A film budget is an important part of any film production project. It is used to determine the cost of the pre-production, production, and post-production phases of the film project. It is an estimate of required funding done by a production manager, or accountant that prepares a budget for film production.
The budgeting of the expenses for a film project is one of the most important requirements of the whole production process. As an estimate, a film budget may not be the total amount required to successfully complete the film production. However, it is the first draft for what film producers and their investors should expect as production costs.
Before making a proper film budget, there are certain conditions to be put into consideration; you should know the budget range of your film depending on the type you intend to produce, the nature of the film determines the size and members of the cast/crew, location, transport, accommodation, the equipment, and machinery needed for the shoot and the number of days that will be required for the film production. If it is a high-budget film, you should be prepared to seek out investors.
Levels Of a Film Budget
While preparing a film budget, there are levels that you should follow in order to craft the best budget for your film. These are:
Top sheet level
It primarily consists of a summary of the full budget. It shows the various accounts, their account numbers, e.g., “12345”, a description of the account e.g., “costumes”, and the total amount of money required to fund that account.
It provides a more detailed view of the account. The account description and amount are better elucidated in this level. For example, in this level, it will be displayed as “12345 Costumes”.
The details level
The detail level speaks for itself. This is where more important details are inputted. For instance, it is in this level that the rates are included to make it as comprehensive as possible. The rates for your “12345 Costumes” account will have to be added here.
How To Create A Film Budget
Having gained an understanding of what a film budget entails, you need to prepare the film budget for that project you are about to embark on by following the steps given below:
Decide on the film budget template
Firstly, you should be ready to select your preferred template to prepare your film budget. Choose a template that you find easy to use and understand while also being as detailed as possible.
Schedule the budget
It is very necessary to schedule the budget first. By scheduling the budget, it means determining how many days will be required for the film shoot and how much those shoot days will cost. This makes it easier to come to an estimation for your film budget.
Create the header
You should create the header for the budget. The header should contain the following:
- The name of the project, as it is the most important part of the header and should be duly added.
- The budget header should also indicate the intended number of shooting days. It is important in estimating your film’s budget, you need to decide how many days you aim to be in production. Generally, the more days of filming, the more cost that will be accrued.
- The budget date should also be mentioned in the header of the film budget.
- Lastly, in the header, do not forget to add the name of the individual who drafted the film budget. It may be you as a filmmaker or an accountant.
Start with the development phase
Now you should proceed to start the development phase of crafting your film budget, including the following categories.
Above the line
This category of your film budget drafting includes the costs required to carry out the development phase. It is usually the most cost-intensive category of your film budget because you will be contracting the important members of your crew who may need to be paid before production starts. They will be involved in financial planning, scheduling, drafting, and rehearsing for your film project such as the director, producer, acting talents, production rights to the film, screenwriter, cinematographer, etc.
Below the line
Below the line category covers expenses from pre-production to filming such as equipment, crew, locations, permits, vehicles, etc. This category contains key members of the production team that will be mainly concerned with on set during production. They usually include consist of production assistants, make-up artists, camera assistants, costume designers, sound mixers, etc.
Below the line post
Below the line post is primarily concerned with the post-production costs, including visual effects, editing, music and other post-production facilities. The film editor is an example of a member of the production crew that works in the post-production stage of filming.
Below the line other
Below the line other is the last section of this category of film budget development. This is where you set out the costs to be incurred in the areas of publicity, marketing, distribution expenses to production insurance, and other general expenses.
There are extra costs that will arise during the pre-production stage of the film project which will depend on the type of film you intend the produce, the budget and scale of your production. You will usually be required to account for the following pre-production costs
There might be a need for the actors to practice before the actual shoot. Your director might need several rehearsal days with the actors. This gives you or your director enough time to coach and conduct practice shoots with the actors.
This is incurred because of the time and effort needed for a number of crew members to get their equipment together and test them at certain locations in preparation for the film shoot.
There is the need to check out both major and minor locations for your film shoot. In addition, designated crew members will get involved in scouting activities, and you will need to pay for the scouting expenses.
Production design costs
These costs are needed during the pre-production stage to ensure that the visuals, ideas, and general outlook of the set designs are sourced, gathered, and well prepared for the shoot. The amount of time and money spent on this part of the pre-production depends on your upcoming film shoot type and size.
Production department costs
This involves other general costs you will have to handle, such as hiring an office, internet, paper, printer, and general stationery costs that you will usually need on a film set
The main production budget is very crucial in the success of the film project as a whole. This will make up the bulk of the film’s production cost. The most expensive cost that you are likely going to bear is the payment for your cast and crew. You will need to consider certain costs, such as:
Film production requires a lot of equipment such as cameras, sound equipment, lighting, and more. You may need to buy, rent, or hire crew who take on jobs with their own equipment. To protect the equipment, you will also need to make sure you get them insured to cover you if the need arises.
You should ensure that you get a proper set and product design for your shoot. Of course, this comes with a heavy cost. Individual scenes in your film will require a dedicated amount for their respective set design.
