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Indie Film Will Eat Itself: Are lower budgets sabotaging crew-base?

Indie Film Will Eat Itself: Are lower budgets sabotaging crew-base?

In this fall’s Filmmaker Magazine, I investigate the way lower and lower budget films are making it hard for indie crews to make a living. In my Industry Beat column, “Below-the-Line Blues,” those working behind the scenes are enthusiastic about the ingenious and inspiring ways filmmakers are making more with less, but such circumstances are also making it difficult to survive.

As below-the-line agent Rebecca Fayyad of the Sheldon Prosnit Agency told me, “I have a cinematographer who just can’t do another $500,000 film because the rates are too small”–she pegs the micro-budget wage to be between $100 to $150 a day.

That might be a nice starting salary for a young designer looking to break into the business, but it’s tough-going for more experienced crew people who need to support families and want to continue to make art-house films.

The most passionate quotes come from Inbal Weinberg, a production designer on Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” and Jesse Peretz’s “Our Idiot Brother.” She told me diminishing budgets “inevitably leads to compromised crew conditions.”

The current indie industry is not viable if crew people must take on “shitty TV shows or soul-sucking commercials just to be able to make one art film a year,” she said. “Instead, build a viable indie industry where films can be made for just enough money to sustain people’s careers and lives. Then you’ll have a flourishing indie community where artists have the space to create and artisans can keep their dignity.”

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