Lionsgate Micro-Budget????

OK. So I hear the news that Lionsgate is all about making micro-budget movies now…(read me)… and I get to wonder: Weren’t they always about that? Or as close to that as a mini-studio can get?

Hell, Saw (which they only distributed) cost just north of $1M, and their sequels weren’t much more. Tyler Perry’s stuff is all in that same range as well, south of $10M or so. And now suddenly $2M is a ‘Micro-budget’? In my world, micro-budget is far south of that. Certainly south of $250K… more realistically south of $50K. We made Subject Two for less than that!

I know it’s cool and all to make a micro-budget film nowadays, but just because you call it ‘micro-budget’ doesn’t make it so. I mean — at least make the budget accessible to the common man, y’know? Or else what’s so micro about it?? (Maybe it just means you pay everyone with coins??? Or really small bills???? )

Here’s the sad irony here: With the appropriate producer fees, cast, administrative, distribution, and other overhead or ATL expenses, that $2M number actually would shrink down to at about half that number. Or less. And one micro-budget movie from Lionsgate could probably equal 4 or 5 micro-budget films from other filmmakers. And yet even despite that, if they’re spending $2M on a film, they’re still spending $20M+ on advertising… which arguably could be better spent by putting that money on-screen (at least in something more favorable than a 10:1 ratio in the marketing dept’s favor).

Hell, in the old days they would make a film and figure out how to market it. Now it’s the other way around. Woe is Hollywood…

Seriously. Let’s read between the lines here:

Lionsgate tries to posture themselves by announcing something they’ve always done, and in so doing manages to buy themselves some surface-depth indie street cred. They can also now justify paying people less because they’re only committing $2M to a budget that might normally be $5M or so (yet they can afford far more). And when they ask a writer, director and producer to work for under $50K each (or better yet, justify asking the hyphenate writer-director-producer to work for under $50K), they’ll also readily fess up that their studio exec’s are taking a hefty pay cut as well — even though those same studio execs have the cushion of the 9 other movies on their annual slate while the individual filmmakers do not). And this doesn’t even begin to touch the issue of skirting the unions…

Of course, the indie filmmakers will leap at the opportunity for such indentured servitude, all because Lionsgate has the carrot to dangle of great distribution, so it’s all “worth it”. And back-end deals will try to make it even more attractive to the filmmaker — though of course, this is Hollywood, and if ‘BACK END’ were a cryptogram, it would decode to read ‘FUCK YOU.’

So… such a ‘micro-budget’ system by a mini-major, though sounding good at first, is not so much a change of strategy as it is a change of facade. It’s still business as usual, just with a lower budget — and it’s not like Lionsgate can’t afford bigger budgets; they’re just choosing not to. Not a bad call, really. Because they can get away with it. Smart.

And to be clear – this may sound like (okay it does sound like) I’m bitching about Lionsgate. I’m really not. In fact, I love Lionsgate, and I love that they’re doing this. But I do think any excitement over their announcement needs to be tempered. Let’s look at the logic, not the headlines. They’re still looking for name talent (they sort of have to, really, to justify the marketing), and it’s not just actors: the directors and producers they’re working with will tend to be seasoned veterans. It’s the same game, just a smaller version and with less features. Sort of like ‘Monopoly Jr’. Or ‘Holiday Inn Express.’

Trust me, though, none of this is Lionsgate that’s irking me— it’s more like the current nature of the film industry. Revenue and attendance continues to dip and diversify, and everyone’s feeling it, including the big boys, so people and companies will do what they must.

But can’t the true indies still own the phrase ‘micro-budget’??? Is that too much to ask?

Fine. Go ahead. You Goliaths call it whatever you want. We’ll just go find some other term to coin. We could use ‘guerrilla’ — but that seems so old school. How about… Pocket change. That’s what we make: pocket change productions.

No. That sounds stupid.

Fuck! What are we going to do when they take away what we call ourselves??!!

I guess we’ll just have to rely on our own true grittiness to get us through. Wait — That’s it! True Grit Productions! I like the sound of it!!

Now if only that wasn’t taken, too…

 



This entry was posted on Thursday, March 31st, 2011 at 4:44 am and is filed under Rants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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2 Responses to ' Lionsgate Micro-Budget???? '

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  1. 1
    Jerome Stolly said,

    on April 1st, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    shouldn’t we be focusing on making good movies instead of what we call our movies? I’ve never understood the whole “budget as a genre” thing anyway. Micro-budget, Ultra-low budget, big budget etc. Let ’em have them all. It all seems silly to me and kinda weird that a movie’s budget has become part of its promotion or how it was categorized and genre-fied. I think that is what was so compelling about mumblecore films. They seemed to be rebelling against big budgets, little budgets, or any budgets at all…

  2. 2
    Josh Langland said,

    on April 2nd, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Really this just sounds like an extension of the studio produced “indie” movie. They aren’t technically independent, but they’ll use the label for marketing purposes. Seems like a similar deal here, only switch “Indie” with Micro-Budget.

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