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COMMENT Budgeting and controlling costs by Den Lennie T his is a very important aspect of running a production, and one you have to keep a close eye on. It’s very simple; you have your actual hard costs in one budget and you have what you’re charging the client in another. Let’s say you charge the client £450 per day for the camera package, but the rental house is only charging you £350. Having those figures in separate budgets allows you to calculate your overall gross margin for the project. If you want to make a good profi t in production, you have to be fi rm in making a margin on every aspect of the production you can. Remember, there is nothing wrong with being friendly to your clients, but you are delivering them a service and you should be making a profi t for that. Continually referring to your working budget’ will keep you in a safe position for maintaining your margin. If you don’t keep an eye on this, costs can quickly spiral out of control. Also, certain aspects of production can come in under or over what was budgeted for, and so having an overall tally on a spreadsheet will often mean that if you go over in some segments and under in another, you’ll maintain a positive position overall. I recall one project, where I had estimated the cost for a location higher at nearly £500, purely down to unforeseen costs on location. I had budgeted £400 per day for the client budget, thinking it was costing me £350, but in actual fact I was a £100 out of pocket per day on that line item. However, I’d made some economies on other aspects of the production, plus the hotels had not come in quite as expensive as I’d estimated, so I was able to offset the loss against these, which balanced my production budget. Parking and incidentals are other sneaky expenses that can really mount up, so make sure you 40 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 106 OCTOBER 2015 factor in a generous amounts to cover them. Clients will understand if you explain this to them. In some parts of London, parking can be as much as £20 per hour, which can be £160 per day for an eight hour shooting day. Be careful not to get caught out. So, have two budgets. Just make sure the client doesn’t see the hard cost budget – not that it’s any of their business - but you don’t want them seeing where you’re making your profi t margins! Write everything down To manage production effectively, it’s important that you document everything. I use a variety of tools to do this. I use Google Drive and do my budgeting using the spreadsheet function, and it stores everything on the cloud. I also like the fact that I can share documents with other members of the production team and we can work on them simultaneously. This is particularly useful at the planning stage. It’s not uncommon these days to have production meetings on Skype. By using Google docs, remote members of a project can work on the same physical document, spreadsheet or presentation simultaneously as it’s hosted in the cloud. Google Drive also has a number of other very useful features including Google Calendar which can be set up as a production-based calendar where you can invite key stakeholders in, and they can update and manage that calendar as well. For me, the shared workspace that Google Drive offers is absolutely fantastic. You can even use Google hangouts to hold production meetings.