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By True North Media

“How much does a video cost?” is the most common question we get. So, we’ve asked video creators to identify a video they like & let us know what they thought it would cost to produce. The only catch: IT’S NOT THEIR VIDEO (so all posts are merely an estimate by each video creator on what they thought a similar video might cost). Enjoy the series!

So, how much did that video cost?

GoPro!  Stick!  Action!  I know first hand from directing the 2014 direct-to-Netflix film ’11 Blocks’ that literally anything can be stolen in service of a great action film.  And that’s exactly what the producers of ‘Real GTA’ did – stole their own movie on the streets of Los Angeles.  With little more than a unlicensed video game adaptation, a dream, and a GoPro on a stick, they crafted a visually compelling ode to Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto.

So we know that a bunch of dudes can go out and film their own action extravaganza for free, right?  But what if they actually had to produce it for someone?  Properly budgeted, with permits, SAG actors, the whole nine.

Let’s start with the filmmakers, and guess that the film was shot over three days.  Directors can come in at about 10,000 per day.  A commercial DP can range from 5K to 8K.   Add to that assistant camera, gaffers, grips, PAs, hair, makeup, wardrobe, stylists, each at their own rate, and the initial filmmakers cost alone for a three day shoot could be about 70,000 in staff alone.  Add a few producers taking 20 percent of the total budget, and that cost would go higher.

Let’s add actors and stunt actors: I count about 20 actors with significant parts, alongside a bevy of stunt performers, both digitally enhanced and real.  You also have to employ stunt coordinators and EMT personnel. Stunt work is the illusion of danger, but in many cases people do actually get hurt.  This could easily get into the 60-80K range very quickly.

Camera department: This part actually feels very cheap and clever.  The GoPro is an ubiquitous, cheap camera.  The filmmakers found a very satisfying looking way to mount it on a stick in combination with a stabilizing gimbal, giving the image an almost drone-like effect.  The camera can easily be ‘ran’ between vehicles, follow a bicycle, a person, and a whole host of other positions only attainable with great expense and difficulty on larger camera systems.  Kudos!  Cost – likely about four thousand dollars – to own everything!

Hmm, how about filmmaking rights to actual game?  Assuming they were actually for sale, think about it like this – the Terminator franchise rights cost 20 million dollars.  This is a franchise which made about 200 million dollars at the box office before beginning to sell it’s rights.  Rockstar Games’ GTA franchise has made about two Billion dollars over all of its releases.  So to stick to the 10 percent rule, that would be about 200 million dollars to secure the filmmaking rights.

Street permits, cars, gunfights: This would likely involve hiring extra safety personnel, Police on set, locked streets, personnel to lock the streets and PAs to stand basically everywhere to make sure no one unwittingly wanders into your dangerous area.  I’d add another 70-80K here for what was probably two ‘danger days’.

Okay, it’s all on the SDHC cards.  Let’s get into post.  It looks like there was a huge variety of digital work done on almost every shot in this piece, from subtle stabilizing, tracking, to the more obvious things like the digital bicycle stunt through the trees, the car hits, the bullet hits, and the money exploding out of every punch victim.  It would take a team of six: post supervisor, 3D artists, and editors working for about two weeks to successfully get through the 3 minute running time.  Add a final colour grading session and of course a sound mix, and you’d be well into 50-70K or so for post – on the low end.

Say that the rights aren’t an issue, and that Rockstar Games somehow asked you to quote them a short film set in the GTA world: I’d guess you would be putting a quote for about about $250,000-$300,000 USD on the Executive’s desks.

Matthew Bennet is the Executive Producer at True North Media. Check out more from them on their website

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