Monday, 10 March 2014

09:53 – Barbara filled and labeled close to a thousand vials yesterday, with sulfadimethoxine, penicillin G potassium, activated charcoal, and so on. I even did a few myself. Our goal is to head into the busy summer and autumn months with plenty of component inventory on hand.

Barbara’s sister’s birthday is today. She’s meeting Frances and their mom for dinner. I’ll have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watch Heartland reruns. I’ll finish season four today on Netflix streaming and probably get started on season five on DVD. CBC is broadcasting the final six episodes of season seven over the next six weeks, which gives me those six weeks to get through the 36 episodes of seasons five and six before we burn season seven to disc and start watching it. The season seven DVD set will probably be released in September or thereabouts. I just checked to see if it was available for pre-order. Not yet. And still no word on whether there’ll be a season eight. I can’t imagine that there won’t be, but CBC plays things pretty close to their vest. If CBC does decide not to renew, I plan to contact the series producers to suggest getting a Kickstarter project going to crowd-fund season eight. I suspect the series isn’t all that expensive to produce.

27 thoughts on “Monday, 10 March 2014”

  1. The series probably costs a couple of million per episode to make. Getting that from Kickstarter is going to be hard. For example, the minimum for the script is about $25K.

  2. Some kind of firmware upgrade on our WD TV LivePlus box bollixed Netflix and I spent a good number of hours over the last few days bouncing between Netflix chat sessions, our ISP and and the ESL guy at WD, which ended up having me try to “rollback” the firmware, to no avail. I should mention that all other internet was available; only Netflix was kaput.

    So after screwing around with all that, I hooked up the Roku 3 that I’d had sitting around here for months and bingo. Netflix and a host of other stuff, including the Amazon Prime Instant Video and our local PBS stations. And also hooked up a 3TB hard drive with a bunch of stuff on it, which the WD box would not see; again, bingo, more hundreds of movies and tee-vee shows.

    So fah, so good. (I only went through this whole mess to keep the wimmenz here happy; otherwise it would have sat in the to-do queue well into summuh. Speaking of which, it’s in the low fotties here today and tomorrow but overcast. I am keeping an eye out for naked, buxom and bodacious bimbos.

  3. and the ESL guy at WD

    OK, that was funny. I have heard nothing but complaints about WD TV. Roku on the other hand has millions, literally, of fans.

    And also hooked up a 3TB hard drive with a bunch of stuff on it

    Probably no DRM so the WD TV box ignored it.

    I only went through this whole mess to keep the wimmenz here happy

    Happy is a whole lot better than unhappy. Baseball bats at 3 am really get your attention. And hurt.

  4. Sorry to hear you got the bat treatment at 3AM. Wimmenz here know better than to wake up the slumbering giant who wakes thus with a terrible resolve on his mind. Or what’s left of it and still firing neurons and electrons at that hour. I impress upon them the unpredictability of potential violence from formerly LSD-laced neurons coupled with ex-Nam, ex-cop PTSD reflexes and the insanity that is the lot of us redheads.

  5. It was not I who got the bat treatment at 3 am. That was just an illustration. However, I did used to know a guy who woke up at 3 am with a butcher knife on his privates. He gave up the girlfriend after that and made his wife a lot happier.

  6. Barbara filled and labeled close to a thousand vials yesterday,

    BTW, go Barbara! You are married to a worker!

  7. He gave up the girlfriend after that and made his wife a lot happier.

    So, was it the wife or the girlfriend who was wielding the knife?

  8. The wife. Took him about a week to stop being jumpy. She was going to make him a eunuch and she was serious…

  9. Isn’t it in Thailand where women make the classic threat: “Keep it in your pants, or the duck will have something to eat”?

  10. During my sentence under Uncle in Thailand that was a common threat, issued to Thai males and Uncle’s serfs alike.

  11. The series probably costs a couple of million per episode to make. Getting that from Kickstarter is going to be hard. For example, the minimum for the script is about $25K.

    You don’t have to fund the entire season. You just need to raise enough money and interest that the studio picks it up and runs with it. I believe the recent Veronica Mars movie was funded that way.

  12. I’d be very surprised if it costs more than half a million per episode. Canadian TV series typically cost a fraction of the costs of US series. A lot of that differential is due to much lower costs for actors. I’d be very surprised, for example, if Amber Marshall makes more than maybe $250,000/year. There are US series stars who make much more than that per episode.

  13. I’d be surprised if she made that much. CBC is publicly funded, despite the commercials, and both the federal and provincial governments have ample tax breaks for TV and movie productions, along with a mandate to have a certain percentage of Canadian content. None of that trickles down to the actors of course, who mostly head south of the border for the more lucrative payrolls of American TV. The ones that stay get constantly recycled into newer TV shows, until we can no longer look at them. For instance, Enrico Colantoni from Flashpoint is now Chief of Staff at a hospital on Remedy. Coincidentally, he was Keith Mars on “Veronica Mars” and is reprising that role in the upcoming movie.

