.” They are “costs promised.” And I mean Promised with a capital “P.” P.O.s are serious business.

Very basically, the P.O. is a signed agreement between seller and buyer. A contract.

On it, you make the deal: the seller promising to deliver specific services or item(s) for a given price, and you – the buyer – promising to pay the matching invoice when it arrives from the seller later (your promise is recorded in the signed approval on the P.O.).

Then you (or your Accounting Department) put sufficient money aside to cover the forthcoming invoice, so that when it arrives, the money is in the bank to pay it. All’s well!

Kinda makes you think about credit cards, doesn’t it? (1) Charge and receive the goods, (2) mentally put sufficient money aside, and then (3) pay in full when the credit card bill arrive at month’s end.

Yup. The way credit cards should be handled! The P.O. can teach us a thing or two.


Cheers and happing P.O.’ing to you,

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For more info on P.O.s and cost reports, then come and check out my book “Film Production Management 101.”

You can also see me in person at the UFVA Conference in Las Vegas, July 31 – Aug. 4. I’ll be on several panels or at the MWP Books booth.

I’ll also be at the Future of Story Conference on August 1.

Christmas Bills vs Production Bills

bllsBills, bills! Who likes bills? Hang on… I know!

The Production Coordinator during wrap week!


Wrap week is the only time I’ve found myself near-pleading with suppliers to hurry up and send me the invoice so we can pay it before the production office closes at the end of the week.

Strange business life, being in production…

Cheers & happy bill-paying to you,

Ciné Surfer: Happy Public Domain Birthday To You

hbdayThe song that was – suprising to many – NOT in the public domain is now in the public domain?!? Wow.

Here’s a great article from The Daily Signal that talks about the change of status:


Remember, though, that the rights we’re talking about here are the publishing rights (the right to use the sheet music). Though you may now be allowed to sing the song on screen for free, if you use a particular recording of it, then recording rights will still kick in.

Of course, this news means that the chapter in my book Film Production Management 101 on Legal clearances is now out of date on one count. Sigh… But that goes to show you that you always need legal advice from a proper legal source for all the latest and greatest news on rights and clearances.

In the meantime, have a happy public domain birthday!



In the Movie, Not the Book: Hermione’s Obliviate

picfrmSo frequently we say and hear “I liked the movie, but the book better.” Here’s a case where I think the movie was different to the book – neither better than the other… just different. And it really works.

Book and movie spoiler alert!

In the book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Hermione reveals to Harry that she has obliviated her parents (from ever knowing her) at a strategic story moment. A moment where it rings home to Harry that she is indeed an equal partner in the team against Voldemort. It’s a powerful moment because we learn this fact at the same time as Harry, and understand – with the same shock that Harry feels – how much Hermione has chosen to lose to pursue their goal of pursuing Voldemort. She, too, has experienced great loss of family.

But in the movie…

We don’t have this reveal. We are not as tightly aligned to Harry’s point of view as we are in the book. The movie is more of an ensemble of characters and the POV therefore a bit looser, (1) allowing us in on scenes and secrets that Harry may never learn, and (2) letting us identify with – and journey through the story with – other characters who may be closer to our own personality, and (3) permitting the film to “show, don’t tell” scenes that are in the book.

So back to the movie itself…

At the start of the film, we see Hermione’s preparation for the weighty task ahead (pursuing Voldemort with Harry and Ron). She obliviates her parents before our eyes and we can see and feel her pain as she does so. Now a highly-skilled witch, we see her image melt away from picture frame after picture frame and we know the spell is working. Her parents are losing any memory of her, past and present. It’s powerful and painful to watch, and we know there is no other way. So now, along with Hermione, we share her secret from Harry – for does he really need to be told of this moment to know in his heart that Hermione is a solid and reliable part of the team? She’ll prove it in many ways anyway.

So there you have it. A beautiful example of two portrayals of the same scene, told differently in book and movie, yet both just as powerful… just different.

Cheers and a good shoot… or book to you,

The Critical Path = The Story On Screen

noterowYou may say that business folk and creative folk are opposites, but there are concepts that both use… just with different vocabulary.

In business project management, it’s important to schedule a project considering the “critical path” – the minimum steps in the most condensed order to ensure the project will be completed (on time and on budget). With more time and resources (money, people, equipment…), you can add extras to the “critical path” in order to deliver a truly dynamic project. If unforeseen circumstances happen and you have to condense the schedule, you cannot condense it to shorter than what’s on the “critical path” – all the essentials are here for the project to deliver.

Now over to producing a script. It’s important schedule a production considering capturing the “story on screen” – the minimum essential scenes and story points in order to ensure the complete story will be filmed during principal photography (on time and on budget). With more shoot time, cast, crew and equipment, you can add extras to the “story on screen” in order to produce a truly dynamic film. If unforeseen circumstances happen and you have to shorten the shooting day or schedule, you have to focus on those essential scenes and story points because you need them to capture the “story on screen” for post production to craft into a finished, coherent film.

Interesting parallel, eh? Looks like business folk have more in common with creative folk than it first seems.

Cheers and a good story on screen to you,