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    Random musing on the ROI of casting
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    Disclaimer: This post will include references to both Corrado and A Lonely Place For Dying. I use these two films as examples because, thanks to the tremendous generosity of the makers of those films, the members of the DVXUser community have a high level of familiarity with their production. I am extremely grateful to Justin and Adam (as well as others involved in the production of their films) for sharing their experiences here on these boards. This thread is in no way intended as an attack or to question the decisions of the makers of those films.

    It's well known that a film will have a better chance of success if the cast includes a known actor. This is true for every level of film making, and it's why the A-Listers make as much money as they do. People will see something because of who is in it as much as what it's about.

    Some may argue that for a horror film or an action film name recognition isn't important to the film making money and I say BS, give me any horror or action film with a no name cast and I'm confident the film makes even more money if you put a recognized name above the title (Blair Witch Project being a notable exception because of its marketing premise).

    Names sell movies, and smart film makers use that, even on an indie level. For a couple of grand each, Justin got James Cromwell and Michael Wincott on the set of ALPFD for a day. Adam pulled Tom Sizemore (among others) in much the same way. And both of those movies will be more succesful because of it.

    None of what I just wrote is new information. Sorry for putting you all through three paragraphs of back story, but here's where the musing comes in. You raise $300, $400, $500,000 or whatever to do an indie feature. None of that money comes easy and you bust your balls to put as much of it on the screen as you can. So if you're going to raise a couple thousand dollars to get Michael Wincott on your set for one day and see a return on that investment, would it not make as much or more sense from a financial standpoint to instead raise another $100,000 (or whatever) to get that same kind of name for your lead?

    Let's be clear, I've never directed or produced a feature and this whole post is BS speculation... which is the point. Someone poke holes in my argument, or at least show me where its flaws are. Please!

    It just seems to me that (simplified generalization coming up) if you raise $300k and make a film that's going to (if everything goes perfectly) make $X, would raising an additional amount ($Y) specifically to pay for a name lead(s) increase the revenue of your film by at least the amount of the difference ($X + $Y), if not significantly more?

    Let's say hypothetically (and again I apologize to Justin for using him as an example) ALPFD makes $1 million. How much more would it have cost to have Wincott as the lead instead of a cameo, and how much more than that hypothetical $1M would the film make if he does so?

    This isn't about ALPFD or Justin's choices, so please don't take the wrong thing out of this post... it's about math. Numbers. Percentage ROI. If an indie film maker working at this level invests a significant portion of his budget (25% or more) into one or two very recognizable actors, how much more revenue can that film expect to generate?

    Because I'm thinking that if I have to raise an additional $100G to snag a name lead, but the film makes an additional $1M because I did so, it was well worth the investment.

    Again, this is a very, very simplified commentary on a complicated process, but I know that for me I'm much more likely to watch something if an actor I know and like is starring in it. I'll see Nobel Son because of Alan Rickman (for his acting) and Eliza Dushku (in case she finally gets naked) even though it looks like it may very well suck.

    So, am I wrong? Would it not be worth it (the extra money)? Why? Why not?

    Discuss... :P


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    Senior Member jls4's Avatar
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    Hey Jeff,

    I'll let Justin and Adam speak for themselves, but I can only tell you about my projects and me. Firstly I agree with your statements above, having a named actor as the lead over a cameo will probably make the movie make more money. But I think you're forgetting - or you have yet to experience - what this boils back to: Getting the Capital in the first place. I applaud the directors/producers of the world who have been able to raise $250K+. But raising $25K is not an easy task. For some it comes very easy, for others it's more difficult. But the point is that as a producer you raise what you can. I'm currently trying to raise $250K for my next feature. I'm using my current $28K movie to prove my ability and to get people to back me. So far I have a guy that is talking about putting $100K on the table. And that's awesome, but I really want/need $250K. So now I have to find more people willing to give money.

    I think you're getting caught up in Why not raise an additional $200K or whatever, but it's not easy to raise the first $200K.

    When I started out looking for investors for my next movie, I wanted to sell people on a 3 movie deal - where I would make 3 movies instead of one. I wanted to raise $5 Million, 1.6 mill per movie. I'm still going to try as much as possible. This would allow me all the flexability I would need, plus allow for what you are talking about - i.e. major stars as the leads instead of cameos. But if I can't raise this amount, then I have to do what I need to do in order to make a movie and advance to the next level.

    This is my take anyway .


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    jls4 - I've followed your posts and your 3 movie plan, an while I disagree with parts of it I think overall it's a great plan. And as a former Atl resident (Little 5 area) I think what you're accomplishing is great!

    I'm not forgetting the pains of raising capital at all. I'm currently in the process of raising almost $3M in start up capital for an internet video production company. And every moment of it has sucked. ;)

    However, depending on your network of contacts, I think that if you can raise $300k for a movie starring no one, you can raise $400k for a movie starring (name).

    On your last point about doing with what you have if you don't get the 1.6... say you get 500k instead... would you make a 500k movie or a 400k movie with a 100k name star (again I'm generalizing the numbers)?


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    Senior Member Jim Montgomery's Avatar
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    You also have to realize that the Wincotts and Cromwells of the world are at $18,000 per DAY. Or around $500,000 each for a thirty day shoot.


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    Senior Member jls4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Koenig View Post
    jls4 - I've followed your posts and your 3 movie plan, an while I disagree with parts of it I think overall it's a great plan. And as a former Atl resident (Little 5 area) I think what you're accomplishing is great!

    I'm not forgetting the pains of raising capital at all. I'm currently in the process of raising almost $3M in start up capital for an internet video production company. And every moment of it has sucked. ;)

    However, depending on your network of contacts, I think that if you can raise $300k for a movie starring no one, you can raise $400k for a movie starring (name).

