Filmmakers cut costs to save budget

4 ways filmmakers cut costs to stay on budget

Procurement is all about buying goods/services in a deal that works best for the business. When purchasing goods, numerous criteria are key to securing the best possible deal – including whether the vendor’s wares are sustainable, whether they’re reliable and more.

However, cost is the one of the most important factors in selecting suppliers – after all, procurement is well-known in businesses for its cost-saving measures.

Filmmakers often, employ similar cost-saving tactics when producing some of the biggest blockbusters, and in this blog post, we examine some of the strategies they use to keep movies within budget.

#1 – Use lesser-known actors instead of established performersArnold Schwarzenegger

Hiring talent for a TV production is expensive. In fact, box office smash, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, spent a whopping $29.25 million + 20% of gross profits on the Austrian alone. The rest of the cast received a paltry $3.85 million for their remuneration.

The lesson purchasers can learn here is that when selecting an actor, or in this instance, a new supplier, perhaps the most expensive option isn’t the best option. There’s value to be had if you select comparable suppliers, or perhaps suppliers that aren’t as established to take advantage of a cheaper rate. For those vendors that are established, they’re able to command a significant fee because of their standing in the marketplace.

#2 – Take advantage of a cheaper region

Dubrovnik cheaper location for Game of Thrones

Many Hollywood movies are set in the US and are set within US cities. It’s relatively expensive to film in US cities because of regulatory issues, labour costs as well as the costs of compensating the local authorities for the disruption caused during filming.

As such, many production companies take filming for their projects to locations outside of the US. Canada is a popular destination, with lower labour costs and better exchange rates to take advantage of. It’s a similar story for other filming hotspots such as Malta, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and others.

In purchasing, and with Brexit fast-approaching, it’s a good idea to evaluate your existing suppliers. Would you benefit from moving your supplier abroad? Is it viable in a post-Brexit Britain, given the uncertainty around trading tariffs?

#3 – Source cheaper equipment

Camera Equipment

Filming the latest Hollywood blockbuster leverages some of the most expensive camera equipment available. Interstellar, the Christopher Nolan-directed, Sci-Fi film employed IMAX cameras which can cost around $12,000-$16,000 a week to hire. The purchase one outright, you’re looking at spending over $500,000.

It’s a similar story with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This film was filmed using specialised Panavision Film cameras – the same ones used to film the original trilogy. As these cameras are no longer widely available, director JJ Abrams had to fork out in excess of $600,000 per camera with more spent on the lenses.

Procurement professionals should take heed of this expensive tale. eAuctions are a great way of driving down costs. We wrote an article last year on

Auctions encourage competitive behaviour and by pitting suppliers against one another, and as such, you’ll almost inevitably see cost savings on your goods/services.

#4 – Take advantage of local economies and their talents

NI Location Game of Thrones

TV smash hit Game of Thrones has spent the last decade enthralling fans all over the world. HBO, the organisation responsible for producing and distributing the show has allowed a lavish budget, to push the boundaries of the production value of TV entertainment to new levels.

The result is a show that has spent more on per episode than any other, with a cost of approximately $15 million per episode aggregated. As such, the producers had to cut costs where necessary and as revealed in the series eight documentary ‘The Last Watch’.

In their Northern Ireland filming segments, they sent out invites to tender for wardrobe suppliers and a 2-man team won the contract – demonstrating that even the largest TV show in the world understands the importance of leveraging local talent and expertise.

Got anything else to add?

Cutting costs is an important part of any procurement process in any business. It’s often, the foundation of any successful spend management programme. Have you got any suggestions or tips you think that might be useful? Let us know on our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.