How to create a film budget breakdown. This post also comes with a free simple film budget template download.
Before you begin you should have an idea of what type of production you are making. You might be making a low-cost student film or creating a breakdown for a feature you intend to raise funds for. Even if you are making a low budget feature or short film you need to know just how much it will cost to make your film. People will say that you can make a film for free but there are always expenses. Even a no-budget film will have some costs – travel, props, lunch for cast and crew – a budget breakdown will help you understand how expensive you film realistically is to make.
Free Simple Template Download.
This is a very simple example that can be used for short films. A more detailed template can be found via StudioBinder.
You might also like my free call sheet template - Find here
Simple Script Breakdown
Breakdown each scene in your screenplay and write a list next to each scene of all the major elements (such as actors, props, locations) needed to complete the filming. Below I will go through these major elements in more detail.
How long will it take to shoot your film? Every day scheduled will cost you more money. Write a list of every scene in your script and whether it is a day or night shoot. Consider how you can film these scenes together. You don’t need to shoot the film in chronological order, time can be saved shooting two or more scenes in one day.
Consider how many hours per day you will be working – 10-12 hours per day with a one-hour lunch break is standard in filmmaking. You can get the crew to work for longer but this will have a negative effect on morale and energy.
How fast will you be filming? On low budgets, you may be able to get 20+ shots per day but for high quality 5-10 is more realistic. As a producer consider the quality and pace of the filmmaking, you should discuss how many shots you aim to get per day with the Director and DOP.
Cast and Crew
On a low budget film your cast and crew costs will likely be your highest expense. Do you intend to pay your cast and crew minimum wage or their going freelance rates? Film unions will have a recommended rate of pay you can use as guidance.
If you can’t pay your crew make sure to pay their expenses so they are not out of pocket. I had a problem with this once on a student film when an actor told me he was local but racked up a few hundred pounds of railway tickets. If you have no budget but are paying expenses ask cast and crew beforehand how much they will need.
How many actors do you need? Next to each scene write down how many actors and supporting artists you need. Then calculate how many days you will need them for. How many crew members will you need? A low budget feature film might only have a handful of crew members, but this will lower the quality of the film and could make the shooting days go slower.
It is expected on film sets to feed your cast and crew. This is because often there is no time whilst working for crew to leave the set. Having drinks, snacks and hot meals available every day will also help boost crew moral.
On a low budget short film, bottled water, sandwiches and snacks will be welcomed. On features you will need to provide a hot meal at least once a day if working with more than just a group of friends. If shooting over time (over 12 hours) you will need to make sure there are further supplies as well as hot drinks if filming in cold weather. How many people will you be feeding each shooting day?
Luckily these days camera equipment is a lot more affordable. Perhaps you already have your own equipment or know someone who does. If you are renting out equipment you will need public liability insurance, it might also be more worthwhile to buy equipment than to rent it out for a long time. If you have any night shoots in the film keep in mind that these will cost more to light. As a producer you will get more detail on what camera and lighting equipment will be needed from your Director Of Photography.
Even the low budget films need some sort of art budget. Consider all of the props in your film, do props need to be made, will scenes need additional set design? Look through every scene again and take note of any art design costs.
Also consider make up, hair and costume. If you have any special effects (blood etc) a make up designer will need to an additional budget for makeup. Even the most simplest of short films shoots may need several costume changes. It is wise to buy more than one costume for any lead actors, in case the costumes tear or stain.
On one of my student short films I was having to wash and iron the actors costumes every night as they refused to work the next day in used clothes.
Post-production & Distribution
When creating your production budget consider the cost of finishing your film. Will you be hiring an editor, will they need assistants? You may also need to buy additional hard drives for your film edit and music rights. Consider what your distribution plans will be, it can be pricey to enter your film into film festivals.
This is a simple breakdown of a film production budget. If you have any more advice you would like to add I will keep the comments section open for the next week.