Transportation - Your Biggest Headache

Thumb Arthur Vincie

Transportation is the most difficult budget category to wrap your head around. But if you're not smart about it, you could wind up deep in the red - on something that no one in the audience will ever see.

Filmmaking, like warfare, consists of tactics and logistics.  Tactics throws people, money, and gear around on set.  Logistics organizes and supplies the gear/money/people (think casting, crafty, catering, scouting, financing, etc.)  Transportation is the link between the two.  Here's a brief look at what to budget for:

SPECIAL VEHICLES - Honeywagons, campers, trailers, really large trucks.  On a small budget, you can't afford these.  But you may need a honeywagon if you're in the middle of nowhere.  In that case, contact local camper/mobile home rental companies.  Don't forget the dumping/cleaning charge (for the bathroom).

CUBE TRUCKS - Typically with a 14' back. On a $300K-$1M feature, I budget for up to four:

  • (1) grip/electric (sometimes larger)
  • (1) camera/sound/wardrobe/HMU
  • (1) unit (crafty, cleaning supplies, walkies, tables, chairs, etc.)
  • (1) art department

Budget for additional day-play rentals.

On a $50K-$200K feature, I budget for one "everything" truck.  Departments hate sharing but there's always a way to keep the wardrobe away from the c-stands.

Include days for pickups and returns.  The art department will need their truck for 2-3 additional weeks for buys/returns.

Don't underestimate your needs - you have more gear than you think.

SHELVING - Protects and organize the gear, saving you money down the road.  Shelve the grip/electric and unit trucks (at least).  A local carpenter, or one of your grips, can do this for a fee.  Sometimes the truck rental company can recommend someone.  If you only have one truck, shelve it.

CARGO VANS - On a low budget film you'll make do with these instead of trucks.

15 PASSENGER VANS - You'll need at least one, for ferrying the crew (and maybe cast).  On a $1M feature, I budget for two to four (more for the country, less in the city).

MINIVANS - mostly for the cast.  You usually want the cast and crew travelling separately.

CARS - For the location manager, scout, and/or the director and producer.

If you're in a city with decent public transportation, you can trim your car and minivans, but keep in mind that people need to get to set on time.

DRIVERS - On a really low-budget film, your PAs will drive.  The art director can take her truck.  On a $1M film, consider hiring a non-teamster commercial driver for the grip/electric truck.  Special vehicles require teamsters (unless you're renting from a rental company that supplies the driver).  If you're on a $1.5M-$2M or higher film, reach out to the film teamsters. They'll give you what breaks they can and send you the minimum number of drivers.  Teamsters are expensive, but they can save money - gear won't walk away, tickets and accidents are rare, vehicles show up on time, and the captain can get you good rental/parking deals.

GAS - A full tank per vehicle every three days (in the country) or four (city).

TOLLS - Guesstimate $15 per day per vehicle (including pickups and returns). Revise once you get your locations.

PARKING - Anything containing gear should be parked in a lot or in your driveway/garage.   Your PAs can sometimes take the vans and cars home.  Include money for weekend/off-day parking.

EMERGENCIES/ACCIDENTS - You'll have at least one of these.  Budget at least the collision deductible (see below).  This includes tows, break-ins, and fender-benders.

TAXI/SUBWAY/BUSES - If someone's running late to set, or you need to send somoene on a quick run.

PARKING/TRAFFIC TICKETS - You'll get them.  Some you can fight off; some you'll be stuck with.

COLLISION DAMAGE WAIVER (CDW) - Your rental insurance's collision/damage deductible will be high.  The CDW reduces it to $500-700.

MISC - Good locks for the trucks. Duplicate truck, car and lock keys.  Put in some gas/tolls for people who self-report, especially in the country.  This can help compensate for low pay.