Wikia

Memory Alpha

Budget/cost info

37,504pages on
this wiki

Forum page

Forum icon  ForumsReference Desk → Budget/cost info (replywatch)
This forum discussion has been archived
This forum discussion has been archived and should not be added to. Please visit the Forums to begin a new topic in the relevant location.

Does MA have any articles/info about production costs, budgets/money allotted per season/episode, production staff/actors' salaries for the TNG-era (and ENT) series? I've seen on the TOS pages specific dollar amounts allotted per episode – which incidentally dwindled as actors' salaries rose – but almost no mention of budgets for the other series. Only indirect references, such as comments from production staff that money constricted their ability to use guest actors, make visual effects, etc., seem to exist. Is this sort of info unavailable, or is it unsuitable for inclusion in MA? Other than the movie budgets and gross returns, which are usually known for most films, I can't find anything.

Maybe it's here, but my search terms are inadequate. ?

Cepstrum (talk) 17:16, February 22, 2011 (UTC)

My personal opinion on this is that it would make nice background information in the episode articles themselves, that is if you were able to get ahold of this information with a valid source. I may be wrong (someone please correct me if I am!), but I do not believe there is an MA policy against inclusion of this information (other than, like all BG info, it just needs a valid source). --| TrekFan Open a channel 17:22, February 22, 2011 (UTC)
I don't see why budget or cost information wouldn't be valid Background information- we already identify bottle shows, which were designed to save money for other episodes- if exact budget figures are out there, it would certainly provide insight into the making of the episodes. I just don't know where such figures would be.--31dot 18:59, February 22, 2011 (UTC)

Thanks, TrekFan and 31dot. So: the answer is this sort of info is not available from the myriad books/interviews? I can see why it might be hard to obtain salaries of actors/production staff, but I'm incredulous that no source ever provided, eg, how much Paramount gave TNG for season x. Can anyone at least speculate/provide "ballpark" figures for some of these if no citable sources give any info?

A principal interest and the genesis of these questions is the obvious recycling of the establishing shots of the Enterprise-D and Voyager. Did it really cost too much to create new ones? (Related to this is reusing opticals from the movies – most notably the starbase, Mutata Nebula, and Mirandas/Excelsiors.) Also: It seems that most anytime a Starfleet ship rendezvoused with the E-D, they used the same optical of an Excelsior ship, from a profile view. Why couldn't they at least reshoot it – there'd even be no need to build another model. Even by Voyager's era, they kept reusing the same establishing shot of it moving (at impulse!) from underneath. They obviously did film new shots on occasion, eg during a firefight with a new hostile alien ship. So why the continual reuse of those establishing shots?

Is this last part addressed in any MA article? I'd expect to find answers to such production-related issues here, given that MA is supposed to be a comprehensive encyclopedia of all canon Trek productions. Would an article(s) that attempts to aggregate the logistical parts of producing the series be appropriate? A lot of the info that does exist here is spread out around the bg sections of many articles.

Cepstrum (talk) 19:50, February 22, 2011 (UTC)

Shot reuse like that is common and used in every show on TV. Any time you can save money on stock footage, you can use that money elsewhere, such as for a guest star, a fire fight, or otherwise. It's also really not that surprising that the information is not available. One of the most open shows (Babylon 5) was very tight lipped about how much money was spent, just that they came in under budget for 90% of their episodes. -- sulfur 20:02, February 22, 2011 (UTC)
Really, right lipped? I've actually read a few figures here and there before, supposedly written by J. Michael Straczynski himself. In them, he mentioned that each episode cost roughly a million dollars (to use easier estimated numbers), and I've also read that by the end of the series, 90 million was spent on it, albeit start to finish. I couldn't remember where I read it now, or if I am remembering correctly, but I also think I once read that each episode of Enterprise cost something like 1.2 million dollars. --Terran Officer 20:19, February 22, 2011 (UTC)
He was tight lipped about the precise numbers, but noted that each episode was budgeted at less than 1 million dollars, which was apparently a fair bit less than each episode of DS9. I don't recall ever seeing a total for the series though. - sulfur 21:13, February 22, 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for the info, Sulfur. So I guess we're just lucky about all the bginfo available re TOS. Am I right in assuming none of the shows was subject to as much scrutiny as that one? AFAIK, far more "post-mortem" books/bios written by former (sometimes disgruntled) production staff exist for TOS. By the time of TNG, Paramount probably tried to ensure its lucrative franchise's shows would not receive such treatment via NDAs, etc. And most analyses by third-parties, as well as staff (eg, Drexler, Sternbach) concern the artistic and "technical" parts – not infighting, complaints, or explanations for cancellation.

