Feature documentaries giving value for money
Compared to the typical ‘Hollywood’ film, feature documentaries cost a fraction of the price to make, yet their impact can be disproportionately effective. And their lifespan is extensive – further extending the film’s value.
Additionally, some feature documentaries not only raise issues, but can indirectly also have a positive financial impact relating to their subject (Black Gold helped raise awareness of Ethiopian coffee farmers with a direct impact on their income).
All the same, significant budgets need to be raised!
As feature documentary films are made primarily for a cinema audience, the scale or time-frame of the production is often greater than, say, a film made specifically for television. Often the distribution reach of a feature documentary will be much greater (international) and its lifespan longer. Feature documentaries will also go on to have a DVD release, and television broadcasts, further extending the reach and life of the film.
Feature documentaries therefore require larger budgets than a standard television programme.
And how the budget breaks down….
There are a number of key items which account for a considerable percentage of the overall budget for a 80-90minute film for cinema. Depending on the scale and production value of the film, the budget can average anywhere between £350-750k.
- Research and Development – this can be over a long period (6-12 mths), entail detailed investigation and possibly travel, and some preliminary filming.
- Production period – because of the nature of documentary, this also can take place over a prolonged time-frame, but a three month production period is average.
- Post production – editing is the most time-consuming element and can take anywhere from 3-6 months. As has often been said, ‘documentaries are made in the edit suite’, not forgetting original soundtrack.
- Finally, there is the marketing of the film and the whole campaign outreach.
From the original idea to the completed film, you are often talking about sustaining a 2-4 year commitment to any feature documentary film by a team of people…and in case you were wondering, documentaries have MUCH smaller teams that fiction films!
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