LineProducing.com

    

 

THE PIG PYRAMID

I cannot claim to originate this example.  It was told to me by a very established UPM/Line Producer way back in the late 1990's when I told him that I really wanted to know how to do budgets.  As we spoke a little about how budgets are assembled, he told me this anecdote to illustrate the thought process a good UPM or Line Producer needs to have.

...and it goes a little something like this...

A director is thinking about a scene to be shot next week and comes up with a brilliant plan.  In a scene, he'd really like a pig to cross frame in the background.  It's not an essential story element, it would just be "funny".

reel redI would like to highlight that this story involves adding an element to the shoot which is not "absolutely" needed.  It's a background piece that no one would miss.  So, keep everything in perspective as you read this and understand what the essence of the example is - not the particulars of the pig or exact rates.

So the director goes to the Line Producer (LP) and tells about the idea.  The LP agrees that would be funny, and promises to look into it.  A few hours later, the LP informs the director that sadly we really don't have the money to handle putting a pig in the shot in the way you described.  The director gets bummed out, goes back to his chair in video village and calls over his assistant.

A few hours later, the assistant returns to the director and tells him he found a pig they could rent for $100.  The director furows his brow and heads back to the LP.  Confronting the LP with the revelation that the pig is "only" $100 and he does not understand how we would not be able to find such a paultry amount to afford this.

The LP begins to explain, "Sure the pig is $100 for the day, however...

Having a pig on the set means needing animal wranglers.  They cost about $42 per hour, on an 8-hour minimum.  We'll need two wranglers on the day.  Additionally, we'll need one wrangler for the day before to prep the pig.  That's about $1300 including fringes.

On the day, I'll need to feed the two wranglers at Catering at $19 a head.  I'll also need to feed the pig for $10.  That's a total of about $48.

In order to get the pig to and from the set, I'll need a special animal truck.  That rents for $375 per day.  Fuel for the truck, allow $40.  Hire the driver at $31 per hour, 8-hour minimum and add another hour on each end for portal-to-portal on the truck that's about $849 including fringes.

On the set, I need to have an American Humane observer, so that's another $19 for Catering.

For the safety of the crew and the pigs, we should have a holding pen.  Renting one could be $100, or we could build one hiring two carpenters to come in, buy the materials and then deconstruct it later for way more - so, let's just rent one from the animal company.

What if the pig does not perform perfect the first take?  So, let's have a back-up pig, just in case.  Add another $110 for the pig and it's feed."

The LP continues in this fashion for a bit longer, highlighting additional details which may have eluded the director and his assistant as to the finite details of what it really means to have a pig walk across the shot.  All told, the LP throws out an approximate total of $3200 for the pig.  This does not take into account the fact that if the pig does not perform and we need to retake the shot - the per minute burn on the crew is about $90.  It may take 3 minutes to reset everyone between shots - and it adds up even more.

 

That's the Pig Pyramid.  The top point is the pig and each supporting item under it expands out to support the pig.  You may apply this concept to almost everything.  Every item has a cost or other consideration on cost and logistics.  Some are substantial, others are not - yet, all are important.  Consider the Pig Pyramid when dealing with aspects for your project, keeping all the appropriate issues in mind.

Another bit of advice is one that another UPM told me when I was a wee tiny PA.  She said, "Take it to the end."  In this she means, "Have you thought about all the details, have you accounted for everything?"  Does A mean something happens now for B?  Does that action on B mean that H is affected, and therefore means you need to add a K?  An if K is so, does that still mean that B is OK?  Start thinking like this and you will begin to see how everything in interlinked - and then you can start to apply costs to those items.

Anyways, you'll do fine, now...  GET ME THAT PIG!

 

Hire Stephen

View my Resume  |  IMDb Pro

~  Knowledgable, detailed, problem-solver

~  Budget experience from $300k to $143M

~  International experience in 18 countries

~  Member DGA, PGA & SAG-AFTRA

Enjoying the Site?

Great, share it!  Spread the word.  See room for improvement?  Have a Topic article idea?  Let me know.

Get involved through the Reddit CommunitySkype Conversation, or on Slack.