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How to Create a Film Budget

By Jace Brewster on April 07, 2017 in


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Create film budget template

Managing a film project can seem simple enough -- write or find a script, cast actors and obtain equipment. Not so fast there, Scorsese. For a truly successful production process you'll need a film budget first!

Creating a budget will help you determine where you need to invest your time and money, keep surprises to a minimum and provide a guideline for you to follow during every stage of production.

The Difference Between Above and Below the Line

In film production, "above the line" refers to the group of people who are involved in the film during the development phase. This typically includes the cost of the story rights, the director, the cast and everything else that has to be in order before production begins.

Everything else is considered to be "below the line" in a film budget and includes production costs such as the crew, locations, permits, equipment, etc.

*If you ask the ASC, they'll tell you the cinematographer should be above the line, but it's ultimately the choice of the producer who's budgeting the film.

What's Included in a Budget?

A film budget is broken down into three parts: pre-production, production and post-production. Here's what each section should include (keeping in mind that you may need to make adjustments based on your needs and the size of your production):

1. Pre-Production

  • Principal cast
  • Director/first assistant director
  • Development
  • Writer and screenplay
  • Story rights (if it's not an original story)
  • Producer

2. Production

  • All crew fees (director of photography, production manager, production designer, script supervisor, etc.)
  • Location/permits
  • Equipment (cameras, lights, lenses, film stock, sound equipment, etc.)
  • Costumes/makeup
  • Catering/craft services
  • Transportation fees
  • Insurance
  • Expendables (tape, gloves, gels, etc.)
  • Production office fees

3. Post-Production

  • All post services (editor, editing suite, audio technician, visual effects, etc.)
  • Licensing fees (music, artwork, brand names, etc.)
  • ADR (automated dialogue replacement) and sound effects
  • Scoring
  • Titling
  • An optional fourth category has become increasingly popular and necessary -- marketing and publicity (often referred to as P&A, or print and advertising). This should include a budget for areas such as:

  • Press packages
  • PR agency or agent fees
  • Internet publicity/social media
  • Distribution fees
  • Festival entry fees

How to Create a Film Budget

Whew, we just threw a lot at you, we know. However, you don't have to go through  all this alone. Thankfully, many project and scheduling management tools for the media industry exist and are easy to use.

Once you've started thinking about the various needs of your production using the guideline above, you'll be able to understand your shooting schedule and overall production needs more effectively. If you are working on an independent film, this can be crucial, as creating a film budget as soon as you have a project allows you ample time to complete the fundraising required. And, nobody wants to fund a film if they can't see the budget!

How exactly do you go about creating a budget? Various templates exist online, or you can simply check out our Budgeting Add-On available through our media management services. With this add-on, you can create customized budgets and quotes, keeping a real-time check on costs, instantly updating budgets, and generating reports and analyses.

Farmerswife Is Here to Help!

For further help with your production or scheduling project management software, head over to the farmerswife budgeting main page. Our software is specially designed for media professionals like you who are looking to simplify their workflow and maximize their time.
We aim to help you organize and track project resources, plan and control the project life cycle, and manage day-to-day tasks, all with an easy-to-use interface. Don't wait to get started budgeting your next masterpiece. Talk to us today!