Wednesday, 17 June 2009

But how does it make money?

I’ve recently obtained some work as an extra. I’ve done some work as an extra before, and if you have made an extensive study of the film “Starter for 10”, you will have seen me a grand total of 3 times, but then, actually, if you have seen me and made a note of the superb performance that I gave, then I’ve been a lousy extra as they’re meant to melt into the background...

The thing I’ve noticed is how much time, effort, and money is being piled into this film even at such an early stage on a relatively inconsequential group of extras. I’ve already attended a fitting that was being run by several costume workers, the pay for the two days filming and the fitting itself is pretty good, and they include travel money as well. It’s also clear that there are a lot of extras that they need to work with.

My question therefore is how on earth do these damned things make money? If vast quantities of time and money are being spent on extras that are in essence untrained instructable monkeys like myself, what are they paying the camera crews, the sound departments, the writers, costume and makeup departments or the name actors, not to mention any post production that's done?

I realise that films can get fairly decent budgets and grants and can pull in a lot of money from the box office, but the scale of these productions seems gigantic, even on smaller low-budget films. I was staggered by the size of operation that was responsible for the 15 seconds of film that my 12 hour day on the set of “Starter for 10” turned into.

Finally, if you can make a decent argument for “films do make money actually”, then transfer the question to television. Clearly we’re on a smaller scale again, but I see the methods of making money through television even more intangible. Really, where does it come from? I can only assume the license fee comes to an enormous sum and revenue from advertising produces the equivalent for non-BBC counterparts.

Maybe I can’t think big. Maybe I can’t see the larger picture when it comes to film and television and revenue therein. Maybe I’m alone in thinking that somewhere, someone forgot to carry the 1 and is now sat billions of pounds in debt but doesn’t want to tell anyone because everyone enjoys film and television too much. Whatever the case actually is, from the minimal amount of time I’ve spent “working” on film sets, I’ve gained a huge appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into even the crappiest of productions.

Additional Notes:

Of course, having seen how much time effort and money goes into these things, it’s even harder to reconcile it with examples of where they just don’t get things right. Not enough films start with a script…

As a quick reccomendation, Starter for 10 is actually a very enjoyable film. A bit quirky, but great fun, and yes of course I'm biassed.

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