Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


The Production Triangle

I've been thinking about the Production Triangle quite a bit lately. It has three points: Time, Money, and Quality. You can choose two.

This means that you can either:

1. Make something really quickly for very little money, but it will be terrible.
2. Do something really fast and have it be amazing, but it will cost you millions.
3. Have something that costs very little and is spectacular, but it will take you forever.

You can not beat this triangle.

This is something you must understand going into a project. This is also something that your future clients need to understand as well. I've been working on MathTacular2 all summer at a break-neck pace. Recently one of the managers of my client began chatting with me about how the project was going and what could be done to make sure we weren't so totally beaten down by the end of the project. Also, what could be done about the cost and number of resources required?

I said: Three people isn't that many (that is the director/producer from my client, the actor, and me). We're a good team, but you can't really get any smaller than that. To make this process better we need to pre-produce. Someone needs to sit down for a month and plan all this out. That didn't happen this year and it came back and bit us.

The response: You know that will never happen, right?

My client does not understand the Triangle. I did what I could to explain it. The reality is that film takes money or time if you want quality. Unfortunately for businesses time=money, so clients need to understand that making movies is expensive.

Having someone who is good at what they do can help cut down on costs and time. I'm a really fast editor, so I can do things in much less time than others. However, this doesn't necessarily cut down on costs because people who are better at what they do typically (and rightly) charge more.

What does this mean to you as a young/poor filmmaker? Since you don't have money you need to realize that you will have to take a long time if you want something good. This has nothing to do with equipment. This isn't about how expensive your camera is, or how fast your computer is, or what software you use. This is about the reality of production. Your projects will take time if you want them to look good. Do not scrimp on pre-production. Take your time in production. Spend as long as you can on post-production. Take the time to get it right.

On the other hand, remember that you're still learning, so quality isn't a big deal. It would be far better to make 16 short films that look terrible but teach you 32 new lessons than one film that looks good but only taught you two things (that it takes time to make something look good and your story wasn't very good). There is plenty of time later on to devote to honing your abilities to make something look good. Learn the basics first: How to tell a good story, how to use the equipment you have, and what you like to do and do well. These are invaluable lessons that will help you as you move forward as a filmmaker.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Norman said...


Awesomely true post. This is something that I always say at least once during the editing of a film. And I say it at least once a semester in each class I teach.

Heinlein said it well: TANSTAAFL -- "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch". Even with the advent of digital editing, you can't get more done better and cheaper.

What I actually say to my collaborators is this: "Which one of these three do you want to give up?" It puts it in stark perspective.

Luke Holzmann said...


Great twist with "which do you want to give up?" question. Excellent!

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