Stop/Eject Postproduction Budget Breakdown

Back in November 2012 I posted and analysed the preproduction and production budget for my short film Stop/Eject, a 17 minute fantasy-drama which was shot on a DSLR. Now I’m going to do the same for the postproduction budget, including distribution and marketing. We’re currently selling Blu-rays and digital rentals of Stop/Eject, to raise money for further film festival entries, so please support us by buying a copy if you find this blog useful.

Download the budget here as a PDF (35kb).

As you can see, we had almost £2,000 available to us in post, some of which was left over from production, but most of which came from a crowd-funding campaign. You can read my evaluation of that campaign in an earlier post.

Mixing Stop/Eject at Alchemea College in Islington
Sound mix

None of the cast or crew were paid at any stage of making Stop/Eject, and indeed I tried not to spend anything at all on postproduction. The VFX artists worked on their home computers, editor Miguel Ferros used his own Mac-based Avid system, colourist Michael Stirling used his company‘s DaVinci Resolve projection grading suite, sound editor and designer Henning Knoepfel used his own Mac for the audio work and pulled in a favour to get a free studio day for the ADR, and re-recording mixer Jose Pereira used the studio at the college where he lectures. Scott Benzie composed the music in his home studio and we recorded it for free with four live players at Worcester Tech College.

Georgina does some ADR
ADR

So except for a suite of clock sound effects, which Henning convinced me were necessary to help the audio tell the story, the main costs in postproduction were those incurred by people travelling so that we could be in the same room for some of the work, and eating lunch on those occasions. It’s important to at least make sure people are fed when you can’t pay them a fee. The most expensive of these days was the ADR session, which involved me and two lead actors travelling from Hereford, Birmingham and Bath respectively to the studio in east London.

Even in today’s digital world, some files are just too damn big to send online, and such was the case with the Avid media output by Miguel ready for the grade. I therefore purchased a USB hard drive, which ended up being couriered across London a couple of times to get to where it needed to be. After the film was completed, I used the same drive to archive all of the Stop/Eject assets and project files.

In order to run the crowd-funding campaign, which lasted for most of postproduction, we needed to build our own website and cut a trailer using library music. We also attended several events to promote the campaign and the film in general, one of which charged an entry fee.

Glossy script book
Glossy script book

The £79.47 spent on producing the crowd-funding rewards (a.k.a. perks or gifts) was racked up mostly by the hardback glossy script books, costing about £25 each (ex. VAT). The sponsorship level required to qualify for one of these books was £100, and since you also got a DVD, Blu-ray and premiere invite for that amount, there can scarcely have been £60 left of the donation for us to spend on actually making the film! It just goes to show that you should carefully cost up your rewards before you offer them.

DVDs & Blu-rays
DVDs & Blu-rays

That £79.47 isn’t the whole story though, since the next three items listed – the screening venue hire, Blu-ray stock and dupes – were all partly for sponsors as well. (A £10 donation got you an invite to the premiere, £30 got you a DVD and an invite, and £50 got you a Blu-ray, a DVD and an invite.)

£25.61 bought me fourteen blank Blu-ray discs, most of which I got through in trial and error as I authored and tested my first ever BD. The £265.30 spent on dupes got us 60 DVDs and 50 BDs, all with full colour on-disc artwork, inlays and cases. 20 of those discs went to sponsors and approximately 50 to cast and crew, with the rest being reserved for press and festivals.

I deliberately completed the discs in time for the premiere so that I could hand many of them out in person and reduce postage costs. For those that I did post, I used only pre-loved jiffy bags which I had been collecting for some time.

All in all, I’d say almost 11% of the £1,584 raised through crowd-funding was spent on creating and delivering rewards, a little more than I would have liked. Ideally you want to spend no more than 10% of your budget on rewards.

Stop/Eject press kit
Stop/Eject press kit

As detailed in another post, I created Stop/Eject’s Digital Cinema Package at home using free software, but did have to buy a hard drive for it and a flight case, since I intended to ship it to international festivals for screenings.

To promote the film at festivals and beyond, we had 50 full colour folders printed, each containing five single-sided monochrome pages of text. We also paid £10 to submit Stop/Eject to The London Film Review, the hope being that good reviews would increase our chances of festival selection.

