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By Shehab Illyas, Filmmaker/Owner of Skylab Productions

“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?

I chose to look and break down a short film by Matthew Frost called “ASPIRATIONAL” Starring Kirsten Dunst for Vs. Magazine. I like this video because it is a social commentary piece that showcases our obsession with ourselves. We see our lives through a screen of technology and our surroundings are just opportunities to advance our self-worth in digital form.

I think this was possibly conceived out of a discussion that someone had or experienced and wanted to create a film that reflected an outside look at the narcissism that digital technology has brought us to.

This was produced by the magazine Vs. and they took Matthew’s vision and made it a reality. Let’s face it; a great artist can come up with great ideas but sometimes they get pushed aside as financing and resources come into play. I applaud the producers on taking a chance with this idea and making it a reality. It seems to have paid off as it is getting a lot of attention for everyone involved. I am not sure how much of the magazine presence has impacted the viewer, but it is a great piece of film and it shows that they can produce interesting and compelling content.

This looks like 16mm film to me, and it is quite possibly shot on film. If you look at Matthew’s history and other content he has created, he does seem to lean towards traditional filmmaking, but it could also be post processed to look and give it that quality.

So enough of my ramblings. This blog is about, “how much do you think it costs?” So here is what I think. There must have been a script and writing session and storyboards ($2000). Then into casting and pre production. Casting director ($500), and a location scout ($500). There are so many factors that could come into play here – is it a passion project for Kirsten and or Matthews? Or was he hired to create content based on this theme?

Let’s base this shoot on being hired to create the content and take the celebrity aspect out of it so the budget does not get inflated based on notoriety for the actor and director.

This was probably shot with one camera in one afternoon with a small cast and crew. An average day rate for your DP/camera operator ($1500 – with camera) and sound technician ($500). Let’s set the director fee at $2000 and then move on to talent. Your principal actor buyout could be at $1000 (extremely conservative) and the 2 others at $500 each (also extremely conservative), and 2 background (driver and talent with dog) at $300 a piece. Hair and makeup at $300 a day per person (there were 5 people on this shoot). Let’s say there was a $1000 wardrobe budget, and car rentals and permits for a street closure came to $2000 as well, and let’s add a budget line for digital storage/transfer and/or a DIT on set, or film stock at $1000. So we have $12,100 for the production.

Post looks quite simple, so let’s put in a day of editing with a technician at $1000. Sound mix, dialogue edit, and sfx at $2500 and colour correction, titling, and output at $1500. Music was composed and would be anywhere from $1000 – $3000, so let’s say $1500 since it is such a small cue. That brings post production costs at $6500.

That puts the project in and around $18,600. Well, of course, if this was just a fun project to do and they were all just friends then they probably could have done it for $4k with favours, beer and a pizza party. Conversely, if proper union and SAG rates were applied for the actors and music composers and crew then the budget would add a few more thousands to my guesstimate.

As you can tell, even a simple video can have a higher cost to it and it really does depend on the depth and complexity of the production. That being said, I am sure there will be videos that follow this same theme and would cost a fraction of what I have broken down here in this blog. Hmmm…. time to grab the camera, an idea, and some friends! I have to stress, though, that content is paramount and you do need a well-thought-out, compelling idea if you want any chance of success. Also, it’s lucky if your budget is more in line with the “friends and beer party” estimate…unless someone else is footing the bill, of course.

Shehab Illyas is the owner of Skylab Productions In Halifax, NS. Find out more about them on their website

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