Micro-budget methodology

Orphans & Kingdoms Producer Fraser Brown and Director Paolo Rotondo

Orphans & Kingdoms Producer Fraser Brown and Director Paolo Rotondo

Premiered at the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival, Orphans & Kingdoms will make its return to theatres on 5 April with a special screening in Auckland’s Civic, followed by a wider release from 14 April.

This feature, among the last to emerge from the Film Commission’s now expired Escalator scheme may yet join the ranks of its successful cousins Housebound and Fantail. These two films stand out in the way they won audiences, awards and critical reviews, and were even able to return money to crew and cast.

In this case of Orphans and Kingdoms, the hands-on producer team of Fraser Brown and Leela Menon with director Paolo Rotondo, secured sponsorship and further investment, involved the community and created an atmosphere of ‘mucking in together’ – and it certainly helped having gaffer James ‘Boof’ Young hosting boil-ups after wrap! We were all aware the day we passed 100 pledges on the Crowdfunding mission.

However, let’s be clear – more important than return on investment, this scheme was an experiment. By lowering the budget, easing off the pressure yet fixing a definite shooting window, could the producers still create a highly watchable, well-received film?

This colourful diagramme explains the methodology behind Orphans & Kingdoms for how it would attract more investment and share profit.

As an aside, the Peter Jackson and David Court 2010 ‘Review of the New Zealand Film Commission’ gives an excellent critical analysis of the Escalator scheme (p.39) when it was first conceived. (NB: the report was published before any Escalator titles had been released.)

Coinciding with the theatrical release of Orphans and Kingdoms, it seems highly topical to discuss crew attitudes to micro-budget productions. It’s all very well to have our producers and directors embrace the concept, the rewards are big if they succeed – and at the least they get their vision realised – but what of the actual workers who have to work for a fraction of their rates?