    Typically, Canadian TV sucks, as you get what you pay for. For instance, I cannot watch more than 10 minutes of Heartland without gagging on the sugar content, despite how cute Amber Marshall is. Or perhaps it’s because of how cute she is? To each their own though, if you enjoy it, you should!

  14. That couple of million per episode includes all the shows being made in Canada. Heartland appears to take place on a horse ranch, and it’s expensive to work with animals.

    I looked around on the net and one of their sitcoms had a budget in Canadian dollars about 80% of shows on US secondary networks in US dollars, so it’s about 70-75% of the cost of a US show. So Heartland may cost about $1.5 million/episode to make.

    The Veronica Mars movie had a budget of $6 million and got $5.7 million from Kickstarter. WB paid the difference and will presumably do the ads as part of the distribution deal.

  15. … despite how cute Amber Marshall is. Or perhaps it’s because of how cute she is? To each their own though, if you enjoy it, you should!

    Okay, I’ll admit it. If Amber Marshall weren’t in the series I’d probably have watched it once. With Amber, I’ll buy the DVDs for each season as they’re released and I’ll watch it over and over and over and over.

  16. I was wondering about this stuff lately myself; on various tee-vee series like we’ve had here in recent years, Breaking Bad, Longmire, Justified, Jericho, Homeland, etc., what would be the ballpark figures for the lead actors and maybe some of the minor actors in those? And I would guess that they could do pretty well for the time they’re employed, which I am given to understand is a lot of hard work and long days and nights, but when the series ends they may have nothing for months or years.

    Anyone have some insight on this?

  17. Current US SAG minimum rates for a “Major Role” Performer (credited in the opening credits or equivalent) for a one-hour program on a major broadcast network is $7,559 (assumes eight days of work) or $4,725 for a half-hour program (assumes five days of work). These minimums are 10% higher than the day-rate for non-major-role performers. Canadian rates are significantly lower from what I’ve been told.

    At those rates, for an 18-episode season of Heartland, Amber Marshall would earn [18 * $7,559] = $136,062 per season if she were earning the minimum US rate. But without Amber they have no show, which is why I estimated she makes $250,000 per season, or roughly twice the US minimum. I don’t doubt she earns more than that in endorsements, appearance fees, and so on.

  18. She’s a cutie-pie but in some pics she looks about twelve years old.

    That’s pretty good dough while you’re making it, but between seasons and between series it must kinda suck for lots of actors. And all the other people who go to make up a show. Still, I’d be happy to make a thousand a day as a very minor character for a while as I continue hanging on IT drone gigs up here.

    No word from the supposed call-back to my drone gig at Big Blue; been over a week now; and meanwhile getting feelers for doing M$ drone work down in the big city of Burlington, VT, pop. about 50k. Whatever. Baby needs new shoes.

  19. Yeah, most actors’ lives are feast or famine, mostly famine.

    Amber turns 26 on 2 June. In the first series, she was 18 years old playing 15, and she could easily pass for 15. It’s been interesting watching her grow up in the series over the years. She’s gone from a girl to a woman.

    Amber is a superb actress, but part of that may be the fact that she’s playing herself on Heartland. In fact, if she hadn’t bought a ranch in Alberta and gotten married, I suspect she’d still be going back to Ontario during the off-season and working as a veterinary assistant and volunteering in her spare time to do grunt work for animal rescue organizations. Of course, now that she’s so well-known, she can do a lot more for those organizations just by lending her name to them.

    As I’ve said to Barbara, given Amber’s love for animals, especially baby animals, I suspect they’re going to have to get Amy married to Ty pretty quickly on the series. It wouldn’t surprise me if Amber decided to start having babies sooner rather than later.

  20. There are no cheap shows to produce anymore. Hollywood still sets the standards for everything in US media except news, which is headquartered in New York City. The big bucks for movie actors come from the same premise about future earnings as the figures sports teams pay. However, sports teams are often owned by narcissistic rich guys who were given their money by daddy, and their connection with business reality is not as well grounded as Hollywood studios — which really are run as profitable businesses, not merely playtoys like sports teams.

    In the ’90’s one-movie earnings for the top stars were going up by leaps and bounds, but since 1999, figures have been pretty static. In TV, a million dollars is a lot, and that usually goes only to actors who have proven success records over multiple years of a long-running series. But with the longevity of Heartland, it is not exceptional to believe that Marshall would be getting $1 million/yr or more for the series, were it made in the US. Cut that back to ech’s 80%, and it is not unlikely that she actually gets that in Canada if she has a good agent.

    The last series I worked on, was a competitor to Kuralt’s Sunday morning show, whom we were beating handily in ratings in every market we were opposite him. We spent $6 million on that show in 1989, and about $3 million was travel expenses (it was a worldwide news analysis program). As the person who approved the budget, I was treated like royalty by the airlines at that time, and was quickly upgraded to First Class on every flight I took in those days. Without a doubt, BA passed the word to stewardesses about who I was, because I got better treatment than the people around me in First Class, who probably paid full-price for their tickets.