And that only really leaves the festival entry fees themselves. We’ve entered 25 to date, and the money we’re raising now should allow us to enter another 20 or so. In a future post I’ll provide a list of the festivals entered, their deadlines and fees, and the selection results.

Stop/Eject Postproduction Budget Breakdown

Crowd-funding Stop/Eject

This featurette relates the ups and downs of the two crowd-funding campaigns run for my short fantasy-drama Stop/Eject. Producer Sophie Black and I discuss the various methods we used to solicit donations, from the mundane (Facebook posts) to the surreal (threatening the lives of innocent pets). We also talk about the kinds of people who contributed, the rewards we offered, and the emotional rollercoaster of an all-or-nothing campaign.

If you want to know more, read my blog entries evaluating the first and second campaigns.

Crowd-funding Stop/Eject

Top Ten Crowd-funding Tips

This little piggy went to Kickstarter…

To finish my look back at the decisions, successes and failures of the Stop/Eject crowd-funding campaigns, here are my ten top tips based on the sum of our experiences on this project:

  1. You need “elements” – aspects of the project which have an existing audience base, such as a name actor or a director with a strong social media following. Sometimes people will donate because the film is being shot in their home town, or maybe it’s about a subject they have an interest in. Whatever it is, figure out where that existing audience base is and what they want, and create your rewards and promotions accordingly.
  2. Work out in advance how much your rewards will cost to produce, and reject any that aren’t cost or time efficient. I suggest they should consume no more than ten percent of your budget.
  3. Make your pitch video professional – tightly edited, well lit, well shot and with broadcast quality sound. No-one will sponsor a filmmaker who can only be bothered posting a five minute ramble shot on a webcam. Your “elements” should appear in the video.
  4. Whether building your own crowd-funding platform or using an existing one, make sure it’s extremely quick and easy to donate, with a minimal number of clicks.
  5. A longer campaign doesn’t necessarily mean more money raised, but it does mean more work for you promoting it.
  6. If you take a day off from promoting your campaign, people will take a day off from donating. You cannot sit back and expect the money to roll in. It doesn’t work that way.
  7. Keep reminding people about your campaign, but do it indirectly by publishing new content like blogs, behind-the-scenes videos or storyboards. Most sponsors will have to see your campaign several times before deciding to donate.
  8. The internet isn’t the only way to promote your campaign. Go to events in the real world and plug it. Take a donations bucket or hand out cards or flyers with the campaign address on.
  9. Make people feel involved in your project, both during and after crowd-funding. Run competitions, invite feedback on things like poster designs, issue updates and answer questions.
  10. The endorsement of a well-recognised person or entity can give your campaign a massive boost. BBC Midlands Today putting a Stop/Eject report on their Facebook page worked for us, but the holy grail is getting a celebrity to retweet your campaign link.

If you’re still hungry to learn more about crowd-funding, check out James J. Heath’s Top 5 Crowd-funding Mistakes and Indiegogo’s Field Guide.

(Links to previous parts of the evaluation: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.)

Top Ten Crowd-funding Tips

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 7: Promotion and Engagement

(Links to previous parts of the evaluation: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.)

Hereford Times article
Hereford Times, 19/7/12

The single biggest tool we had to promote our second fundraising campaign for Stop/Eject was the trailer. This was followed by a crowd-funding pitch in the same video file, so as soon as people had been wowed by the trailer, they found out how to get involved and support it, wherever that trailer was screened or embedded. There are lots of tips on editing trailers in a blog post I wrote last year.

You can’t just post on Facebook every day of your crowd-funding campaign (particularly if it runs for eight months as ours did) asking for money. You have to find other ways to remind people of the project’s existence without directly holding out your begging cap.

One way to do this is through uploading content like blogs and behind-the-scenes videos. As previously discussed, our system of public rewards hampered this to some extent, but we still blogged regularly about the project’s progress, also updating people via the Facebook page, Twitter and emails to the sponsors. Any time we did any interesting work on the film we took photos or video and shared them with the community we were building.

