5 Actionable Tips for Creating Your Production Budget

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Whether you're shooting a low-budget feature, a Hollywood blockbuster, or a commercial for a local business, creating and managing a budget is crucial for your production. It's important to start budgeting your productions from the get-go because it can help inform some of your creative decisions. For productions that have a large crew, it’s especially important to have a production budget so that you can pay your cast and crew in a timely manner. There’s no better way to burn bridges and tarnish good relationships than not paying on schedule.

So, how can you start to create your production budget? Read below for 5 actionable tips you can start using today. 

  1. Break down the major expenses of your production
    If you're shooting a narrative project, go through the script and try to break down the major expenses of the production. For productions that don't have a script, go through the shot list or the campaign breakdown to find major expenses. Ask yourself the following questions:

    1. How many days will the project take to shoot?

    2. Will there be any special effects?

    3. How big is the cast?

    4. Are there any roles for animals, children, or stunt professionals?

    5. Do I need to hire someone to record audio?

    6. Is there any equipment I need to rent?

    7. Will I need to hire a composer or purchase royalty free music?

  1. Determine above-the-line and below-the-line expenses
    Production budgets typically include a top sheet which breaks down the budget into 3 categories: above-the-line, below-the-line, and post-production expenses. Above-the-line refers to the list of individuals who guide and influence the creative direction, process, and voice of a given narrative in a film and related expenditures. The remaining crew and production team are categorized as below-the-line. Make a list of everyone you will need to hire for the production, determine their rate, and then split them into the two categories (above-the-line and below-the-line). Add any post-production expenses to the post-production category, along with their rate.

  2. Make a detailed list of every non-personnel expense you anticipate
    From locations and catering, to picture vehicles and casting studios, it’s important to make a list of all of your anticipated expenses. Use the list below to see if you will have any of these expenses for your production, determine their rate and quantity, then add them to your budget:

    1. Locations

    2. Props

    3. Picture vehicles

    4. Equipment rentals

    5. Set dressing

    6. Studio rental for casting

  3. Calculate the tax rate and contingency
    A mistake that many smaller productions make is not calculating a contingency into their budgets. It’s imperative to add at least a 10% contingency to your productions because there are always unexpected costs that can’t be calculated into the budget. Once you’ve gotten your production total, calculate at least 10% and add that to the bottom line.

    Calculating the tax rate is especially important for commercial and client projects. Adding the tax rate protects freelancers from having to cut into their own budget to cover the taxes on a project.

  4. Don't forget to budget for post-production
    Just because you’ve wrapped filming doesn’t mean your production is done spending. Unless you’re a major studio, the chances that you will need to hire post-production services is high. Some expenses to prepare for are editing, original music, title design, post-production sound, color grading, and special effects.

Putting these pieces together can make it easier to assemble your production budget. There are a lot of free resources and budget templates available online. A great production budget template can be found on StudioBinder. Do you have your own tips for creating production budgets? Comment them below!

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About the Author

Elisa Croft
Elisa Croft
Elisa Croft began her career in film as a child actor in Los Angeles during the early 2000s. At her first film festival Elisa's interest in the industry began to broaden beyond acting, and in 2017 she co-founded Paper Horse Pictures, a West Hollywood based production company. Since co-founding Paper Horse Pictures, Elisa has produced, written, and directed several projects ranging from music videos to commercials to short films. Currently, she is producing the company's first feature film as well as developing a commercial division for Paper Horse Pictures.

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  • Yantram Studio said…
    Thursday, January 18, 2018 12:45 AM
    Wow! The attention to detail is amazing!!! Very beautiful! Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.
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