Monday 19 January 2015

How to save money on your film production .... part 1

A short anecdote from my recent lunch with Len in London.

We had discussed the production of The Ipcress File and how it was kept to budget.

He recalled that on the call sheets for each days production that the white MGB that Nigel Greene drives in the film was his own; the Jaguar that Gordon Jackson drives was his own too; the Zodiac driven by Michael Caine was owned by a ‘Mrs Moss’; and the limo in which Dr Radcliffe is driven to Marylebone Station at the beginning of the film was Alex Paal’s Bentley (Alex Paal was a Hungarian producer and former stills photographer once married to Eva Bartok, a friend of Alex Korda and of Harry Saltzman)

That's a good trick for budding producers to learn. Don't money wasted on hired ‘action vehicles’ - use the cast's or friends'.


  1. Not surprised about the ways the budget of Ipcress File was tightly controlled. In those days, film producers could not borrow billions of pounds/dollars unlike for example in 2000 when Peter Jackson after presenting his story line and production ideas of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by his company WingNut Films, to a bunch of Hollywood money men in Hollywood, could borrow a few billions of dollars. Indeed, this money helped Peter Jackson to establish now famous Weta Digital unit to produce visual effects through computer generated Imagery (CGI) such as the character Gollum.
    Fast backwards from 2000 to 1965 to 1961 when Dr No production was envisaged.. Both Broccoli and Saltzman could only borrow £1 million. They were also forced to use the Moxon’s (John Strangeways) dentist in Jamaica as one of the three blind men ( “three blind mice”) in the title shots and a few other minor parts going to amateurs in Jamaica to cut costs.
    In those days in 1960s raising money for film production was difficult. I am not sure this is the case these days, particularly in US, where young IT entrepreneurs barely old enough to shave their facial hair are handed millions of dollars of loans by venture capital firms. Indeed, the venture capital culture pervasiveness has benefitted young persuasive film producers too, who could raise large loans from American and British investment banks by spreading film productions in US and Britain. Even the Wall Street has forayed into financing film productions. Budget could still be tight, but nothing compared to those days , we hear.

  2. I would add that Harry Saltzman was a shrewd businessman, who gathered from his assistants who read the novel Ipcress File, that the film version of it will be a success given the raving reviews of the novel, and the scenes set in London would not strain the very modest budget. The success will mean better budget allocation whilst filming the next novel, Funeral in Berlin, which was by then published, and will have scenes set in West and East Berlins. Again , there is parallel here, as Saltzman knew from experience that the first Bond film Dr No though was set in Jamaica, involved a straight flight with the actors and the crew, with the setting and extras in Jamaica not straining the modest budget. With the success of this film, the budget for second Bond film, From Russia with Love was increased to filming scenes in locations likeTurkey and Venice.

  3. The new Harry Palmer?

  4. Film industry is the one industry which is spending money like water. The producers don't think twice and obviously they don't compromise with the scene. They want high tech instruments for photography and filming. I completely agree with Simon.

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  5. Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing.