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Does anyone know what the budget was for Hal Hartley's film "Fay Grim"? I haven't been able to find any figures in the usual places (such as IMDB). (Also, I'm curious because the film had exteriors filmed in four countries, but for the interiors, AFAIK, they used the cost-cutting measure of filming in sets (mostly incomplete sets) in a studio in Berlin.)

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The director hasn't released specific figures, but we can make some rough guesses based on their filming regime. TL;DR - About $100K for production and about the same again for post-production and promotion although it's very very hard to determine actual numbers when the Director and many of the crew essentially have unlimited time to promote the film and are each doing multiple jobs with some working solely for the film credit and others just there as a favour to the Director


The film was funded by Hartley himself as well as some investment cash from two friends within the industry. Their budget was insufficient to allow overseas filming of anything more than a small amount of stock footage and two external scenes outside of Germany, something which was presumably accomplished by the two overseas "line producers" listed in the credits. The film itself was shot in less than 30 days using HD Digital Video cameras on incomplete (recycled) sets and using existing (real) properties as sets.

Assuming a cost of $500 a day for cast, a similar amount for crew and a similar amount for all other costs (location costs, rentals, flights, lighting, catering, makeup, etc) the actual budget for production would have been something like $50K. Post-production costs (sound and foley, editing, soundtrack, effects, poster-design, etc) would have probably run another $50K to turn the the film into a saleable product.

Beyond that point, the film needed marketing and taking to various festivals to arrange for it to receive a limited release and an official premiere. Flight costs, car rentals and the cost of arranging interviews for the cast and crew would probably have run another $50K.

You may also wish to note that the film was "leaked" to torrent channels shortly after production which would have helped it to gain some word-of-mouth advantage.

HH: Earlier, they'd been aesthetic reasons [for shooting abroad]; there was nothing economic about it. This one posed certain problems. I was already living in Berlin, and the script, of course, had been written for Queens, but also for Paris and Istanbul. It's not a totally small film, but we didn't have the money to travel to all these places and do all these things there. And we couldn't base it out of New York, either. It’s just become too expensive there. So then we just reread the script. One thing I discovered right off the bat is that like 90 percent of the movie is indoors, which is unusual. So we started thinking about sets, building sets that would match the first film. But we got lucky. It was mostly about Parker's, Fay's, home. At the eleventh hour we found a German prefab Bauhaus neighbourhood that had these homes that could be Queens or Brooklyn. We had to change a lot of the details, but the layout could definitely be a home in Brooklyn. It was just a lot of work doing location scouting, finding the interior of the French Ministry. Those kinds of things were easier because European cities all have that monumental eighteenth-century [building] somewhere.

Q: Did this slow you down at all?

HH: No. we shot as fast as I've usually had to shoot in the United States. It's only twenty-eight days, I think—less, like twenty-six. No, certain things were harder to find, like the big set for Fays home. That took us a long time. This really good locations guy, Boland Gerhardt, at the eleventh hour found [it]. Because a lot of the page count — If it's a 130-page script, seventy pages happen in Fay's house. So we knew that if we shot for twenty-six days we were at that location for like six or seven. Other things were kind of easy. - Hal Harley: Mark Berettini

  • For the record, the Director crowdfunded the sequel for $400K. It was a much larger production with more named stars and more filming locations. – user7812 Feb 21 '16 at 10:19

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