Big budget films are not a new invention; from the get-go there have been massive risk-taking gargantuan projects like The Ten Commandments that almost transcend cinema to become spectacles. The late-80’s and 90’s saw a massive escalation in film budgets however, some films even flaunting their astronomical operational funds like it was a guarantee against failure.
Then Waterworld happened, a 172 million-dollar catastrophe that has outlived Kevin Costner’s career, and dealt a shocking wakeup call to Hollywood executives, especially after the 2010-2012 economic crisis that almost brought the studios to their knees (and buried many).
Even when these enormous gambles have worked out (Terminator 2, Avatar, Spider-Man), one cannot escape the feeling that there is entirely too much money wasted in the current Hollywood studio production model. Never mind obscenely inflated actor compensations, double-dipping producer/director schemes, elaborate product placement sponsorships and all that; it seems like even in the least flamboyant film productions there exists a shamefully wasteful culture of waste.
It seems that the glamour of Hollywood is distorting the perceptions of many independent filmmakers as well, and many up-and-coming productions do not push their dollars as far they could for fear of not having the appearance of a legitimate shoot. It’s the syndrome of the destitute lottery-winner with many filmmakers losing sight of their frugality once they are bumped up to a higher budget category.
It’s understandable that greater means mean greater production values, greater possibilities visually, artistically. Imagine however how much more you can achieve if you handle every dollar of your budget like it was your last. Burning money will also never disguise a bad script or shoddy workmanship.
In the end it’s about being strategic.