Well, I’m starting to feel it. Inflation is affecting the cost of making independent films. And I don’t just mean how much it takes to fill my gas tank to go location scouting or get to a movie set every morning. For big films, supply prices and other production costs may dramatically change budgets, as explained in this June article: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/hollywood-production-costs-20211234961515-1234961515/
The cost of lumber has even altered some of our decision making in early discussions of what we could build set-wise for our Western series Contention. But where I’m really seeing the results of inflation is in the cost of labor. You know, there’s that old expression, scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. A similar theory applies, not as optimistically, in this scenario: pinch my wallet and I’ll have to pinch the next person’s too.
Independent films like my own have always depended on the “deal”, the cost-cutting bargain for crew, cast, food, you name it. When I tell people the budgets of most of my films, they’re baffled as to how anyone could make any movie for such a low amount. It’s all because of incredible support and super thriftiness. However, just this week when trying to make an initial budget for a potential Texas-based Western, I was a little shocked at what I’m hearing. One crew member’s day rate has nearly tripled since I last worked with him during the summer of 2021. Now that might be the result of many factors, such as his success in the industry, but still… triple? I’ll wager rising prices has something to do with it. Another person quoted me twice to three times what I pay per meal per head on my regular movies. I didn’t expect to get the same friendly rate in a new state but two to three times as much? It would be cheaper just to eat at most restaurants. And let me be clear, I don’t necessarily blame these people but I don’t like getting pinched any more than they do.
So here it comes, a period of time where it’s going to be much harder for the filmmakers who have to cut corners to get movies made. Perhaps it means I’ll just have to bump up my budgets but, to put it in perspective, I’ve already increased those numbers to at least double of what we had for the 12 Westerns. So far, it just ain’t cutting it. And I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t start pinching investors’ wallets too. There’s a good chance that for some of us, this might be a hiatus from making independent films, or at least a significant decrease in productivity. Or there’s a chance I could just be wrong and that even in this environment, “if there’s a will, there’s a way” mentality could still win out at the end of the day. I hope so.