This is cross-post by Haphead creator Jim Munroe. It also appears on noediakings.org.
We started making Ghosts With Shit Jobs in 2009, released it in 2012 and screened it in 25 cities thanks to a Kickstarter campaign through 2012-13. We’ve learned a ton and recently applied what we know now to a proof-of-concept trailer for a new project — it’s called Haphead, and features the infinitely stretching electronics factory pictured above. And bunny-ninja fights.
But before we move on we thought we’d talk frankly about the numbers behind our lo-fi sci-fi feature.
We attracted attention to the project by being up front about our original $4000 production costs, and now we want to do a final accounting in the hope that it’s useful and/or interesting to other indie filmmakers. There’s a certain amount of pressure to not talk about this stuff when it’s not super-impressive — that somehow it hurts our credibility — but we think it’s useful to show people what very minor success looks like.
Ghosts With Shit Jobs cost $20,180.97 to create and promote and earned a gross of $39,317.18.
To date we have made a small profit of $19,136.21.
Happily we had a contractual agreement in place (read about our egalitarian model here) so it’s been a fairly straightforward disbursal. 54 people contributed a total of 7309 hours to the project, and the amount of hours they worked decides what percentage of the profit they receive — regardless of the role they played. We have issued cheques between $24 and $3,873.
Since $2.62/hr is a terrible wage, even compared to the characters in our movie, we prefer to think of it in a different way. We estimate that 6857 people saw the feature film for a total 10,286 hours of viewing time.
If you count the time people viewed the trailer (150K+ views) and the webisodes, that adds an additional 7130 hours. By this metric for every hour we laboured we created 2.4 hours of entertainment!
- Volunteer power allows passion projects like this to exist. Paying everyone on a similar project in the future at $15/hr would cost $109,635 — and it’d be below scale.
- We needed a lot of hours in post, mostly because we did way more effects shots than we should have and did an inconsistent job of location sound capture. We needed 20 ADR sessions (where the actors come in and lip sync to picture) to improve the audio as a result. Both of these things needed us to find technically experienced and like-minded individuals who were willing to donate their lucrative skills — quite difficult.
- Time logging works well with certain types of personalities, but you need a variety of personalities to make a movie. We ended up estimating a lot of the production time amounts based on an (Hours on Set) X (Prep Time) equation. Also, we had pros and amateurs helping out with VFX, and 1 hour from an expert took someone learning 5 hours of work. As a result we needed to manually adjust for experience in some cases so that people didn’t get less of a profit percentage because they were a more efficient worker.
- It’s harder to track hours watched when people aren’t in a theatre. There’s a chance people will buy a DVD or rent it on iTunes and only watch half, or not at all. But there’s also a chance they’ll watch it with a friend or two. So we’ve figured it’d even out, more or less.
- A small amount of audience members — the Kickstarter backers — accounted for a very large portion of the profits.
- The flights cost a lot of money, and it’s hard to gauge if our attendance put a lot more bums in seats. Or, for that matter, if it was a big factor in why people backed the Kickstarter campaign.
Ghosts With Shit Jobs is available on iTunes and DVD.