A couple of weeks back I got an email from the producer of one of my feature scripts.
Not in itself unusual.
In it, said producer, mentioned something which had previously been a source of mild curiosity for me: the budget.
By American standards, it’s nothing. By British standards, it’s a lot. By my standards it’s a fucking fortune.
Quick as a flash I did the maths (a very slow flash, one who uses his fingers a lot) and calculated my percentage: a shit load of money.
My first thought: Fuck me! I’m rich!
My second: I’m going to lose 40% of it in tax! 40% of a shit load is more tax than I’ve paid in my whole working life.
My third thought: does anyone know a good tax lawyer?
The rest of the night’s thoughts (fantasies) revolved around the best way to spend that much money. I’d managed to work my way through most of it, including an argument with my wife about how we were going to spend money we didn’t have, when I got round to reading the rest of the email and put things in context:
The producer was struggling to raise such a large sum.
I have a very laissez faire attitude to the projects of mine in development. If it happens, it happens, but I don’t get my hopes up. You can’t, things fall through much more frequently than they go ahead.
All of a sudden it became vitally important that this film gets produced. It really is a shit load of money.
To me, anyway.
Then a lifeline. The producer is approaching exec-producers (or maybe co-producers? Something technical) about coming onboard and adding their weight and name to the project. Several seem interested, one even had a dynamite suggestion:
Shift the production to Eastern Europe and you can knock a third off the budget.
Holy shit! With those few words I just lost a third of a shit load of money! The bastard, he’s taking my money!
Money I haven’t actually got.
Closer examination showed they might be able to half the budget.
Fuck me! I’m losing money hand over fist!
I’m going to have to seriously re-think the Aston Martin situation!
Of course, this is money I haven’t got, haven’t even seen and potentially will never, ever see a penny of. Why am I getting so wound up about it? Obviously, the main thing is to get the film made. No film = no money. Half of a shit load is still a shit load, but half of nothing will always be nothing.
(Pause to check sum on fingers.)
I should be looking at the half full glass, not wondering who drank the other half. A difficult task.
It feels a little like a visiting uncle promised me £50, only to look in his wallet and realise all he has is a £20 note. I’m still (hopefully) going to be better off, but not nearly as better off as I could have been.
So why do I feel like I’ve been mugged?