Creating a film budget is an integral part of the production process. Without a film budget, you can’t bring your vision to life.
The creative vision is completely framed by the film budget. It’s what separates fantasy from reality. A writer can build the most extravagant and fantastical worlds imaginable. Yet nothing will hit the screen unless there is an adequate budget for it.
No budget. No movie.
How do you create a film budget?
By analysing all the elements included in a script and how this movie is going to be shot.
It Starts With the Script
First, you start with the script. Once the script is near finished, you get a Line Producer to look at every single line item and add a cost.
Before building a film budget, you need to create a schedule. It’s only from the schedule that you will be able to determine the various elements needed to shoot in a particular scene. A Line Producer will then be able to determine the complexity of the film and its impact on the overall film budget.
Line Producers are not the one who will create the final schedule. But to build a film budget and to learn more about the film, they have enough experience to create a draft schedule, that they will use to create the film budget.
It’s critical that you only get a Line Producer to build the film budget. Other crew members most likely won’t have the experience in budgeting.
Lack of budget-know-how can be the difference between a film budget of $100K and $1M.
So choose wisely.
Dividing the Film Budget
A film budget is typically divided into 7-8 key parts. On the lower budget productions, it will pretty much stay within this number. On the larger productions, it’s not surprising to see a budget split in 10 or more ways.
The key segments of the film budget are:
- Camera and lighting
- Set Design
- Misc costs
The percentage split of each key segment is extremely variable. On a sci-fi film, expect set design and post-production (VFX) to bear a large amount of the costs. On a star-studded romantic comedy, the cast will most likely take the highest percentage of the film budget with actor salaries.
“Miscellaneous” is essentially any line item that does not fit with the other categories. This can be insurance, office costs, and much more. One of the key parts of any miscellaneous film budget line is the contingency.
The production standard is 10-15% of the entire budget as the contingency. Many filmmakers shirk this cost to put money elsewhere but it’s a false economy. If you don’t budget for the inevitable mishaps, you can get burned during production with no money left.
It’s especially disastrous for indie productions that don’t have a studio to call upon for bailouts.
All film budgets now include items for Covid costs in order to shoot in a safe environment. These costs have an impact on your overall budget. While we hope to see the day soon when this is a thing of the past, for now they have to be taken into consideration.
Marketing in a Film Budget
Last, but never least. Make sure you adequately budget for marketing. If no one sees your film, it might as well not exist. Many filmmakers think they can just throw their film online and millions of people will follow.
A good estimate should be at least 15% of your film budget towards marketing. This should allow your film to be publicised in magazines, journals, and other film circles.
Overall, a film’s budget is of utmost importance.
Get it right and you can see your vision realized in a completed film. Get it wrong and your idea will never see the light of day.
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