How to Make a Movie: Money vs Ideas was a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time, and it’s about some of the movies I like the most.
Therefore let’s state that I enjoyed all the movies I’m going to talk about. They amused and entertained me with excellent quality. I have no particular complaints about it.
Often ask me this: is it better to have lots of money or lots of ideas before making a movie?
I don’t mean in an absolute sense, since without money and ideas at all, you obviously can’t do anything.
Each production has a budget, albeit minimal, just as it has ideas, even if only sketched. But let’s take some examples to understand better where I’m trying to take you.
I want to compare a series of two movies simultaneously, both directed by the same director, with the difference in the money available to produce it.
I want to start with one of my favorite contemporary directors: Robert Rodriguez.
A director of humble origins who made his debut in the 90s with El mariachi. The story of a poor wandering guitarist mistaken for a ruthless killer by a gang of criminals, beginning to hunt him relentlessly.
A fantastic action movie made with a few thousand dollars, legend says, collected by the director by sacrificing himself in medical clinic experiments, an anecdote to which the director dedicated his latest Red 11.
Compare that to the nearly $ 200 million budget he had to direct Alita.
Despite the monstrous difference, you will find that the quality of the action scenes of the two movies is not affected at all.
In Alita, the special effects are practically omnipresent, starting from the protagonist entirely digitally reconstructed on the computer.
A girl/cyborg emerges from a landfill and then becomes the champion of a deadly sport loved by crowds. Next, she fought the established power of the rich and immortal masters of society together with her trusty friends.
The director’s soul has remained intact, on the side of the outsiders and the losers with their pride and dignity. But despite the money, the real difference is the ideas and his technical ability to bring them to the screen.
Let’s now turn to one of the most beloved directors on the planet: Christopher Nolan.
The most straightforward comparison I can make is between his latest Tenet and the older Memento. Two movies had almost 200 million differences in their budget, similar in many aspects but separated by commercial choices.
In both, we can recognize the hand of the director and his talented brother Jonathan in writing. The stories’ protagonists are overwhelmed by events they cannot control, struggling to distinguish between reality or lies and deceptions.
The editing directed by both is excellent. However, Tenet is more devoted to action due to the large budget. Thus, securing the general public’s love thanks to its wild, spectacular scenes.
Instead, Memento is a much more desired and loved movie. More personal by a director starting his career and still far from his international success.
Therefore, we can develop the equation: more money, less artistic freedom in narrative choices. Even if, as I said, the director’s skill is not absolutely in question.
This equation is not a law written in stone and has its exceptions, like the last director I want to go and tell you about George Miller.
A great artist coming from distant Australia and creating a legendary character in international cinema at the end of the 70s: Mad Max. But not only that. The director also makes a post-apocalyptic world that will then be copied by anyone for decades to come.
He will give him three sequels, the last of which is the famous Mad Max: Fury Road, which cost about $ 150 million compared to $ 350,000 in the first chapter of 1979.
Yet, in this case, the author remained faithful to his formula, exponentially increasing the protagonist’s madness with each saga episode.
Looking back at the first and last Mad Max, the surreal yet tremendously believable atmosphere of his cruelty is always present in every shot, every dialogue, and its protagonists’ facial expressions.
Starting from the ruthless criminals killing his wife and arriving at the hallucinated War Boys. The director remained firm in his idea without polluting it with other useless elements to please the public.
I got excited about all these great shows. But still think that ideas must always prevail over money, and a director must fight hard to defend his vision.
The productions often care only about box office receipts. Indeed, the money is made by giving the audience what they want, sadly, instead of what is better.