Only one in 10 British films makes it past the "development phase" - that nail-biting time between drafts when production company executives gaze into their crystal balls for clues as to whether this will be the next British blockbuster. Of the films that do make it to the multiplexes, only 15 per cent show a profit. But the siren song of success on a shoestring - think Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and The Full Monty - continues to attract would-be players to the industry. The average British film-maker contemplating a modest feature without US backing must be prepared to spend the best part of pounds 2m, even if Mum makes the sandwiches. But even this is no guarantee your oeuvre will garner a three-picture deal with Miramax while launching your gritty Brit actors out of TV soap hell and into Leonardo DiCaprio's income bracket. If you want your film to run for more than two weeks in a suburban flea pit, make sure it's "distribution-friendly" - ie, appeals to American audiences - the world's major distribution networks are mostly US-owned. This is how the money adds up:

The story Commissioning and development of script (including legal fees and a rainforest's worth of rewrites), pounds 50,000

The faces Three main cast members, pounds 150,000 (just enough to pay for a personal trainer, dental enhancement and a one-way ticket to Hollywood. If this film makes it, they'll never work this cheap again); minor cast members, pounds 75,000; extras, stand-ins, doubles, pounds 50,000

The power Director, pounds 80,000; assistant director, pounds 40,000; producer, pounds 80,000

The place Location facilities, pounds 250,000 (including finding and kitting-out the perfect country house or Notting Hill flat)

The life Accommodation and catering, pounds 150,000 (eight weeks of sandwiches and two-star hotels)

The nuts and bolts Celluloid film and video tape, pounds 200,000; post-production, pounds 300,000 (editing, special effects, music); production company overheads, pounds 100,000

Crew Technical staff, from cameraman to make-up artist to best boy, pounds 250,000

The unexpected Contingency fund for unexpected costs, pounds 200,000

Total pounds 1,975,000

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