From the monthly archives: "February 2014"
Credited to and Fox 2000 Pictures

Credited to

I still can’t believe the wide eyed expression I get when the first project item I talk with to prospective clients is about money. “What is your budget?” Is the first question I tend to ask after all the introductory small talk.

That number one important business question elicits the same expression as if you asked the person sitting across from you in the conference room, “Was that you who farted?” The response: dead silence, avoidance, uncomfortable banter unrelated to a dollar figure. You watch a person dance around the question, as if trying to move away from the rotten-egg smell, but the smell is obviously out there and needs to be addressed. I characterize it as “money talk discomfort.” Money talk verbally constipates people for various reasons.

If a car sales man asks what is your budget, most wise people would bat a low-balled figure back for fear of the car salesman taking advantage of a sales situation in the favor of the salesman. In this situation, people feel like a fool for being honest about how much money they have to put towards their purchase.

A good producer will ask you your budget, and then attempt to work within that budget. If you tell them you have a $50 Million budget, they are going to produce for you a $50 Million dollar movie. If you tell them you have a $5,000 budget, they are going to produce for you a $5,000 movie. So, what can you do to feel comfortable about turning over your budget to your producer? Interview a multitude of producers and review their different proposals for at least creativity, quality, super-itemized bids, and integrity are just six considerations I discuss in this article for getting to a bottom line that you can appreciate.

1. Tell various producers what your vision is and how close they can come to your vision based on your budget.

2. Creativity/Quality –  A good producer will be able to be very creative to get as close to your vision as possible by finding ways to save you money, cut corners, and be flexible, but still give you a quality product.

3. Super-Itemized – The budget should be “super-itemized” because you need to see exactly where the money is proposed to go. If you don’t know where the money is intended to go, you don’t know where you may be able to cut costs more if, by chance you go over-budget, or you just want to find a way to come in under budget.

4. Integrity- I consider budgets a reflection of the producer’s integrity. If a producer tells all of the bidders what to bid on, that lacks integrity. If a producer only tells only buddies about the request for proposals, that lacks integrity. If the producer allows one bidder to scoop up all of the bid on areas by a cherry picking method based on what the budgeted amounts are, that lacks integrity. The producer should not discuss money with any bidder unless the producer is negotiating the amount proposed by the bidder.

5. Written Contracts- Once you approve of the budget and bidders, a good contract is necessary. A tight contract will ensure your expectations are met. And, if they aren’t being met, you’ll have a legal leg to stand on if you need to pursue legal action.

6. Regular Monitoring- Meet with the producer regularly to reconcile the budget with the production schedule and current expenses. Have a checks an balances in place such that expense approvals must be made prior to the expense being made as opposed to after. Limit the amount of people who can approve expenses and make sure the consequences of spending money without approvals are well-publicized throughout all departments.

Realistically speaking, a movie studio that regularly produced movies, probably does have “buddies” that it works with, only they are referred to as “partners.” Usually, their are contracts already in place indicating what the studio is willing to pay for certain services. While those contracts are at low rates, the producer (or studio that hires the various producers) acting as a middle man, may hike up the proposal rates in order to make a profit. A good rule of thumb, is to get a lot of independent proposals, references, and sample work, and make the decision based on the best value rather than solely based a dollar amount. At least that way, your clients and partners can end their budget discussions on a rosy note.




At a networth of $400 million, Tyler Perry, writes, directs, produces, and stars in dual roles in his films taking in the lion’s share in profits. Photo credited to

A good comedian friend of mine used to make me laugh because he’d greet me by saying “Hey, Jamaican! How you doin’?” I’m not a native of Jamaica. So the funny part is my friend was merely teasing me because he seemed to always think I had so many independent projects in my hustle that I was behaving like a very hard-working Jamaican immigrant. So, I couldn’t help opening with this anecdote when I considered writing about the benefit of dual roles in low-budget indie films.

Anyone with a couple million dollars in the bank to make a low budget film may feel like they’ve hit the jackpot preparing for a SAG-AFTRA feature. However, even before the cameras get to action, much of the budget is already spent. When trying to figure out different ways to shoot a movie on a shoestring budget, never underestimate the power of dual roles.

Whenever I see a movie with dual roles, I immediately consider how smart the actor is as well as the producer. The actor has the opportunity to earn more on the back end. However, the producer, can earn more on the back end, but also can save on the budget. The cost of feeding multiple actors, paying multiple actors, sharing profits with multiple actors, and generally pampering multiple actors is offset by the cost of talented make-up artists, hair stylists, and wardrobe crew.

Just ask Eddie Murphy and Tyler Perry. They are both known for playing multiple dual roles in a string of movies. Eddie Murphy has played dual roles in Coming to America, Norbit, The Nutty Professor, and Bowfinger to name a few. Tyler Perry has scored big hits playing dual roles in his well-attended Madea movies where he cross dresses as Madea but also plays the character of Madea’s brother, Joe, and Madea’s nephew, Brian. Undoubtedly, their checks stay fat!

John Noble who played a dual role on Fringe reportedly stated he received no extra pay for playing a dual role since he played different versions of the same character. However, many actors opt for lucrative profit-sharing deals over higher salaries during shooting. in 1989, Jack Nicholson reportedly accepted $6 million upfront for his role in Batman rather than his regular A-list $10 million. Reportedly, he also entered into a profit-sharing deal to offset the shabby upfront earnings. Since Batman earned more than $500 million worldwide (adjusting for inflation), Jack Nicholson may have pocketed $50 million for playing a single role. Not so shabby! Dual and multiple roles can be even more lucrative under the right conditions.

By accepting a lower salary during shooting, they can share in a film’s total earnings which may significantly increase their earnings. Profit sharing contracts are usually engaged in by principle actors and key crew. So, actors that are playing a dual role, can definitely share in more of the profits than an actor playing a single role. The more money a producer saves on the budget, the more profitable the movie will be in the long run. When the net earnings are tallied, there will be more profit to pass around and an actor playing dual role or multiple rules will get dealt profits more than once from the same pot.

Coincidentally, as I was inspired to write this post when I came across a blog of a young Asian girl who has been able to use make-up techniques to transform herself into at least 13 different characters as of the date of this post. This girl beat her face so talentedly, in some of the photos, she doesn’t even look Asian. Not convinced? Check it out for yourself here. Assuming anyone who can transform themselves so in such a believable manner, and possesses mad acting skills, there is a definite possibility to make a more profitable movie and keep everyone happy at the same time.