Speaking of community, you have to nurture it by allowing them to engage with the project. For example, we ran a poster design competition and later invited the public to submit interview questions to be posed to the cast.

Whenever we needed additional crew, those shout-outs served not only as a form of crowd-sourcing but also as promotion of the crowd-funding.

You shoudn’t neglect “real world” promotional opportunities. I gave a couple of talks about Stop/Eject during the campaign, each time encouraging audiences to donate. It’s best to provide a bucket for cash by the exit, because if you tell people to go home and donate online, the vast majority of them will forget.

Georgie helped a lot, making her fanbase aware of the campaign, and we tried to seek out Worst Witch sites and communities to post on too. In fact all of the cast and crew helped to spread the word.

We discovered it was the 50th anniversary of the invention of cassette tapes halfway through our campaign, but too late to do much about it except get interviewed on BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester. Sophie and I also managed to get some local newspaper coverage, but our biggest coup was Sophie’s appearance on BBC East Midlands Today. That didn’t lead directly to any donations, but a Stop/Eject article on a website about Matlock, one of the towns we shot in, did lead to a few.

Stop/Eject on BBC East Midlands Today
Stop/Eject on BBC East Midlands Today

The final part of my evaluation will take the form of ten top tips for crowd-funding, based on our experiences with Stop/Eject. Watch this space.

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 7: Promotion and Engagement

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 6: Elements and Sponsors

(Links to previous parts of the evaluation: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.)

One of the key lessons learnt from Stop/Eject‘s first crowd-funding campaign is that people don’t tend to donate unless they have a pre-existing connection to some element of the project, e.g. they know the filmmaker, it’s being shot in their home town, it has an actor in it they like, or it’s about a subject they’re interested in. That first campaign was very much dependent on people knowing me and wanting to support me, as we had no other “elements” at that stage.

Kate's mid shot
Georgina Sherrington as Kate in Stop/Eject

When, a week prior to shooting Stop/Eject, we cast Georgina Sherrington in the lead role, the last thing on our minds was crowd-funding. But her cult status as the former child star of ITV’s The Worst Witch provided a new “element” when we came to launch our second campaign.

Popularity of the individual rewards
Popularity of the individual rewards

We found that sponsors of the second campaign generally fell into two camps: Georgina Sherrington fans, and sponsors putting in larger amounts who were either doing so purely philanthropically or who wanted custom rewards to help them with their own filmmaking endeavours. Other than these custom requests, the rewards aimed at filmmakers were unsuccessful (most of them got zero sales, so aren’t included on the above graphs), proving beyond a doubt that I was not the major “element” in this second campaign.

The “Memoirs of the Worst Witch” reward was added after our campaign had already been running for a few months and the total had been stuck for a while around the halfway point. It was a download of a 20 minute interview with Georgina about her time on The Worst Witch, and it turned out to be one of the most popular rewards in terms of units sold.

One of the more outlandish Stop/Eject-themed gifts offered in the Collections
A headband by Sophie Black, one of the more unusual Stop/Eject-themed gifts offered in the Collections

In an effort to combat the disadvantages of a campaign without a deadline (see part 5), we introduced “Collections” – groups of four new rewards that were only available in limited numbers and for a limited time. These helped keep awareness of the campaign up, but didn’t bring much money in.

In general, several of the rewards required a ridiculous amount of time (and in some cases money) to produce in relation to the amount of sponsorship they brought in, most notably the glossy photo books. If I had to run this campaign all over again, I’d offer a smaller number of rewards, and most of them at the lower price breaks (£10-£50), with just a couple of suggestions for custom rewards at maybe £100 and £200.

Next time I’ll talk about how we promoted the campaign and engaged with the audience, before summing up my overall thoughts and feelings on crowd-funding Stop/Eject in the eighth and final part.

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 6: Elements and Sponsors

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 5: Setting up the Second Campaign

Our custom-built website
Our custom-built website

In January of last year, following the successful completion of Stop/Eject‘s preproduction crowd-funding campaign, I posted a series of four blogs evaluating the campaign. I’m now going to extend this to the postproduction campaign, once again looking at the choices we made, good and bad, and the lessons we learnt.

