How to keep indie film budgets in check

Mandate's Nathan Kahane offers some tips

Nathan Kahane has worked at just about every budget level, having exec produced and produced more than 25 pics, including “The Grudge,” “Juno” and “The Strangers.” He is now prexy at Mandate Pictures, which he joined in 2001, before it was acquired by Lionsgate. He helped set up Ghost House Pictures, Mandate’s joint venture with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, and he still runs its creative ops. From the Detroit set of Mandate’s “Whip It,” Drew Barrymore’s directing debut, Kahane offered some tips from the trenches on how to keep indie budgets in check.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

“Locations are really important, because of all of the tax incentives. We’re shooting this movie in Detroit because the city and the state are so welcoming to film shoots. Michigan just introduced a 40% credit in April, which includes above-the-line costs, plus another 2% more if you shoot in Detroit.”

GET ON THE SAME PAGE

“The key is to achieve consensus on what the expectations are. Before our company gets involved in a picture, we will talk to all of the creative partners and get a real assessment of the expectations.”

ANTICIPATE THE BUMPS

“If we target a movie at a certain budget level — let’s say it’s $7 million — then we build an economy around that movie where every element conforms to that economy. But of course there are bumps in the road, certain unforeseen costs that arise, so you just have to know going in that those are coming. You need to create enough flexibility in your dealmaking that you’re able to shift as the project evolves.”

BUILD A GOOD TEAM

“A lot of it is down to the filmmakers and the others involved with actually making the movie happen. To point to ‘Juno,’ we had a director who believed in the financial cause.”

STUDIO OR INDIE?

“The biggest changes in the business have been in distribution, the quick rise and fall of these independent or quasi-

independent platforms. The line is getting a little clearer between what qualifies as a major studio project and what qualifies as an independent, and that has put downward pressure on indie budgets.”

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