So you want to make changes to your film, after picture lock. I’m talking about changes to the film after it’s been turned over to the post facility, sound house, the composer, the VFX house, and post work has begun in earnest. Let’s say you’ve actually even finished the film (or thought you did), is it possible to go back and make changes to your film at that very late stage in the process? The short answer is, ‘yes, of course’. Will it be easy? The short answer is, ‘no’. Will it be expensive? It will be more than you have to spend. But the most important question is: Will the film be better? There is no guarantee. In my humble opinion, if you are even contemplating opening up your film to make changes that far down the line, something is probably not working in your film that can be fixed with a few edits, adding a new scene, or some additional ADR.
I see this all the time in post. A filmmaker locks picture, then has a premiere or major audience screening, gets a bad review or some late-in-the-game feedback, and then decides to make changes. Well, speaking from experience, it opens a can of worms to do this, but if you have the time, money and the patience of a saint, it can be done.
The fact of the matter is, any changes you make to your movie after you’ve technically picture locked — meaning, you’ve turned over all of your elements to your post house for the conform, to the sound house for sound design, hell, let’s say you’ve even gone through your mix and DI — it’s going to cause a ripple effect. You will have to bring back your editor (and possibly the assistant editor), the post house will have to re-conform the reels affected by the change, and, if you added new material, that will certainly affect the sound design/mix, and you’ll have to re-time the footage in the DI to match the rest of the film. The question every producer is asking is: What will all this cost? Generally speaking, the percentage amount you change the film, will be roughly equivalent to the same percentage out of the total post budget. For example, worst-case scenario — let’s say you end up changing the film 20% after picture lock and all post production has already been done on the film, and your total post budget is $100,000. I would budget $20,000 for all of the work that needs to be redone in post. Remember, you have to pay your vendors to make all the changes, and it takes time to touch every part of your film again in post production.
Stay tuned for Pt. 2 of this article that offers advice on steps you can take to avoid a re-edit from the start.