How HBO Made the Most Expensive Mini-Series of All Time
By Jo Piazza Posted Aug 27th 2010 06:00AM
Budgets over $200 million are usually reserved for the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer and James Cameron. That kind of budget buys a lot of explosions, car chases, 3-D effects and big-time stars.
Well, $217 million is what HBO spent to produce it's Emmy nominated World War II miniseries 'The Pacific.' They spent an additional $10 million on an aggressive marketing campaign, according to a story in today's Hollywood Reporter Emmy issue.
Where did all that money go? Sure, it's a war narrative, which means lots of explosions and special effects, but $217 million seems steep for something created for the small screen, especially for a film that used no big name actors and actresses.
THR breaks down some of the expenditures.
The series spent $270,000 in daily overhead by paying its leads double or triple Screen Actors Guild scale due to the difficulties faced in shooting. For the Peleliu landing scene -- itself a $5 million expenditure -- the production provided exact replicas of the original World War II uniforms worn during the original battle for more than 300 actors. There were typically four wide shots during each day of filming, at a cost of $70,000 per shot.
Because the young actors did all of their own stunts, the special effects team had to be extra careful, wiring each Marine with several radios during explosions. Every time a Marine was hit with shrapnel onscreen, it cost the production around $1,000.
'The Pacific' is clearly the frontrunner to win HBO yet another Emmy this weekend. It is up against only one other serious contender, the PBS Masterpiece miniseries 'Return to Cranford,' which was produced for a pittance compared to the epic war drama.
For HBO, 'The Pacific' may have been money well-spent -- with its 24 nominations, it helped make the network the most nominated on television.
The premium channel used to sweep the Emmys back in the heyday of 'The Sopranos' and 'Sex and the City,' but its awards clout has been dwindling recently as cable networks have produced their own edgier and smarter brand of content -- like AMC's 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad.'
So, spending money on an epic like 'The Pacific' and promising more quality long-form content could be a way for HBO to beat the other cable networks at this game. If they're looking to buy their audience, this is one way to do it. Another (and cheaper way) would be to start developing the kind of original programming that put them on the map in the first place. Alan Ball's 'True Blood' and Mark Wahlberg's 'How to Make it in America' have been good starts, but if the premium channel keeps passing on things like 'Mad Men' then the audience is going to pass them by, no matter how much they're willing to spend.
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