The damage: Jane Delmer discovers how much it costs to make your own docu-soap

Once you needed the gravitas of a Dimbleby to feature in a television documentary. But being an inept driver is nowadays qualification enough. From Driving School to Health Farm, from The Matchmaker to Chef's School, the docu-soap is the staple of primetime television schedules. With their quirky, tragic or plain dysfunctional characters, their cliffhanger endings, melodramatic confrontations, and voyeuristic probings into their subjects' private lives, they are actually a cheap version of the soap opera. Since the set alone for the ill-fated Eldorado cost pounds 5m, their attraction to the networks is easy to comprehend. So why not cash in? Get yourself a black flak jacket and trainers for that authentic TV crew look, then swoop down like a Swat team on your local chip shop for a bit of alleged real life. Don't worry, you won't have to pay the cast. Just think Jerry Springer: people do anything to get on television. If you can interest a TV network in buying six half-hour episodes, here is your budget ...

Screen savers A one-hour documentary might need 200 hours of footage, but a docu-soap may only take 20. So a three-hour series is a mere 60 hours of filming. Digital tapestock at pounds 9 per hour, pounds 540. You'll need to be on location for at least six weeks to capture enough action: camera kit at pounds 500 per week, pounds 3,000. Subtotal, pounds 3,540

The director's cut At pounds 1,000 per week, a director will cost pounds 6,000; cameraman, pounds 200 per day, pounds 6,000; production manager, pounds 450 per week, pounds 2,700; petty cash to cover travel, telephone bills, sushi for the director's lunch and other sundry expenses to make life bearable on set among all that gritty real life, pounds 3,000. Subtotal, pounds 17,700

Editing highlights Editor, pounds 900 per week for eight weeks, pounds 7,200; transferring footage to VHS at pounds 30 per hour, pounds 1,800; hire of editing suite with on- line editor at pounds 100 per day, pounds 300. Subtotal, pounds 9,300

Out to launch Hire of Marie Antoinette Suite at The Ritz (cocktails, 100 guests) for that crucial launch party, pounds 550; canapes, pounds 235; Champagne, pounds 395. Subtotal, pounds 1,180

Total pounds 31,720

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