    Dramatic programs are at least 3 to 5 times the cost of reality shows, so a year’s series of Heartland would come in at a minimum of $18 million, and that is in 1989 dollars. Increase that by an inflation factor of about 2 and $36 million for 1 year of that series is probably pretty close to reality.

  21. Are there even 36 million people in Canada? I seriously doubt that CBC would be spending anything near that. Of course, they aren’t the producers and are licensing only broadcast rights in Canada.

  22. Well, my recollection is that the actual cost of “The Scarlet Letter”, a 4 hour miniseries by WGBH, released in 1979, was $3 million and nearly bankrupted WGBH. It forced them to retreat financially on all fronts. I cannot find any verification of that cost, but we all thought WGBH was a goner for a while. So, even taking 4 hours at 1979 costs and multiplying to the 18 episodes/yr of Heartland is $13.5 mil, times 3.22 inflation increase, comes up with even more cost of $43.4 million. If Canada were truly that much cheaper at making TV and movies than the US, all our movies and TV series would be made there. But hardly any are.

    So I stick by my $36 million estimate. If they are doing it more cheaply, then it is only by a few million. That is about $2 million/episode — which actually IS cheap.

    Remember that DVD’s (well, VHS in that day) surpassed movie screen exhibition as a revenue stream way back in 1981, by so much that decisions on what movies to make were based on income projections from home movie rentals/sales, not theater exhibition estimates. So whatever CBC pays is going to be a small fraction of what the series earns from people like you who bought/rent the whole series.

  23. I think your numbers are way, way high. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but a lot of series are shot outside Hollywood nowadays because the costs are so much lower elsewhere. Vancouver, BC, for example, is called Hollywood North because so many movies and TV series are shot there. And then there’s our own Wilmington, NC (not to mention elsewhere in NC, including Winston-Salem), where a lot of movies and TV series are filmed.

    Maybe I’ll just email Amber and ask her.

  24. 34.88 million Canadians according to the 2012 census.

    There is a huge number of TV and movies produced in Canada. Big tax breaks for producers here.

    The CBC’s entire budget is only about $1 billion per year, after receiving a budget cut of 3.3% in 2012, 2013 & another this year for a total cut of 10%. Yes, governments cut budgets in Canada. You guys should try it! That budget covers both TV (English and French) and radio (English, French and 8 aboriginal languages). Our costs are a fraction of what American TV pays out. Chuck’s numbers may work only for the US market, though $2 million per episode doesn’t seem out of line.

    It is extremely difficult to get straight answers on what this mostly publicly funded corporation actually pays for this or that. I suspect most of the money goes to secure the NHL broadcast rights, but Freedom of Information requests by other media companies have been blocked at every turn. Personally, I don’t watch anything on CBC. I don’t even know what channel it’s on!

  25. Well, first of all, moving production to outside Hollywood just about negates any savings. All of a sudden, you have transportation, lodging, and meals for a raft of people, including more technical types than one would imagine. There are no pick-up people in technical and performance areas in the hinterlands that are as trained and honed as the people in Hollywood, and producers and directors demand that they work with the experienced people they are accustomed to. They are not going to work with strangers they do not know. John Hughes shot a lot of movies in Chicago while I lived and worked there, but most of his crew came in from LA. Very few Chicagoans benefited from his shooting in Chicagoland.

    That means cameramen, assistant cameramen, audio and audio assists, lighting, assistant directors, — even grip, make-up, and costumes, — all become even more expensive than they are on their LA home turf, where you do not have to pay their daily lodging, meals, and transportation. The only pick-up people most productions will tolerate are the go-fers or ‘warm bodies’ that every production has standing by for inconsequential stuff that needs doing — like getting 100 copies of the latest script revisions made and collated.

    Although I have not touched a TV budget in more than a decade, one thing is for sure: the prices ain’t going down. I was always responsible for budgets on the shows I oversaw or produced.

    Here’s a site that pretty much confirms the figures I mentioned.

    It notes “Lost” coming in at about $4 million/episode, “Friends” at $10 mil for only a half-hour (that’s mostly actor salaries kicking that one up), $1.6 million/episode for the animated series “Father of the Pride”. “X Factor” is $3.5 mil/episode.

    Now this site might tout these figures as the most expensive shows ever made, but they are not THAT much more than average. These figures do not surprise me at all, and are in the ballpark of what they would be after 10 to 15 years of increases from when I was actively budgeting projects.

    Again, I repeat — if it were cheaper to produce outside of Hollywood, it would be done on a massive scale. I am not aware of anything that indicates Canada is a center for American-made movies and TV. That is because it ain’t THAT much cheaper to produce there, if it is cheaper at all. Except for actor compensation, movies and TV costs about the same to produce, everywhere in the Western world. I paid the same for cameramen and editors in Berlin as I did in Boston and Chicago (I did do some freelance work in Berlin while there for American producers). There are not any magic places that reduce the cost of movie or TV productions. Producers hold budgets very close, but if you get access, above the line and below the line costs per episode are going to be very close to my figures.

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