The actors hired for your film project will require costumes to play their various characters. The cost of the costumes either bought or made depends on the nature of your film. The costumes also differ from scene to scene and how often a certain character may have to appear in the film dressed in different costumes.
Hair and make-up
Hair and make-up costs also vary according to the type of film you are shooting. Some genres require more heavy make-up than others, e.g., horror, which may require heavy special make-up props such as fake blood, etc. A film set with a large cast will also have to pay for more hair and make-up costs during production.
For any film production, the setting is always very important. For many potential locations for movies, permission to access them will need to be obtained by you. This can be expensive, so you should be aware if you will need to get permission, paid or unpaid, of some sort in any of the locations scouted for your film production.
Transport, traveling, and accommodation
For the movement of the cast and crew involved in the film’s production, you will need to pay the transportation cost. This may include airfare, buying or renting vehicles, fuel, hiring drivers, etc. You will also need to handle accommodation for the cast and crew if there is a need to travel; accommodation arrangements must be made and paid for.
where your production involves the presence and use of certain animals, you will have to include the cost in your production budgeting, such as the cost for handlers, etc.
You should know how many people will be fed throughout the shooting. Allocation for the daily feeding of the cast and crew members should be made. Depending on the size of your set, this can range from a slight amount to a large cost.
Stunts and special effects
If your film employs the use of stunts and special effects either mildly or heavily, your production budget will have to include it to cover for stunt doubles and instructors as well as other necessary stunt and special effects props. Make an estimate for material and personnel costs.
This section encompasses the costs of other add-on-items that may be needed in the film production such as puppets, etc. Your film production may also need make-up and wardrobe expenses that will be put into the creating and handling of costumes.
You may need to budget a certain amount for studio rentals depending on whether your film production requires it. Renting out studio space may be needed.
The salaries paid to the working crew are a crucial part of the production budget. The salary is determined by how many days they have to work on set and how much they are entitled to receive each day.
There will be a need to fill up scenes, so you should make provision for background actors in your production budget. Know how many background actors will be involved and how many scenes per day they will be featured. This will give you an estimate of how much background actors will cost in the production.
Talent costs and other talent expenses
The hired talent for your film production will have to be paid. For your hired talent, you will also have to handle the transportation, both air and ground travel, as it may apply to hotels, feeding, etc. You can allocate the required amount based on your project’s general budget.
This is primarily concerned with costs for any activity after the main product has been completed. Your post-production budget should consider:
You will need to fund your editor working on music, narration, sound, or any other editing cost. Your editor’s wage is also under the post-production budget.
The size of your film production will inevitably determine whether you need assistant editors and other post-production personnel of that nature. In a production that needs them, you may have to consider the cost.
You may need to purchase quite a number of storage hard drives for your film production as well as renting an office space for a proper location for post-production work to be done on the film.
Music composer/music rights/sound design
The need for soundtracks in your film will require you to seek permission and rights to use popular music, which can be expensive. As a result, you may also be inclined to hire a music composer to create new scores for your film.
For the ease of creating a film budget, you make potential cost estimates by:
Breaking your script into pages per day
You should know how many pages from your movie script will be scheduled to be shot per day, as well as the number of days you will need to shoot your film. You break down a script when you go through it and divide it into elements for production. This will give you the cost estimate for the budget. You should proceed to draft a shooting schedule once you have broken your script down and understand the time and other necessities needed for each day.
Planning for difficult scenes
As a filmmaker, you need to know those scenes that may be challenging while shooting, and you should adequately plan for them. You can do this by outlining scenes on level of difficulty so you can prepare for any specific personnel or equipment required for those scenes.
After completing the film production, there will be a need for it to be distributed to the final viewers. Therefore, it is important to have a distribution plan. You should consider entering into film festivals to help promote your film. You may want to hire a PR team or sales agent but if it is a small production or in a bid to manage funds, self-distribution is another available option.
When creating your desired film budget, using budget templates can make your film budgeting process organized and comprehensive. Film budget templates usually provide the chance to put your expenses into the required stages. You can record the expected number of days on set for each actor and member of the crew to calculate their salary. There are many templates available online for your use. In addition, you can download customized templates available for free from below:
Why Is Budgeting For A Film Necessary
The importance of drafting a budget for your film production cannot be overemphasized. All stages of production require budgeting. Making preparation for these costs ensures that your production financial plans are covered.
Expenses that were initially unplanned will definitely come up during production. Budgeting gives room for you to make the required financial changes or compromises to cover those expenses.
The size of your budget depends on the kind of movie being produced. However, irrespective of the size of your film project, an organized financial plan is very necessary and should not be overlooked by any focused filmmaker.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A Fringe is an additional amount added to the usual rate to cover additional costs for the person being hired. This may include tax, etc.
There are many issues that come with using excel to create a film budget. In excel, you will have to change any fluctuating rates and other calculations manually. That is why it is advised to use a professional film budgeting software.
When working with multiple currencies, you may need one where fringes and other requirements are involved. For this, you can use a budgeting software, especially when you need to pay out percentage-based fees.