Why $420,000? A dive into the JQ3 Budget.
This is long update, so for those of us who are busy, but who still like information:
- tl:dr Films cost money and we're spending as little as we can to do it right. See the bottom of this post for the Q&A.
WHY DOES JQ3 COST SO MUCH?
Several backers have asked for a more detailed explanation of how the JQ3 budget breaks down, as well as why it's more expensive than Season 2. We're happy to share!
A film budget is broken down by line item and category. Let's begin with pre-production, since many of the development expenses have already been paid.
ABOVE THE LINE
These are the people who get credited in the beginning of the film and receive flat rates. That includes director, executive producer, producer, line producer, and so on. They will work for months or years in advance of the project shooting, then for months or years afterward. For all the work, the total cost of this category is only around $21,000.
Pre-production is where we plan the machine that goes into motion on day one. We build costumes and sets, scout locations, test gear, create special makeup and prosthetics, and employ the office team who keeps track of everything and creates the plan itself. Some of these people will work for two days of prep. Others will get as much as fifteen days.
- Line Producer, designs the detailed financial plan
- Director, creates and communicates the creative plan
- Producer, oversees the entire process and merges the creative and technical plans
- Director of Photography, makes shot lists and storyboards, chooses gear, chooses a team, runs camera tests, coordinates the look with the production designer, hair, makeup, and costuming
- 1st Camera Assistant, assembles the gear, tests everything, makes sure all of the rental pieces work together and won't break or fail on set
- Production Designer, designs and oversees the world of the film, which the art, wardrobe, and makeup departments will build
- Art Director, runs the logistics and budget to implement the Production Designer's plan, plus builds a ton as well
- Set Decorator/Props, builds and sources props, figures out rentals, finds or builds everything we need to bring the sets themselves to life
- Gaffer, gathers enough lights to fill a 5-ton truck
- Key grip, works with the gaffer to fill that 5-ton truck with the grip gear that will hold up the lights, support the camera's movement, and rig anything else that we ask for
- Key makeup/Key Prosthetics, sculpts the molds for the fantasy characters, tests them on the cast members (this really takes months)
- Wardrobe, creates dozens of fantasy costumes in ten days, sources armor, solves the fantasy shoe problem (it's always a challenge!)
- Script supervisor, breaks down every scene in the script to be fully prepared to track continuity as we shoot
- Location manage, travels the state to look for and negotiate to use all the locations we'll shoot at
- Production assistant x 2, runs errands, works with the assistant director to plan on set operations, keeps the office moving smoothly
- Craft service, buys the food and finds the supplies to keep the cast and crew fed in between meals (twelve hour shooting days
Now, add all of those crew and days together and you'll find that we've already spent over $20,000 of our dollars on the crew and we haven't even started shooting. And every single one of these professionals would typically have much MORE time to build all of this. These are the absolute minimums necessary to prep a show of this size.
We've covered many of these roles already, so we'll just run down the list of who we need on set in order to shoot what we need. We have a fifteen day shoot planned, which is about ten days less than a typical indie would ask for. Every one of these people is crucial for a production of this size and scope.
- Line Producer
- 1st Assistant Director
- Director of Photography
- Media Manager
- 1st Camera Assistant
- Production Manager
- Production Designer
- Art Director
- Art Coordinator/Props
- Set Decorator
- Best Boy Electric
- Key Grip
- Best Boy Grip
- Sound Mixer
- Key Makeup
- Makeup Assistant
- Wardrobe Assistant
- Script Supervisor
- Stunt Coordinator
- Digital Effects Supervisor
- Production Coordinator
- Still Photographer
- Location Manager
- Production Assistants
- 1st Aid/Medic
- Craft Service
- Extras Coordinator
- 2nd Assistant Director
And with that, we've suddenly spent another $100,000, so that these professionals can receive a paycheck, pay their rent, buy groceries, and take the time out from much more lucrative commercial work to bring this series to life. Many of these crew members will lose money while on this production, because they are turning down commercials, corporate shoots, and Hollywood features.
Even with a cast and crew that knows how to treat locations well, that many people and that much gear cause wear and tear. We also have to get to and from the best locations. Expenses in this category include:
- Location Fees
- City Permits
- Car Rentals
- Parking, Tolls, and Gas (remember, we're driving around massive, gas-guzzling trucks that are full of gear, set pieces, wardrobe, lights, etc)
- Truck Rentals
- Daily Breakfast and Lunch for our cast and crew (these are twelve hour days, remember?)
- Craft Service Food
Guess what? We just spent another $25,000!
ART & WARDROBE
We've paid for the labor, but materials still cost money. Here's where we cover:
- Prop Rentals
- Prop Purchases
- Wardrobe Rentals
- Wardrobe Purchases
- Makeup and Prosthetic Materials
This is where we wish we could spend WAY MORE than the $21,000 in the budget. If our world ever doesn't look big enough, this is why.
Sometimes we need to build and dress (decorate) sets. Dwarven burlesque taverns are not easy to find in real life.
