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SNOW... And the dream of the Unlimited Budget.

SNOW. Something that is taken for granted in many parts of the world. Hated by many and loved by many. Cold wet and dirty. Hated for its extra labour requirements during Winter. White light and powdery, it is loved for it's recreational aspect. The glamour of the ski slopes. Sipping Gluhwein in front of a cosy log fire. And of course, building snowmen.

In other warmer drier parts of the world it is a rarity that brings out a travel frenzy to "Go see the snow" whenever there's a tiny bit of snow that drops down overnight from the cold darkness above. No more a pertinent example exists than that of Cape Town. Annually we wait for the snows to fall on the higher regions. And the Lemming run begins. Driving out of the city for hours to the snow covered peaks. Hopefully to frolic in any snow covering the lower regions. If you own a 4x4 you can drive higher up to the more inaccessible areas where snow is almost guaranteed.

The snow is so rare that it will disappear in the lower regions within a day or three. The inaccessible peaks will have a blanket of snow for a month or so.

So too, do we come to the desire for The Unlimited Budget Production . This is indeed rarer than a snowfall in Cape Town. One hears about the multi-million dollar budgets on the big blockbusters. And we drool. Wow, what we could achieve with such a budget we dream. Then one reads how even with such incredible budgets there were and still are constraints. Not enough money for SFX, Locations, Art and such. And of course nature can also play its part in derailing budgets. Unexpected bad weather. Or politics.We hear about the miracles that were created by the crew as a result of this. The same problems arise with smaller tighter budgets, and more so. The client has a vision. The director has an even bigger vision. The budget sets the tone. However, that does not mean that clients or directors curtail their vision. On the contrary, sometimes the vision becomes even more grandiose. French champagne! Beluga caviar. Sorry, not today. We have to source local sparkling wine and we will make up a fake label that reads "French Champagne" or such. But why can't we have French Champagne? No budget. Sorry. Caviar? We will make it up out of sago and black food dye. Sometimes we get the "But I read that they had real French champagne and Beluga caviar in (Insert blockbuster title here)". And slowly we have to lower their expectations. But still deliver a prize winner. Despite this obvious difference in budgets all clients expect the same outcome. A winner.

Managing a production and its budget thus becomes a ballet of managing expectations, handling the extra demands on crew and gear. And producing something that is exceptional despite the limitations of budget. Something that we as production are also proud to display as our work. Having pride in what we can achieve and not being embarrassed to showcase our achievement. Surprising ourselves pleasantly at the final outcome. Sitting back and asking ourselves in disbelief how did we do that with that little budget? However, oftentimes it is exactly that limited budget that forces us to come up with unique ideas to solve a problem. Overcoming a hurdle. Having the right crew with that can do attitude. Creating unique ideas and workarounds that brings a client back to you! On a few rare occasions a client has returned with an "Unlimited Budget" which compared to the last budget certainly seems like it is Unlimited!

Party time! But then the expectations soar further and higher and it's back to the ballet of managing expectations. Yes, we can do French champagne, but we still can't do Beluga Caviar. But we will do our best to source a cheaper caviar. And thus the cycle repeats itself. The bigger the budget, the greater the expectations. The more one has to do creative expectation management.

But would we change what we do? No. Whilst it is hard work indeed, we do appreciate that there are people willing to entrust us with their hard earned money to produce their "blockbuster" for them. And of course we look forward to the next challenge. But what we have learned over the years is that the Unlimited Production Budget is as elusive as Bigfoot and the Loch Nes Monster. But we shall endeavour to search for it. It is rumoured that there have been sightings. Its just over the next horizon.


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