I heard an NPR story last week about Disney cutting back. Basically, the story said that making movies is really expensive. And Disney knows they have more success with these big family films like Pirates. So, they have decided to cut back the number of films they make per year (from 18 to 8 ), betting on the ones more likely to do well at the box office. They are gong to layoff a whole bunch of folks and save a lot of money. Sounds good, unless they make a few stinkers, at which point the strategy will look pretty dumb.
This news got me thinking about the paradox between movies being so expensive and our experience with nonprofits – production costs have gone down and our clients can do a lot more for a lot less than they could before.
I think Superman Returns cost, what, $215 million? And it was shot with HD video and not film. The big expense on that one was animation and graphics – the guy needed to fly and it needs to look real. But at the same time, movies don’t have to be so expensive. Look at Spy Kids, where Robert Rodriguez made a film with a DV camera and went under budget. What’s expensive? Big stars are expensive. Johnny Depp got $20 million for Pirates plus a piece of the gross. Wow.
Not all feature films cost so much. Sure, I love the big movie with all the effects once in a while. But I just saw the Jim Sheridan movie, In America, and I will take a small film like that over a big one like Superman any day. And its this kind of movie that brings me back to what we do.
We want the nonprofits we work with to create the small films – the simple stories about what they do every day. We know the museums that have real stars on their staff. We know the social service agencies that have real heroes on theirs. Our goal is to capture those stories of the real people on the ground, in the trenches, working their butts off. These films aren’t the ones that cost so much to make, but they are the ones you don’t forget.