    On your last point about doing with what you have if you don't get the 1.6... say you get 500k instead... would you make a 500k movie or a 400k movie with a 100k name star (again I'm generalizing the numbers)?
    If you can raise $3M remember my name and come see me. I can put that money to good use. ;-)

    For my next movie, I WILL have some names in it. In fact right now I plan on spending 50% of the budget on actors. Luckily for me, many Black Actors don't work as much as White ones do, so I maybe able to get them a little cheaper than $18K a day. I had a guy with a name, told me he would be in my movie for $3K (as a bargan, but normally it's $5K). He wasn't a big name, but when I mentioned his name to my friends, they all knew who he was. The $3K was the minimum he would take for the whole project, so for $3K he would come out for 2 or 3 days, but I couldn't just pay him $1000 a day. Unfortunately I only had $1500 so he wouldn't do it.

    What I'm hoping is to get two people for about $15K for the whole project over about 4 to 5 days, I guess about $3K a day. I figure I can shoot about 3.5 scenes a day for 4 days that's 14 scenes. My average movie runs about 70 scenes with many of those being small shots like an exterior or the car, or the lead actor alone for a moment. So I can have 14 scenes x 2 minutes = 28 minutes of star in a 90 minute movie and have two of them in it, so now at least half of my movie has star power. I think I'll be good.

    If we can raise $300K then i'll try to have the stars longer and I'll try to get 3 instead of 2 and maybe see if I can get maybe 3 more to come out for 1 day shoots, just to add color to the mix. The next project, I'd love to have a major White Actor, I think I could do $10K for 2 days for 1 actor like a Cromwell, but not $18K, but you never know. The difference between $300K and $400K if I was able to raise it would change the scope of everything.

    I know I can shoot a great movie with very few if any compromises on Prod Quality for about $170K, so anything above that for like a $400K movie would definately go towards marketing and actors.


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    Senior Member jls4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Montgomery View Post
    You also have to realize that the Wincotts and Cromwells of the world are at $18,000 per DAY. Or around $500,000 each for a thirty day shoot.
    Is that the real price or are you just giving an estimate? Can I pm for the exact number? (grinning sheepishly)


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    Low Budget Ninja Nathyn's Avatar
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    All I can say is Joe Estevez. His name can get your film on the video shelf. I can't get WENN (the World Entertainment News Network) to write crap about me but at the point they thought we "might" be doing a film together WENN contacted me. Can you believe it. Joe is famous in many places around the world and has been in almost 200 films and I hear he's easy to work with. He may be a good value for some of you if you got the cash. He may be willing to work with you too if he likes the script.

    -Nate

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    Senior Member Martay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jls4 View Post
    Is that the real price or are you just giving an estimate? Can I pm for the exact number? (grinning sheepishly)
    I'm sure it's real.

    I've been quoted higher for relatively the same level of actors.

    I promptly laughed out loud and said, thanks but I think we'll be looking elsewhere.

    Honestly, it's comedic at times what some moderate name quotes are...at least in my opinion.

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    Senior Member jls4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martay View Post
    I'm sure it's real.

    I've been quoted higher for relatively the same level of actors.

    I promptly laughed out loud and said, thanks but I think we'll be looking elsewhere.

    Honestly, it's comedic at times what some moderate name quotes are...at least in my opinion.

    -M
    I understand. I think maximizing the amount of time for this "cameo" actor can do alot. When we brought in our "Celebs" for "Voices" even she was surprised at how quickly we shot 5 scenes and did a photoshoot! We go teverything done in the scope of 9 hours and that included 30 minutes for Breakfast and 45 minutes for a lunch break!

    We were organized and that's how you have to be. I mean she was nowhere close to $18K a day, but the amount she charged me was a lot of money to me- at least right now and I was trying to maximize that.

    I think what no one talks about (although they do imply it) is the concept of actor to dollar ratio. I mean some actors bring in dollars, while others don't. A recent article in the Hollywood Reporter (I believe) said that Matt Damon had the best dollar ratio of any actor, while Nicole Kidman had the worst.

    So basically if you pay Matt Damon 10 mill, on average he'll bring in x amount, so say for every dollar you give him the movie will make ten dollars. while with Nicole Kidman for every dollar, she may bring in 2 dollars. These are actual numbers because I don't know what the amounts truly are because I forgot where the article was.

    But the point is, what does the average indie movie sell for?
    What's the avg amount for Stright to DVD for your Genre?
    How much are you paying an actor?
    How strong is your actor's face to pull the max amount for the distribution method?

    I mean say you have Tom Pitt (my fictional celeb actor) and you get him in your indie flick for $15K a day. You pay him $60K for 4 days and get 12 to 14 scenes out of him, so he's in 28% of the movie. You slap his face on the cover and have good prod quality and a decent story. You sell to a distributor for $500K and your whole production cost $250K.

    Now say you find another actor with a "good face" you pay them $4K a day for 4 days. $16K. With them you can sell for say $480K, but your cost is now $46K cheaper. The second actor is the better choice.

    I think people get caught up in the super dupper actors, but there is a limit to what the avg D to DVD movie is going to make anyway. And the ratio is impt.


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    Low Budget Ninja Nathyn's Avatar
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    It depends on what you're doing. There are actors that will make your indie film sale but not your A film. And some of those guys run cheap or will charge you based on your budget. How many here are doing A films? Exactly. You can indeed find people. Ask around. Look on IMDB. Look at well known B films and see whose being talked about in those films.

    -Nate

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