Lynette Howell
Lynette Howell
As the force behind Silverwood Films, Lynette Howell has produced some of the most distinctive and successful independent movies of the last six years: “Half Nelson,” “The Greatest,” “Blue Valentine,” “On the Ice,” “Terri” and “28 Hotel Rooms.” Eight films in the Sundance Film Festival program in seven years is an amazingly strong record. In January, she launched Electric City Entertainment with frequent collaborator Jamie Patricof, and the duo has “Blue Valentine” filmmaker Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up “The Place Beyond the Pines” ready for its premiere at the Toronto film festival Friday, September 7.

Howell here provides a concise and concrete checklist for rookie filmmakers to steer them around common obstacles and guide them through a successful post-production.

1. Don't cut money from your post budget during prep.

The desire to cut money from post-production when you are trying to lock a budget or close a bond, or initiate cash flow from your financing source, can be strong. It seems easier than trying to cut a day of shooting or rework an expensive scene. The typical assumption is that money will be saved during production that you’ll then be able to add back to those post lines later. This is often shortsighted (if not delusional) since rarely is money saved during production that compensates for what was cut. And often, if this money is saved, it is inevitably needed for the unforeseen issues that arise throughout the making of the film. So be sure to keep an honest and realistic post budget intact from the start.

2. Know your director and his/her needs.

Every director has a different process. This relates to time needed to edit, the staffing support they need during the process or simply the way they work best. Talk to your director about how he or she has worked in the past and build a post schedule realistic to their needs. There are industry-standard schedules that directors are expected to adhere to during post-production, but if your director hasn't worked within these schedules before and is unable to deliver a cut in 10 weeks, then make sure everyone is aware of this up front — especially the financier or distributor. Often on independent films there is a bit more flexibility when working out the right post schedule for the director, but know this ahead of time and plan and budget accordingly so no one is surprised later on.

"The Place Beyond the Pines"
Focus Features "The Place Beyond the Pines"

3. Have a great post supervisor and bring him/her on early to consult.

Having a great post-production supervisor can save your movie time and money. They will have strong recommendations for all steps of the post-production process, and they are often able to negotiate better rates with vendors. I like to bring on my post supervisor to consult during prep while creating the budget. Vendors for sound, color and VFX will need to be included in the budget, and the bond company will require written proof of the bids, which a post supervisor can help obtain. They can also help budget and prepare the correct workflow for post based on the choice of shooting format.

4. Know your delivery costs.

Budgeting for a movie includes the costs of getting a movie into domestic and foreign distributors’ hands. This is another area where producers don't always realize they need to budget accordingly. Even if you are making a movie without domestic or foreign deals in place, at some point down the line you will have to figure out how to pay for your deliverables. Check standard delivery schedules for movies of a similar size and include these in your post budget. It is wise to have a post-production supervisor look at this, as not all line producers are as well versed in what is going to be necessary, especially given the astonishing rate at which technology changes.