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It’s all on the screen

How this year's contenders made the most of their budgets

TIP SHEET
What: DGA Awards
When: Saturday
Where: Beverly Hilton
Host: Carl Reiner
Presenters: Cate Blanchett, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Ian McShane, Virginia Madsen, Steven Spielberg, Hilary Swank

In a year in which several studios gave big-name directors enough budgetary rope to hang themselves, Alexander Payne, Clint Eastwood, Marc Forster and Taylor Hackford — all up for Oscar’s best pic trophy, as well as the DGA’s top prize — distinguished themselves with acclaimed films made on tight budgets, sacrificing lavish spending for ample creative control.

“You try to find creative solutions for your problems when doing a smaller film,” says Forster, director of “Finding Neverland.” “If you have a really big budget, you tend to throw money at the problems.”

Forster adds that tighter budgets also foster a useful sense of creative independence.

“If you’re making an $80 million film or a $70 million film, you lose some of your control,” he explains. “You have to cater to a wider audience. If you have a modest budget, people leave you alone and let you do what you want.”

With modest spending in mind, here’s a pic-by-pic look at the financial environments that each DGA-nominated helmer operated under this year. The list also includes Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” a film with the kind of cast and production requirements that make its $110 million budget seem less than lavish.