We knew we didn’t want to use crowdfunder.co.uk again, because it required an off-putting number of clicks for people to donate – so one of the first discussions we had was about what platform to use instead. We quickly ruled out the “all or nothing” sites. Now that the film was in the can, the important thing was to get at least some money to finish it with; the possibility of getting none at all was too risky.

My intial thought was to use Sponsume, but producer Sophie Black and my wife Katie both believed we needed to try something completely different. In the end we decided to run a campaign with no deadline, since it didn’t matter how long it took to finish the film.

The individual rewards initially offered in the second campaign
The individual rewards initially offered in the second campaign

We also came up with the idea of “public rewards”, so that as well as individuals receiving (for example) DVDs or premiere tickets when they donated, additional rewards would be published online for every £100 the total went up. These mostly took the form of video podcasts documenting the shoot, though a few were special blog entries breaking down the production design, lighting or budget.

As for the individual rewards, I decided to offer two options at most of the price breaks: one related to Stop/Eject, and one aimed at other filmmakers – since they had made up a significant proportion of the sponsors in the first campaign. The former type included the obvious things like DVD or Blu-ray copies of the film, invites to the premiere and glossy photo books. The latter type included a budget breakdown of my last feature film, script feedback or storyboards for your project, homemade sandbags for weighing down lighting stands, and a Skype chat with yours truly.

The public rewards and the lack of a time limit meant that no existing crowd-funding platform was suitable, so I had to knock up our own website – www.stopejectmovie.com – with a bit of simple Flash and PHP scripting and some Paypal buttons. One advantage of doing this is that only Paypal are taking a cut of the money, but a disadvantage is that a visitor to the site has less reason to trust that everything is above board.

We launched the campaign in late May of last year, with a target of £1,500. This was simply the amount we needed; it wasn’t compromised by any considerations of how much we thought we could raise.

Graph of the cumulative total rising over time
Graph of the cumulative total rising over time

I’m not convinced that public rewards were a good idea. When the total got stuck for a long time we were unable to use what could have been our best tool to encourage donations – releasing a podcast – because we had set up this system of releasing them only when people did donate. On the other hand, there was a knock-on effect whereby one donation would trigger the release of a public reward which would in turn trigger further donations.

I’m not sure a campaign without a deadline is something I can recommend either. In fact, I’ve since read that there’s statistical evidence showing that longer crowd-funding campaigns do not raise more money than short ones. Without the urgency of a looming deadline, many potential sponsors will say to themselves, “I’ll get around to that later,” and never do. There is also the risk that people will get fed up of being tapped for cash repeatedly over a long period.

In the next instalment I’ll look at who donated and why.

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 5: Setting up the Second Campaign

Stop/Eject Fully Funded

Hooray! We’ve smashed through our crowd-funding target for post-production of Stop/Eject!

Fully funded
Fully funded

Huge thanks to everyone who’s contributed since we launched our first campaign back in November 2011. Across the two campaigns you’ve given us almost £4,200. Without it, Stop/Eject could never have been made.

As well as reaching our grand total we’ve passed two public reward targets. The first one, the sound design podcast, you’ll have to wait a little while for, as work on this aspect of post-production has yet to begin. The second one is the People’s Choice Reward, so leave us a comment on the Stop/Eject Facebook page with your suggestion of what we can create and upload as a thank you for all your donations.

If you’ve been meaning to donate but haven’t got around to it yet, we’re keeping the rewards open for one more week. That means you’ve got until midnight on February 7th to secure yourself an invite to the premiere, a copy of the DVD or Bluray, an illustrated script book or any of the other lovely goodies. After this date these gifts will never be available again. (We hope the film will be available to buy in some form or another after its festival run, but that’s a couple of years away at least.)

The other big Stop/Eject news this week is that we’ve locked the edit, which is a watershed moment in the post-production of any film. Stay tuned for more info on that soon.

Stop/Eject Fully Funded

Stop/Eject Production Budget Breakdown

The one that got away was this big...
Delivering the Derby fundraising lecture in March

This post has been created and published because the total raised in Stop/Eject‘s post-production crowd-funding campaign has passed the £1,100 mark. I’m going to look at how the money you all contributed in pre-production was spent in order to get Stop/Eject in the can.

