It was decided early on that I’d be funding the project from my Academic Scholarship with Coventry University. The calculations in my FMP proposal led to the sum of roughly £450 (around 1035 BGN) to cover production & unexpected expenses. Let’s see how this worked out in reality:
- Equipment hire
Camera & Tripod – 0 BGN
I managed to find a friend of a friend with a handycam & tripod that I could use for free. This is Vasil Kolev that I’ve credited in the Special Thanks in the film. This was a massive help, because while researching private equipment hire options, it turned out I’d need to pay a deposit for the full price of the camera, which would then be returned on returning the camera. The cheapest options for cameras that would do the job were 1000+ BGN, and even though I’d get most of the money back, it would be yet another thing to figure out where to get a temporary loan from.
Sound – 100 BGN
After researching pricing and hiring options, I ended up with two alternatives – buy my own sound recorder for about 200 BGN, or hire my favourite model Zoom H4n for 100 BGN (50 BGN / day for two days). This happened through a private hiring company (HalDigital97 which I’ve credited in the film), which meant I also needed to give and then get back a 450BGN deposit. I’m not counting the money in the budget because I got them back. The recorder came with a 8 GB memory card.
Batteries – 20 BGN
I bought a fresh double pack of high quality rechargeable batteries for the recorder. The last thing you need when recording outdoors is your batteries to die.
miniDV tapes – 20 BGN
I bought 4 60-minute tapes. With the shooting rate between 1:10 and 1:20 that I was expecting, I calculated that for a 10-minute documentary film I’d need at least 100 minutes of interview recording and as much for cutaways. I ended up with 55 minutes of interview recording and 25 minutes of cutaways.
Headphones – 35 BGN
When filming an interview in a noisy environment, you don’t just go with your mp3 player’s earplugs. I bought a pair of noise-cancelling headphones with a long cable for the production.
Digitising services – 20 BGN
Since I was recording on tape and don’t own a Firewire-enabled device, I chose to go pay for a professional service (JoKeR Studio – credited in the film). The price was 10 BGN for every 60-minute tape they work with. I had two.
- Travel & Accommodation
Train – 60 BGN
Return train fare for Sofia – Varna – Sofia
Hotel – 50 BGN
I only spent one night in Varna, booked a room in a nice family B&B in a convenient and quiet location.
Food etc. – 50 BGN
Two days travelling and filming in Varna
- Distribution – 20 BGN / month – at least 6 months
At this point the only distribution-associated costs I’ve made have been paying for a Vimeo Plus account so I can host a high-quality version of the film, enable tips and have more statistics and more control over how the page looks. I am planning to have the Vimeo page as the central point for the film, so the Tip Jar is visible – in order to increase the chance of people tipping the video. At this point I am not planning to have a dedicated website, though if I do, it will probably only host promotional material and will still point to the Vimeo page to see the film.
- Music & other third-party content – 0 BGN
Since all the music I’ve used in the film has been released under a Creative Commons license, it is available for use in non-commercial projects. I class mine as a non-commercial film. Even though I have a Tip Jar for the film, it is only accepting donations and people don’t need to pay to see the film. The donations will be used to raise back some of the money I’m paying for the Vimeo Plus account, and if I do get more donations, they will fund a follow-up project.
Which results in:
375 BGN so far, plus 100 BGN for Distribution costs for the next 5 months
475 BGN Total ~ £207
This is 2/3 of my planned expenses – I had budgeted £350 plus £100 for ‘emergency funds’.
Why was I able to save money?
The biggest reason was budgeting pessimistically – always putting in at least 20% more in the budget than the expected costs. I knew there would be hidden costs that I’m not thinking about, so I budgeted accordingly.
I also managed to find a camera and tripod for free – otherwise I would have paid at least another 230 BGN (£100) to hire them for two days, not to mention the deposit that I’d need to give.
Timeline of the project
I was job hunting in February and had my first month at the company in March so I couldn’t schedule any filming during this time. I also only received my Scholarship (where the money would come from) at the end of March, so I didn’t really have the money to go into production until April.
As soon as I got the money and knew my working schedule for April (which both happened around 1 April), I started planning the shoot. Luckily, I had the weekend of 6-7 April off (I work 4 days, then have 2 days off so I don’t always have weekends off), so I quickly contacted Mitko, made sure he was available for the whole weekend, and arranged to work on the film with him.
