How to Budget your Film Projects

You’ve got a great idea for a film. You’ll need some actors, some sets, some equipment, and some post-production.

How to Budget your Film Projects

You’ve got a great idea for a film. You’ll need some actors, some sets, some equipment, and some post-production. Without a plan you start filming things, only to realize you’re missing a prop causing you to overpay for one quickly.

Then you forget you need to feed your actors - another ding to your finances. This pattern continues, and by the end of your project, you’ve spent WAY more money than you thought you would! Let’s take the stress out of this though. By budgeting ahead of time, you can create your film project for less than you planned!

1. Budget by the day

One of the best ways to start your budget is by planning it by the day. Breaking your script down into days will help you better know how many days you’re shooting, what you need to accomplish and various daily expenses. Once you know everything you need for that day’s shoot, it’s easier to plan as well. If you’re not sure how many pages to shoot per day, Hollywood shoots about one page of a script per day. Small productions can shoot up to 8-pages in a script per day.

2. Shoot important scenes first

Focusing on shooting crucial content FIRST helps to keep you within budget. This happens because big scenes usually need more people on deck to shoot. Special effects, props, or stunts are all things that are not easily reshot. Conversely, the dialogue is very easy to shoot and can often be done with a skeleton crew. By getting these big scenes done first, you don’t have to worry about cutting corners on them later on. Cost-cutting is better done on low production scenes instead.

3. Budget for people (actors, background, crew)

Once you know your scenes and plan for shooting, you should consider the cost of the people involved. You need your actors, supporting actors, background actors and a whole roster of crew members. Plan your budget to provide a bit of a cushion as you may need to do reshoots or bring in additional team members.

4. Calculate the cost of your gear

The gear needed to shoot a film project will add up quickly as you start budgeting. Cameras, lights, microphones, sets, props, design, wardrobes, hair, and makeup, etc. These are important to a production and can sometimes be forgotten in the planning stages. Make sure you apply these needs to your day-by-day breakdown to ensure you aren’t missing anything crucial on location.

5. Cost out your special effects

Special effects are generally done much later, but they come with major costs. There are a lot of instances in production where the money is already spent by the time special effects are needed. This leads to a significant and noticeable drop in the quality of your effects. That fact is immediately noticeable in a film and will ruin people’s immersion. Speak with your special effects team and get an estimate ahead of time - always budget more than what their quote is just in case!

6. Set aside money for errors, reshoots, and damages

There are a lot of problems that you can run into on a film shoot. A camera is dropped, someone breaks a set-piece, or audio is ruined by a faulty cable are all examples of common issues on set. These errors, reshoots, dub overs, and damages need to be budgeted for. The budgets don’t need to be extreme, but providing yourself with a little bit of a safety net will give you peace of mind.

7. Post-production

You’re finished shooting - but now you’re going into post-production. Editing, sound, effects, and more, become the big cost of the project. This phase can take some time before the final product is ready. Make sure you budget accordingly to cover the cost of all of this. Some projects have to change editors or go through re-edits, further stretching budgetary constraints. Don’t neglect post-production in your budget!

8. Marketing

Your film is complete - now it’s time to distribute it! Are you planning to promote it? Do you have a distributor? Sell it to Netflix? Share on YouTube? There are a lot of possible costs associated with getting your film seen that you may not have thought of. Make sure to consider them when creating your budget.

9. Make sure you don’t forget...

You’ve sat down and built your budget - did you forget anything? Here is a list of things that are budgeted for on a film project:

  • Camera Gear
  • Camera Movement
  • Props
  • Costumes
  • Lighting
  • Sound
  • Vehicles
  • Special Effects
  • Camera
  • Actors and Actresses
  • Background Actors
  • Crew Members
  • Food (2-3 meals per Day per Person)
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Travel
  • Hotel/Accommodations
  • Salaries/Wages
  • Insurance
  • Post-Production
  • Errors and Omissions
  • Reshoots
  • Marketing

10. Congrats!

Congratulations, you’ve built a budget for your film! Now it’s time to shoot, edit and release it to the masses! If you need music or sound effects, we hope you chose Epidemic Sound - not only do we have the single largest selection, but we’re also extreme budget-friendly! We look forward to seeing your film!