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Planning the Low Budget Film

  by Robert Latham Brown

Chalk Hill Books, L.A, March 2006, 416 pages, $29.95

Planning the Low Budget FilmLow budget film production is a chicken and egg scenario. For the production to be successful you need experience to avoid potentially costly mistakes. If you have that sort of experience already, you are unlikely to be making low budget films at all. If you want to go the low budget route, how do you get the experience you need to make a success of it?

The sensible and constructive answer to all these things is to get your hands on a copy of this book, Planning the Low Budget Film. It will cost you $29.99 which is excellent value and it is a good guide. Seriously good.

Robert Latham Brown who penned it, is known as Bob Brown in the business.  Mel Brooks calls him "Mr On-Budget." Bob Brown has had 30 years in the movie business and accumulated a lifetime of knowledge and hands-on practical experience, on location.


His credits include producer, line producer, production manager and 2nd unit director. His films include Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Return of the Jedi at the top end to The Anarchist's Cookbook at the $2m end of indie production and he has for the last ten years also taught film production at university level, which makes him a tutor of distinction. He can not only do it, but he really knows how to teach others to do it.

"This is THE guide to budgeting and scheduling a low budget film. "


The text divides into three sections; The Basics, The Schedule, The Budget, followed by an appendix of very useful information and sources as well as a complete budget.

The essential detail within these sections is the practical stuff anyone in production needs to have a firm grasp of. Filmmaking has evolved slowly to where it is today and it has evolved this way because only practices that work well have survived. It is not clever to re-invent the wheel, so following Bob Brown's layout of  film production method is probably the best exposure to the process you can get without being in a studio or on location to get it.

Brown not only feeds you the hows of everything, he gives you the whys as well. Many of the anecdotes he uses to explain these forwhys are amusing now, though were not at the time, but the funny stories will help to pin them in the memory. As permanent fixtures in a production board.

That reminds me of another important tool in the book. Before film scheduling software and film budgeting software was developed, people used the production board to schedule and budget their movies. Brown likes to use a production board and without the distractions of computer technology, it is still the best possible way to plan a production. The difference is that it is YOU who works the production board,  not a piece of software, so you become much more aware of what you are doing with your production planning and what the implications of any changes you make are going to be. It is going back to the drawing board to some extent, but this is a fallback position that still works efficiently without a megabit in sight.

"Even before securing the rights, secure this book. "

Brown's text is clearly laid out in sections and handy-size learning chunks and it is very readable. There are a few line drawings, topsheets and day-out-of-days tables to provide clarity where examples are needed, but this is a book for intelligent minds that are addressing a steep learning curve, so there are no distractions, just essential knowledge.

Bob "Mr On-Budget" Brown is a moviemaking mentor of distinction. No one can guarantee success with any movie, but armed with Bob Brown's formidable 30-year accumulated knowledge and insight is the best possible insurance against failure in production at any budget level. This is THE guide to budgeting and scheduling a low budget film. Even before securing the rights, secure this book.






PART 1              THE BASICS

                                    1 Why Low-Budget?

                                    2 How Do I Get Into This Business?

                                    3 The Script



                                    4 The Shooting Sequence

                                    5 The Production Board

                                    6 Lining the Script

                                    7 The Breakdown Sheets

                                    8 Creating the Production Board

                                    9 Scheduling the Board

                                    10 Locations

                                    11 The Day-Out-of-Days

                                    12 The Printed Schedule

                                    13 Scheduling Software

                                    14 Unions



                                    15 An Overview

                                    16 The Top Sheet

                                    17 Methods of Entry

                                    18 Above-the-Line

                                    19 The Shooting period

                                    20 Post Production

                                    21 Other Expense

                                    22 Tracking the Film's Progress

                                    23 That's a Wrap



                                    The Anarchist Cookbook Budget

                                    Shooting the Locket Sequence in Robin Hood; Men in Tights

                                    Sources of Supply and Information