Limited funds fail to finance film projects

The students in the School of Communication’s (SoC) Department of Cinema and Interactive Media know that creating a movie is much more than just calling “lights, camera, action.”

The motion picture practicum (CMP 451) course, the capstone class for motion pictures majors, requires teams of about four to five students to get together to create a film. These teams are then allotted a $300 stipend to spend on production expenses.

But for most cases, $300 isn’t enough to create a well-developed film.

Senior Prisca Muljadi says she has never been enrolled in the practicum course, but she served as a producer for one of the CMP 451 films her sophomore year. When Muljadi was involved in the course, the stipend was $600. But she said even that was not enough to make the film she worked on.

“Obviously you need more than that,” she said. “We ended up spending like $3,600 on ours, and we did a Kickstarter campaign and then just tried to get donations from like family and friends … Three hundred isn’t going to cover you for anything except basically just food.”

University of Miami motion picture students start producing films in their introductory courses (CMP 151, 251 and 351), but according to Muljadi, those are smaller-scale films that require little to no funding. She said that for those films, students usually pay out of pocket.

It isn’t until the CMP 451 course that students are given the stipend for their films.

Ed Talavera, chair of the department of cinema and interactive media, said that the amount of money allotted to each film depends on the number of films in the course. To decide how many films are going to be produced, the students in the course submit scripts and then the rest of the class votes to pick which films they would like to work on.

“If there are too many projects, less money is allotted per film,” he said. “It is up to the professor and the needs of the production. The money is used only as reimbursement for rental equipment, props, locations, etc.”

Other film programs, like the one offered at the University of Southern California (USC), inform their students that $1,000 should be budgeted for “miscellaneous expenses, lab and insurance fees” in order to participate in the introductory production course.

The second phase of USC students’ production course sequence also warns them that they should budget approximately $2,000 for expenses. It is not specified if these courses allot money to their students to make each film. Similar to UM’s SoC, USC provides most equipment and materials.

Talavera also said that the stipend is meant to be used to offset production costs and not necessarily fund the entire film.

“Three hundred dollars is not a lot of money for some films,” Talavera said. “If you are making your own ‘Avatar’ – it will probably not be enough.  Smaller movies can work within this budget … The faculty member teaching the course helps the students deliver scripts and films that can be shot in a realistic budget.”

Muljadi said that students aren’t discouraged by lack of funds or high production costs. She mentioned that since the CMP 451 project is usually the students’ thesis, they want to make their project look as best as possible.

Muljadi also said that for more ambitious projects, students fundraise through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and even ask for donations from family and friends to realize their films.

“If you’re willing to spend the money to make what you want to see on the screen, we definitely won’t limit the script just because of the funding,” she said.