How much does it cost to make Edward Cullen sparkle?

November 19, 2008 at 3:31 am (movies) (, , , , , )


The Twilight movie is coming out in a couple of days for you Americans, so I guess it’s time to do another post. To celebrate, or whatever. I’ve been taking a look at what director Catherine Hardwicke has been saying about the budget. Basically, she’s been doing more than her fair share of whinging about how low it is. Anyway, I figured it would be an interesting little exercise to see if she was right, and might help with budgetary issues when I have to make short films for Media next year. Yaaaaaay, education!


Sorry, I just couldn’t contain my excitement. Anyway, from what I can see, all the budget complaints are unjustified. Twilight cost $37 million to make. There are vampires in it, sure, but it’s a teen romance. It’s not set anywhere that would be expensive to shoot in and the leads aren’t nearly famous enough to have gotten much. There are two or three action scenes in the whole book. So to me, $37 mil definitely sounds like enough.


Then in a couple of these complaints I’ve found, she got a little more specific.


“I mean, you know, if you think of a 37 million dollar budget versus a Harry Potter, 150 million dollar budget, you can appreciate a little more what I was dealing with logistically.”


“That was really hard because on one logistic level, we didn’t have a “Harry Potter”/“Lord of the Rings” budget. On a normal movie you would have built a beautiful meadow on a soundstage, that way you could control the sunlight so that Edward can step into and out of it. But with under $37 million, that was impossible.”


Now this makes more sense. If she’s comparing it to the other big popular fantasy movies adapted from books instead of just looking at it independently, then yeah, she’s going to be disappointed. Although I have to say, the stuff in the Harry Potter and LotR books means the movies should get a bigger budget than Twilight does. They take place in a fantasy setting where there’s always something magical or big and spectacular going on. Twilight takes place in the normal human world – there just happen to be a few vampires in it.


Besides, plenty of wonderful movies have been made for much less. Plenty of movies that had a wonderful look to them were made for much less. More cash is preferable, but trying out alternative methods to just CGI has worked wonders as far as making things cheap go. Or if you simply have someone who’s a talented cinematographer, that does just fine too. Most of the movies on that list of my favourite films in the About page, they cost $20 mil or less. Half of them cost $10 mil or less. But I can tell you they all look damn fucking good, be it through prosthetics or creative cinematography.


Anyway, that’s not the end of it. According to her, the movie will have to make at least $150,000,000 to justify the budget needed for the sequel. When I heard that, I immediately thought it was ridiculous. Not that they could use that large a budget, but that they would need it, which was what she was saying. Anyway, here’s why it  supposedly has to have all that money.


“It’s got werewolves, it’s got visual effects that turn people into werewolves, it’s got motorcycle stunts, you go to Italy.”


Yeeaaah. Again, how much of that is actually necessary, and how could you make it cheaper?


Werewolves: Definitely needed, they were a huge part of the book. However, that doesn’t mean they have to be expensive. An American Werewolf In London cost $10 million. Ginger Snaps and Dog Soldiers both cost less than $5 million. That’s overall, not just for the werewolves, and all three have critical acclaim and cult followings. Dog Soldiers, btw, was a horror/action [/comedy, but that’s not relevant] about soldiers fighting off howler monkeys werewolves. Sounds a lot more expensive than angsty teen vampire romance to me, so if they could do that for such a small amount…

Dog Soldiers



Werewolf transformations: The movie would survive without ‘em, but there are some alternatives. Like, they don’t need to give the audience a direct shot of it. Jacob had a bit in the book where he transformed while leaping, right? That would be easy to do while never giving the audience a clear view. Or do it in silhouette/shadow… plenty of ways to keep it in and cut corners here, and besides, they definitely don’t have to do more than one, if they had too small a budget.


Motorcycle stunts: What, is Bella going to loop-de-loop now? If I recall, they were just riding the bikes in the books, and she stacked a couple of times. Get their stunt doubles, give them helmets, put them on the bikes, shoot.


Italy: Okay, first of all, I want to point out that Doctor Who shot in Rome for “Fires of Pompeii.” Despite being A) British and B) a TV show, both of which would shrink funding down quite a lot, not to mention that they already always have to spend on period sets and costumes, otherworldly sets and costumes, and of course, aliens. Even considering the UK is a lot closer, I have a hard time believing Doctor Who could afford to fly everyone to Italy and shoot there, yet Catherine Hardwicke needs her $80 mil to do so.


However, for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll pretend a certain UK SciFi TV show never paid to go to Italy, and that it would indeed be super-expensive, far beyond Twilight’s mere $37 mill. So, there aren’t other options? Sets, or finding somewhere to shoot a little closer to home? They would probably have to dress the place up a bit to make it look like Italy, but that should do the trick. So what’s left? I was having a conversation with someone about this last week, and she pointed out it might anger the fanbase if they didn’t shoot on-location.


While that’s true, it doesn’t affect the movie at all as long as it looks like Italy. If it does, the angry fans will only be being petty. And yes, maybe Hardwicke wants to go to Europe to please the fanbase – but as the director, she needs to be responsible and not spend millions of dollars just so she can pander to a few irrational fans who just want a clone of the book.


BTW, I was getting curious about what else Catherine Hardwicke had done, like if she had only ever worked on big budget movies before or something, so I looked it up and it’s actually completely the other way. Her first movie, Thirteen, was something she just decided to do with her friend’s daughter Nikki Reed, and they managed to scratch up $1.5 mil to make it.


Thirteen was desperado,” [Hardwicke] says. “We were begging for locations and stealing shots. We didn’t even have a dolly—we found a shopping cart on the side of the road. Totally guerrilla style.”



And then it went on to get heaps of awards and shit. Good for her. To get back to Twilight, from the sound of things she was expecting a far bigger budget than she got, and even though she’s used to smaller budgets she hasn’t gotten over the disappointment, which is showing in her attitude to the second movie. I mean, she’s sort of acting the way Smallville does, in that they feel the need to use CGI all the time for everything and make it all so impressive, even when they’re running short on cash. Hardwicke saying that $80 mil is completely necessary to make New Moon is equally impractical. I’m sure they could use it, but… Well, if Twilight didn’t make $150 million at the box office? Instead of not making a sequel, they should just fire Hardwicke and get someone who knows how to make shit look good without spending a fortune. It would be funny if they got Del Toro, he would hear the word “vampires,” and pack the whole thing full of Nightmare Fuel. Or James Gunn, he would make a huge joke out of it.

However, it probably will make enough that they’ll just get Hardwicke back. Which is fine with me, she seems to be following the books pretty closely, in all their so-bad-it’s-good-ness.


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