Cepstrum (talk) 20:27, February 23, 2011 (UTC)

It's not just TOS. In part the availability of such information (infighting, complaints etc.) is related to how long ago it was. There's actually plenty of info, for example, on the infighting among the TNG writing staff in the first couple of seasons. This is well-documented in both the official and unofficial books, but as an easily accessible example you can see David Gerrold's spray on early TNG's dodgy writing practices here - [1].–Cleanse ( talk | contribs ) 01:13, February 24, 2011 (UTC)

Cool, Cleanse; thanks for the link/explanation. I look forward to checking it out.

And one more thing: I didn't mean to imply the reuse of the establishing shots bothered me – I was just curious about why they were ubiquitous! I actually find it somewhat "charming/endearing". I also realize many shows do this. For example, The Bob Newhart Show is "supposed" to take place in Chicago, but obviously they never left LA. They just sent a camera crew to Chicago one day wherein they took a bunch of establishing shots they kept using over and over. (And had Bob walk around in circles/non-sensical paths on the streets/bridges to make it appear he was going to and from work!) Similarly to Trek, it wouldn't have cost much to revisit Chicago to shoot some new scenes/stock footage, but they never did; and no one cared. (I didn't even notice the recycling of footage in Trek until after many rewatchings and reading bginfo here.)

Cepstrum (talk) 06:31, February 24, 2011 (UTC)

You'd actually be surprised. To shoot more in Chicago would have meant:
  • A shooting permit
  • Travel for the crew and any actors to be shot
  • Hotels for the crew and any actors to be shot
  • While away from home, the crew and any actors to be shot will be paid extra, including a per diem
Things like that add up quickly. -- sulfur 11:12, February 24, 2011 (UTC)

You're right – that did surprise me. Never thought about those things before. Based on my experience, airfaire alone costs a lot for work-related travel. And I now "get" why the producers would try to save money by recycling E-D/Voyager footage (eg, paying the film and tech crew to spend time filming shots that'd be pretty much the same anyway).

There's still the question of making an article that explains the entire process of producing a typical show. Probably too vague in scope, though. Cepstrum (talk) 16:11, February 24, 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia says that TNG was the first TV series to cost more than $1 million per episode, but that information is not sourced. This article from the UK Telegraph ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/5886515/Gene-Roddenberry.html ) states that in the late '80s or early '90s, TNG cost $1.3 million/episode. As production values and actors' salaries increased, I'm sure this number went up as time progressed--and not just for TNG. Season 1 of Voyager looks glitzier than Season 7 of TNG--despite the fact that they're in successive years. As far as information for specific episodes, that might be hard to come by (except for pilots, finales, or special two-parters). Hollywood studios are notoriously private about their accounting practices and expenses--Cassmus 00:15, March 5, 2011 (UTC)
I'm fairly certain the $1 million figure is somewhere in one of the reference books, though I can't find it at the moment. (But I may have misremembered)
While the figures aren't offered, Rick Berman has claimed that the budget for Star Trek: The Next Generation was fairly stable over it's run. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion states that (in Season 5) "The weekly episodes were being turned out for basically what they cost in 1987 dollars, according to Berman. 'Aside from the salaries going up and the cost of living raises, we're still doing the show with the same budget - no more for sets or special effects. But after five years we are spending it much more efficiently than we did in 1987'." (2nd ed., p. 174)
And for just for interest, DS9: "Emissary" had a budget of over $12 million, according to Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages (p.39).–Cleanse ( talk | contribs ) 00:27, March 5, 2011 (UTC)
The article on VOY: "Caretaker" states that it cost $23 million to produce, but--again--this information is unsourced. Pilots are likely the most expensive episodes of each series because all of the expenses of new sets, costumes, auditioning actors, concept art, etc., is budgeted into that first episode. I find it hard to believe that any other episode of DS9 could possible cost as much as "Emissary," just because no other DS9 episode built the largest set in Hollywood, designed makeup effects for dozens of new actors, or had a months-long casting process. Same goes for comparing the costs of the other pilots to their respective series' other episodes.--Cassmus 00:36, March 5, 2011 (UTC)
I know average DS9 episodes didn't cost anywhere near $12 million. :-) The book goes on to comment that this was "a staggering sum for the medium". I was actually just substantiating your claim that it's only a few special episodes that we know the budget for.–Cleanse ( talk | contribs ) 00:40, March 5, 2011 (UTC)

That's right: I recall the $23,000,000 figure for "Caretaker", but I also recall reading how that wasn't representative of a typical show: it was the pilot (included the sets etc.), and they blew some time/money on the "Nicole" Janeway actress. I did not know about the roughly $1,000,000 1987 USD amount for TNG. That's the kind of thing I was looking for. I'd be interested to know, though, just how much it cost to make/film optical fx. They're pretty tight-lipped, so we may never know.

Still, wouldn't a page(s) about producing the series be appropriate for an "all things Trek (canon)" encyclopedia? Cepstrum (talk) 17:19, March 11, 2011 (UTC)

Around Wikia's network

Random Wiki