My next step was finding equipment. I went through my (already bookmarked) list of potential options and started calling people who offered audio recorders. At the same time, I activated my circle of friends and contacts, sent out a message to a few of them describing what type of camera & tripod I’m looking to borrow (or hire). In the background I was also researching and contacting camera hire services but I soon found out 1. most of their equipment had already been booked and 2. even if it were free it needed a deposit which I couldn’t afford in the short deadline.
As soon as I had the camera confirmed (and found out it’s filming on a tape), I started looking for a digitising services. I quickly decided I didn’t want to waste time trying to find a free option through friends, because 1. in Bulgaria Firewire-enabled devices are very rare and 2. digitising HD footage needs processing power that only dedicated machines can offer. It was very useful to contact the digitising service before going into production, so I could make sure my recording settings matched their equipment and so I could negotiate prices and order times.
Since I was working on the days just after the production weekend, I had a very strict plan of what is happening when with the equipment – when I am returning the sound recorder and not be charged for another full day, when to take the footage for digitising so it happens on time, and when to return the camera and tripod. That week, my phone was indeed my best friend.
5th April (Friday) I took a night train to Varna, which then arrived on 6th (Saturday) at around 6 am. I had spoken to the hotel and knew I couldn’t check in until 12 pm, so I arranged Mitko to come and collect me from the train station, so we can leave my luggage at his home. This also gave us a chance for a ‘warm up’ walk and conversation plus much needed breakfast with coffee. It would be a long day and I didn’t want it to be stressful so I was aware we’d only need 1-2 hours for the interview and it was more important to be calm and chilled by that time.
The breakfast took longer than expected, but it also meant I could check in at the hotel and leave my luggage there (giving me a much more central location as a Headquarters).
This also meant we would be filming just after noon. This could have been better, but it wasn’t. We also hadn’t prepared a location so we just went into the seaside garden in Varna and set up there. This proved problematic for all the technical reasons sunlight at noon + noisy environments mean in film production, but the good side was that the interview was flowing beautifully. For me, that is what mattered so we stayed there.
At around 3 pm we were already completely exhausted from the long day, so we sat down for a much needed lunch. Then Mitko headed to his home, me – to the hotel, to have some sleep. This was the best decision in the whole weekend, the world felt like a much better place in the evening after 3 hours of quality rest.
In the evening we met with a few of Mitko’s friends – musicians and ambient music producers from Varna, one of which also runs a netlabel. It was a nice end for the day, having a chilled conversation about music and just… life, over a food and drink and no pressure. The evening ended at the seaside where we made a few field recordings of seawaves, to enjoy the wonderful Zoom H4n and its stereo microphones.
Sunday 7th April started early for me after a quality 7-hour sleep and breakfast at the hotel. My train was at 13:30 which gave me a good 4 hours for a walk in Varna. I knew I could only meet Mitko for a short time and didn’t expect to film anymore with him, but I knew I needed B-roll material. So I headed to town with the camera and tripod and started filming. I had a map of the town and had noted my most important points – the train station, the hotel and Mitko’s home, so I was confident in walking around town. Luckily I found some graffiti scribblings, which although weren’t very good, would work well with the Hip-hop / underground subtheme of the film. I’ll be honest, I was struggling with the visual side so I was just taking random clips of things that ‘seemed to work’.
During the train journey back I sat down and transcribed the interview, and since I had more time on the train I also started shortlisting music for the film.
As soon as I came back to Sofia, returned the equipment and had the footage digitised, I put everything on the timeline and synchronised the interview. It was a very mundane and frustrating part of the process but I knew I wanted to have it and to note any technical issues that there might be. I didn’t want a bad surprise later in the process.
The editing process continued on paper for most of April. After I’d seen my footage and knew what it looked like (and that it was usable), my focus was the narrative. I knew that I would deal with the sound & music mix relatively easily, I knew and didn’t mind the visual side of the film would have flaws, but the crucial part would be keeping the viewers’ attention and getting my point across in the narrative. The story had to make sense, and to give the viewer the feeling that I was intending.
After I finally had the interview edited on paper, I cut it on the timeline, made the sound & music mix, translated & subtitled it and sent it to Mitko for review. My main concern was ‘did I get your point across’ with the story, the way I had rearranged the interview clips, and with the translation in English. I had interpreted some parts to make the sentences more clear in English, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t misinterpret his words. Funnily enough, he came back with two comments – one was about the background noise in the recording (which he insisted to clean up and we arranged this), and the second one was about the proper name of the ‘performing rights organisations and royalties collecting societies’. He really wanted to make it clear he doesn’t want to work with them.