Stop/Eject was originally meant to be filmed in autumn 2011 under the auspices of another production company. Prior to the project’s postponement and subsequent resurrection as a crowd-funded movie, Sophie and I spent some money on set dressing (£149.76), costumes (£206.20) and travel (£60). We absorbed these costs personally and they’re not included in the budget.

Download the budget here as a PDF (34Kb).

(If you don’t follow my blog regularly, you may wish to check out the following resources first so you have a clearer picture of the project I’m discussing: the trailer, a blog post summarising how the shoot went, an evaluation of the shooting schedule, a playlist of behind-the-scenes videos from the shoot. Stop/Eject was a twenty page script that took five and a half days to shoot.)

As you can see, the crowdfunder.co.uk campaign was the main source of income, although a significant amount was donated after this campaign closed, in cash or via the Paypal button I had on this website for a while. Two of the three Soul Searcher lectures were failures, with few or no attendees; only the Derby lecture (done as part of a Five Lamps Film Night) took more cash than it cost me to travel there. Selling Benedict Cumberbatch’s costume from The Dark Side of the Earth’s pilot was the last part of the pre-production funding jigsaw.

Costume designer Katie Lake models one of the outfits purchased in 2011.
Costume designer Katie Lake models one of the outfits purchased in 2011.

Moving onto the expenditure, the first thing you have to do with any type of fundraising is deduct the costs involved in that fundraising process – in this case crowdfunder.co.uk’s fee and the production and postage of the rewards/perks for sponsors. These costs represent less than 8% of the budget, which I think is pretty good value.

Under pre-production you can see that more props and costumes were purchased in 2012, in addition to those we’d already bought in 2011. The total costumes outlay across the two years was £407.94, making it one of the largest costs of the production. This was due to the high number of story days in the script (eleven), each of which required a new outfit. A significant chunk of the props budget went on 400 cassette cases for the scene in the Tape Archive, while the construction materials included the wood and antique doors which the alcove set was made from. Auditions were held at Conway Hall in Holborn, London, owned by the very strange but pleasingly cheap South Place Ethical Society.

If you have a problem, if no-one else can help...
If you have a problem, if no-one else can help… (photo: Colin Smith)

Travel is the biggest expense under production and indeed for the entire project, totalling £1,049.49 if you include the van costs and the pre-production and 2011 costs, even though some of the local crew waived their mileage and parking expenses. The high travel expenditure was partly due to many key cast and crew members living at least a two hour journey away from where we were filming, but even on more local projects I’ve often found that travel can be the most expensive element (assuming you’re not paying anyone fees). Hiring the van was relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, and was worth every penny and more. Without it we couldn’t have moved the alcove set or some of the larger props around, and squeezing all the equipment into cars would have been a nightmare.

I was very surprised how little we spent on food and catering. £248.33 fed about ten people for five and a half days. Many of the meals were cooked in advance, frozen and reheated on set or cooked from scratch on set by Katie or Debs, but we bought takeaways for everyone on at least two occasions. That figure also includes supplies like plastic beakers, disposable plates, bowls and cutlery and a thermos flask. We borrowed a fridge and a hotplate and brought our own microwave along.

When drawing up a new budget for Stop/Eject after its initial postponement, accommodation seemed like a killer cost that might prevent the film from ever being made. Research indicated that I could expect to pay around £2,000 to hire a holiday cottage large enough to house everyone for a week. As it turned out, we found Magpie, not only a brilliant location for the shop and many other settings, but also a place where some of us could stay (albeit in less than ideal conditions). The owner asked just for a token amount to cover the utilities costs, and with Sophie’s spare room also put to good use we only had to hire one hotel room for one night.

If you’re wondering where I got the public and employers’ liability insurance from, the answer is Essex Insurance Brokers. They specialise in short-term policies for low-budget filmmakers and you can get a quote and activate a policy in just a few minutes using their web form. If that sounds like a blatant advert, let me counter it by saying they were utterly unhelpful and a bit rude when I tried to get insurance for The Dark Side of the Earth‘s pilot from them.

