R.I.P. Cheyenne

So how can we make our movie cheaper? As I detailed in the previous post, we set a modest budget, just north of $500,000. We would shoot for three weeks, have a modest crew, and everyone would be paid. Seems like a lot of money, but I guarantee it wasn’t extravagant: we wouldn’t be catered by Tom Colicchio, we weren’t hiring limos for everyone, Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t “on board,” and we weren’t putting the cast and crew up at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons. It was pretty low key: just get in, make the movie, and get out at the end of the day with a decent paycheck for everyone else involved.

However, we only were able to raise about 15% of our budget via investors. So now what? Well, I suppose quitting is an option. But I’m not very good at quitting.

Our next step is to cut the budget. And I’m not talking a cosmetic nip and tuck. I’m talking major surgery. It’s time to cut, cut, cut. What can we lose, without sacrificing the story or the movie I want to make? To do this, I don’t need to be a script doctor, I need to be a script surgeon.

First off, there are some minor characters that can go. A few are only in one scene, and maybe with a few lines. So why cut them? That’s an extra paycheck, an additional meal, and more hassle. Is the character needed? Not necessarily. Do they have information important to the story that can be revealed in another way? Probably.

So I took out my trusty writer’s scalpel and killed off five characters. Five souls, all serving a purpose, albeit briefly, in the movie. (And five actors who will now not get cast.) As a tribute to the souls who no longer exist, in their memory here is a list of those characters who didn’t make the cut (cue the sad tribute music):

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“Did you ever know that you’re my hero…”

Lost Baggage Clerk
Bartender
Dog Owner
Receptionist
Cheyenne

Yes, EVEN Cheyenne. Who was Cheyenne? She was the server at a wine bar who arrogantly told our hero about her favorite wines, describing the Marcassin as “like a wet stone,” and at the same time providing crucial plot information to our hero. Alas, our hero will now get the necessary information another way. So let’s pour out that pricey Marcassin onto the floor, one for my homeys.

With death comes a new birth. I had to add two characters to make things flow, so it’s a net loss of three characters. Also, a net loss of three locations, which also saves money. Fewer locations mean fewer permits, fewer company moves, fewer extras. No significant sacrifice to the story.

Okay! Making progress. But slowly. What else can go?

My salary, for one. I’m making this film because I want to make movies, and sometimes I have to invest in myself. I had already waived my salary as the screenwriter, but now I’ll take the cut as the director as well. Sure, I’ll have points in profit sharing, but that’s WAY down the road. Fortunately, I have enough money saved to take a few weeks off from my other writing gigs. Our producer Beau did the same with his salary: slash it to zero, and gamble on some money coming in at the end.

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On my own project, at least. For someone else, you gotta pay me.

A bigger change: the shooting schedule. Initially we were planning on three six-day weeks. However, since many scenes involve just our lead character, it’s possible to have entire days dedicated to working with her. Which means we only need a stripped down crew. So we adjusted the schedule to two six-day weeks, with pickup days at the end for our lead actress and a skeleton crew. Cutting the crew time by 1/3 saves money. Also, as a parent of a two-year-old and with my wife starring in the movie, two weeks of figuring out constant child care is far easier to stomach than three weeks.

We’ve made a lot of ground. But we’re still not at our goal. More cuts to come this week.

The prognosis is good. At the end of the surgery, I promise the body will be healthy and vibrant. Albeit, just a little trimmer.

But this IS Los Angeles, so trim is good.