- Studio rental for build days
- Studio rental for shoot days
- Materials (paint, lumber, hardware, textiles, etc)
We can squeeze this in for around $15,000. We wish we could spend $50,000.
We'll be renting equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. We can get it for around $12,000, not counting the insurance premiums that we have to pay.
Let's be honest. We're talking about having porta-potties delivered to sets so that our cast and crew can have some privacy when they poop in the woods. Also, batteries. Lots of batteries. You can never have enough batteries. And petty cash for when you need money now, on set, to send somebody to buy that thing that we forgot. $5000.
We want to give our incredible cast all of the money. Sadly, we have a total of 104 shoot days, which is how we add up all of the cast and all of the days they're on set. And we have extras and an extras coordinator. Then we have fees for the talent agencies (10-20%), the Screen Actors Guild, and of course, Worker's Comp and so on. This will probably be around $40,000. They deserve so much more. Oh, and we need airfare and hotel rooms for the cast members who no longer live in the state.
We've shot the film. Now we have to pay more professionals to:
- Color Grade (so it doesn't look washed out and ugly)
- Visual Effects
- Sound Effects
- Sound Mixing
- Titles & Graphics
- Plus somebody to manage all of these moving pieces, the Post-production Coordinator (just kidding, we can't afford one of those)
In the past, this is where we've saved ourselves tens of thousands of dollars, because we had a company member who could do half of these jobs for free. Yes, free. He's not available this time, so we have to pay. Even so, most of our post is still done in house and we like to undercut our pay when we're the ones working on things, so we can keep post to around $40,000. It should be over $80,000.
With fringes (payroll taxes and SAG fees are examples of fringes), payroll, and a 5% contingency fund (it should be 15%), our total current budget is $321,066.94. (As a reminder, the chart explaining the additional costs—like rewards fulfillment, design, and project fees—is available on the main campaign page.)
WHAT THIS MEANS
The good news is that we already paid for the script, the budget (cue laugh track), and the plan. And we'll only get paid for the months of building and running this Kickstarter if it succeeds. Literally three years of unpaid organizational labor has gone into figuring out how to bring this Season Three script to life.
So, why do we need $325,000 to make the show? Let's rephrase the question. Why don't we need $800,000?
The answer is important: because we believe in JourneyQuest. Because you believe in JourneyQuest. Because we are all taking huge pay cuts for a passion project that needs to exist in this world. Because we're committing to long, hard days, rain or shine, snow or sleet, to finish this show on time and on budget.
Why can't you make the show for less?
Why can't you cut the script?
If we cut the script in half we could save maybe 20% of the budget. Would you rather spend 80% for a half season or 100% for a full season? And actually, we already cut many scenes, including much of the orcs, additional material with Perf, more character development, and so on. We're now at the bare bones in order to tell this part of the story.
Why is this season so much more expensive?
Because back when we committed to upgrade Season Two to a feature-length season, we didn't have a script. We were younger, dumber, and more dewy-eyed. For Season Two the Kickstarter raised around $114,000. Our production budget ended up being closer to $160,00. And we were paying minimum wage to professionals who typically make far more than that. And the shoot was sometimes hell on earth. (Go watch the behind-the-scenes material on the DVD. We'll wait.) But we powered through because we believe in the show and we believe in fulfilling our obligations to you, the fans.
This time, we took the time to get the script right. We took the time to budget properly. And when we realized how much it would cost, we took the time to run the RenewJQ campaign to see if there was enough fan interest to continue. We promised you that if 4200 fans signed up to become Kickstarter backers, we would launch the Kickstarter, we would make the show when it funded, we would make it amazing, and we would make it right.
And here we are!
As a fan supported company, we are unique in the world of television and film production. We don't sell out. We don't water our stories down. We promise that only you, the fans, can cancel a show. And only you, the fans, can renew it.
It would have been easy over the last three years to cancel JourneyQuest. It's too big. It's too expensive. It's too hard. But you kept the faith. You even stepped forward to pay Matt and Kate for their time and talents writing the script. And because of you, we would not give up on JourneyQuest. It's why we're here today, even though it seems like a massive, scary goal. You believed in us and now it's our turn to believe in you.
It's time to RenewJQ.
Thank you for your support and encouragement! ONWAAAAAARD!
A few technical notes for die-hard fans and inquisitive souls:
- The numbers above are intentionally left rough and rounded. You can trust that our internal budget numbers are far more precise, which would we cover line-by-line if this were a film school master class.
- Some shows require smaller crews and faster shoots. They don't have dwarves and orcs and ogres and fantasy villages.
- Some roles may sound like they're the same and some may differ in our internal definition from what they are in Hollywood. Each one fulfills a very specific and necessary function for a show of this size.
- The rabbit hole when budgeting always goes deeper. If you would like to learn more about the process, we recommend taking some film budgeting classes or becoming a production office assistant accountant.
- No, we are not going to work for free, nor will we ask that of others. We would love to do this all the time, every day, but we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our families not to end up homeless. Just because it ends up available for free on YouTube doesn't mean that it costs nothing to produce. We're trying to build a better world here—and a better model for the indie film industry—and that includes sustainable practices and fair pay for our labors.