Steve Lawson's kindly-lent jib in action outside Magpie. Photo: Paul Bednall
Steve Lawson’s kindly-lent jib in action outside Magpie. Photo: Paul Bednall

Finally, a word on the stuff we didn’t spend money on. None of the cast and crew were paid, which caused lots of stress and hassle in the month leading up to the shoot as several crew and both lead actors pulled out in order to do paying work that clashed. As a result I’ve sworn never to do anything again but simple little one-day shoots unless I can afford to pay people. Feel free to remind me of this if I ever seem to be going astray. We also spent nothing on equipment hire. Most of it (camera, lenses, tripod, dolly, shoulder rig, smoke machine) was mine and the rest of it was borrowed. Thanks to Steve Lawson for loan of the jib, Colin Smith for the Glidecam and additional lights, The Rural Media Company for an additional light and some sound kit, and Ian Preece for the sound recorder.

When all the figures were totted up, I was as shocked as anyone to see we’d come in more than £400 under budget. This meant we were able to set our post-production crowd-funding target at £1,500 rather than the £2,000 we had planned. We’re now less than £400 away from that target, so please help us get there by toddling over to stopejectmovie.com and hitting Donate. And if you’re curious to know how the budget of a indie feature film breaks down, choose the £10 “Line Producer” reward and you’ll get a full and detailed analysis of Soul Searcher’s monetary ins and outs.

Stop/Eject Production Budget Breakdown

Corporate Videos

Setting up to shoot
Shooting a promotional video for Aryma Contemporary Marquetry. Photo: Lisa Sansome

When I give talks to film students, they sometimes turn their noses up at the corporate and participatory video work I do around my own creative projects. They like to think they can come straight out of university and make only their dramatic masterpieces. Now, clearly corporates pay the rent whereas the more creative projects sadly don’t for most of us, but there are many other excellent reasons to do them:

  1. Transferable skills. By making corporates day in, day out, you’re keeping your camera, lighting, sound, editing and directing skills honed.
  2. Flexibility. It’s much easier to fit your creative projects around a freelance corporate video schedule than a nine-to-five day job. Even having to go to the job centre to sign on the dole every week can get in the way of your own films.
  3. Favours. To give just one example, a sound recordist is far more likely to work for free on your short film if you’ve hired him for several fully paid corporates jobs in the past.
  4. Finance. Over and above the fees they pay me, I’ve found my corporate clients to be some of my most generous supporters when it comes to investing in my films or contributing to crowd-funding campaigns. (See this post for evidence of this in the indisputable form of a pie chart.)
  5. Equipment. Your wife can’t complain about you buying a shiny new camera if you need it to earn money. And if you just happen to use it for your own projects too, well – everyone’s happy, aren’t they?
  6. Credits. Every corporate adds to your track record. An actor auditioning for your short, a funding agency panellist considering your application, a potential collaborator checking out your website – they’ll all be more impressed and more willing to trust you if they see a long list of corporate credits rather than a part-time shelf-stacking job on your CV.
  7. Dealing with feedback. We’ve all heard the horror stories of directors who’ve received notes from studio executives demanding that they change this or that. Learning to take on board the comments and suggestions of the clients who are paying for your corporates is great practice for this.
  8. Tax break. If you make money from filming, your expenses are tax deductible. And those expenses include the cost of making your own movies, because it’s all part of your business. Many’s the time I’ve lamented spending all my money on making films… until I received a “nothing to pay” statement from the Inland Revenue. Mmmm, nothing to pay.

Corporate Videos

Stop/Eject Jewellery Collection

Tonight we’ve launched a brand new collection of Stop/Eject rewards. These unique and exclusive Stop/Eject-themed accessories have been handmade by our production designer and co-producer Sophie Black. They’re available in very limited numbers and for one week only. Visit stopejectmovie.com/collection to donate and claim your gift. All the money goes towards post-production and distribution of our magical and moving little fantasy-drama.

Get a set of Stop/Eject badges, a ring, a necklace or a headband by donating to the film before midnight on Friday October 26th.

Stop/Eject Jewellery Collection