Magazine article Screen International

Voltage's Nicolas Chartier Reveals Top Ten Tips

Magazine article Screen International

Voltage's Nicolas Chartier Reveals Top Ten Tips

Article excerpt

The Hurt Locker producer gives ten tips for producing award-winning films at the right budget.

Voltage Pictures president Nicolas Chartier, producer of The Hurt Locker and executive producer of Dallas Buyers Club, used his keynote speech at the Zurich Summit to offer ten tips for 'producing award-winning films at the right budget'.

The tongue-in-cheek speech, which went down a storm, included plenty of sage advice.

Chartier agreed to share the speech with Screen and below is the near-entire transcript...

'Good morning. So yesterday on the plane I was reading Hope For Film, the biography of Ted Hope who for those who don't know him, was one of the founders of Good Machine, a great independent company which produced Crouching Tiger, Ice Storm, In the Bedroom, Brothers McMullen and many other independent films.

He wrote, I quote: "To make art, survive independently, and make a living that is tied to modest financial gain, you have to be driven. Success is not as important to you as the pleasure of what you're doing, the love and respect for what you're creating, and the ambition to take culture further." I guess for me, that's what this keynote speech should be about.

So let's go through a top ten list of advice, tips, and the things that went right, and wrong on making some of the films:10. Money, I can't win if I don't play.

There is no right budget. Roger Corman, master of low budget movies, turned down Waterworld because the budget was going to be $5m, which he thought was too much. It ended up being $200m plus. We all have a different opinion of what the budget should be.

For me the right formula to calculate an award-winning film budget is: You take the budget your director wants in a perfect world, and you start by cutting it as much as possible; then you deduct the value of the film in the marketplace that you can get out of foreign sales depending on the world economy and politics of the day (for example, right now zero in Russia, zero in Italy, zero in Spain...).

Then you add the tax credits you can get depending on where you shoot, which is always a fun discussion. If the director wants to shoot in Los Angeles, you suggest New Orleans or Romania; if he wants New York you suggest Pittsburgh or Romania, and if he wants Miami you just tell him again about Romania.

To finish calculating the right budget you try to guess what your film will sell for in the US when it's finished since usually no distributor wants to prebuy it (it's usually between zero and $5m), and then you add your appetite for risk or losing money. That's the most important part.

On Hurt Locker, we had no cast, a war movie, a director who hadn't made a film in seven years, and the film is my biggest financial success. Because we took 100% of the risk. On another film I took a financial partner, so now we lost half of the profits it made. And on several movies, we believed in them so much that we wanted to do the whole thing by ourselves, and then the films weren't great, they didn't win any awards, they weren't commercial at all either, so we lost it all.

But you can't win if you don't play. The right budget if you're putting the money up, if you're finding the money, is not just that film. It's also the next. Like the stock market and Las Vegas, have enough to keep making films. When you get kicked out of the table, you're out of the game. Just make sure you can keep coming back and try to make another award winning movie.9. I wish I knew which film was going to get an award.

I got lucky winning an Oscar for my first film, so I thought it'd be easy after, that I'd become Michael Shamberg or John Lesher doing plenty of great films back to back, and since I didn't get to go to the Oscars the first time, I was going to make another great film and win a second time, definitely the next year... Well it's been 4 years and I'm still trying...

The next one I produced was The Company you keep with Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf and oscar-winning actors and nominees Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper. …

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