The Most Important Things To Know About Film Budgeting – The Film Fund (2023)

Typically, most beginners and outsiders assume filmmaking and the movie business to be this fascinating world full of fantasy, car chases, explosions, fame, and million-dollar contracts. And who pays for all this stuff, they may ask. Who’s in charge of the film budgeting and how do they do it?

“Oh, the producer guy or whoever just throws in wads of cash to finance the film, right?”

Well, in some cases, they’re not wrong — but in most cases, this is incorrect in many ways. There’s a lot more to the film industry that many people aren’t aware of. One of these things, which is typically ignored, is the intricacies of film production budgeting.

The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady

The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady

Film budgeting is a very crucial component to the pre-production phase regardless of the type of film you’re planning to make — whether it be a low budget short film, an independent feature, or a high budget Hollywood blockbuster.

Having a well-thought-out movie budget gives your film a better chance of being successful, in terms of quality and profits. It doesn’t necessarily matter how much money you have, especially if you’re working on micro-budget short films — what matters is how you budget and utilize the money and resources you have.

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There’ve been films, such as The Blair Witch Project, with budgets as little as $60,000 that have been able to rack up millions of dollars in revenue. Now, we’re not implying that every low budget film will be a billion-dollar box office hit — we’re simply emphasizing that you don’t need a ton of money to make a great film. You just need to learn how to properly and creatively manage the money and resources you have available to you.

Now, without further ado, let’s dive into some important film budgeting tips that can help efficiently produce the films you’re dying to make.

When To Begin The Film Budgeting Process

The Most Important Things To Know About Film Budgeting – The Film Fund (1)

Before we start breaking down the film budget, it’s important to understand when to begin budgeting for your film and the specific planning for each budgeting phase.

Generally, if you’re a producer or independent filmmaker with an idea for a film, you should start with a non-detailed, estimated preliminary budget. This particular budget will contain an estimated total of all the potential costs and accounts you’ll need to purchase for the film. This is created to secure financing from investors.

Once you’ve gathered the necessary funds needed to make your film, you’ll need to construct a more in-depth and detailed film budget. This will usually occur after hiring the key members, or department heads, of your production. This more detailed budget will be much more complex with finalized costs and planning.

If you’re wondering how to construct an actual film budget, you should look into film budgeting software, such as Movie Magic, where you can use budgeting templates that can be of great help during the process.

Best Tools For Creating And Managing A Film Budget

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Above-The-Line And Below-The-Line Personnel

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The first phase of any film production is the development phase. It’s where your idea and story are born and gradually developed into a full-fledged screenplay, backed by key creative members to put the pages to the big screen.


The above-the-line section of your movie budget consists of the costs needed to carry out the development phase and the phases that follow for your film. It’s generally the most expensive section of your movie budget because that’s where you’ll be paying the key members of your production — such as the screenwriter, director, producer, cinematographer, and talent.

These individuals are the ones involved in financial planning, scheduling, hiring, prepping, drafting, and rehearsing for your film. Depending on the scale of your production, they may need to be paid before you even begin filming.

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The below-the-line section of your movie budget contains key crew members — who aren’t so much involved in the development and pre-production phase — that will be heavily involved on set during production. These crew members typically consist of the production assistants, 1st ADs, camera assistants, grips, costume designers, makeup artists, sound mixers, etc.

You will need different personnel for each phase of production for both above-the-line and below-the-line. Pre-production and production will consist of your above-the-line members, where production and post-production will have all your below-the-line crew members.

Depending on the film budget of your production, you may not have the funds to pay all these important crew members. Don’t worry! We have a quick film budget cost savings tip that can help you.

The Film Fund Budget Tip

In order to save some money, determine which members you don’t necessarily need and which ones you do need. It’s also smart to put on multiple hats if you may not be able to hire certain crew members. This way you don’t need to pay great sums of money for positions you can likely do yourself.

Not all film productions need a VFX artist, or a stunt coordinator, especially if you’re working with a minimal short film budget or even a dramatic feature film. Your budget will depend entirely on your film’s genre and its contents.

So, if you know that you may not be getting hundreds of thousands, or even millions, for your film production, you may want to scrap the crazy car chases, elaborate fighting choreography, and breath-taking special effects from your script. Independent filmmakers and beginners should stick to creating more practical scripts. This will teach you how to be more creative and resourceful with the budget you have.

Pre-Production Budgeting

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Once you’ve secured a team of creative and determined individuals involved in the production, you’re going to need to account for pre-production costs.

These are typically some costs associated with:

  • Rehearsals Costs – Allowing enough time for the director to coach and conduct practice shoots with the talent.
  • Preparation Costs – Time needed for certain crew members to gather and test certain equipment at certain locations.
  • Scouting Costs – Time needed to check out certain locations for your shoot.
  • Production Design Costs – Time needed to conjure up visuals and ideas for the overall look of the set designs.

The Film Fund Budget Tip

Pre-production can often be a very long, unorganized, and costly phase in production. To save money, you should construct a well-thought-out plan and schedule for any days where there will be meetings with your key creative members, rehearsals, prep, scouting, etc.

Note that depending on how much money you’ll have and the scale of your production, you may or may not need to account for all these costs in your film budget.

Production Budgeting

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This section in your film budget will consist of all the costs associated with production. This will make up the majority of your film’s costs, however, the most expensive costs will still be paying your talent and crew member wages.

There can be a lot of expenses in this area depending on your film. If you’re planning on shooting a more professional-looking film, you will need to consider a few costs, such as:

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  • Equipment
  • Production Design
  • Costumes
  • Hair and Makeup
  • Locations
  • Traveling
  • Catering

These are just a few of the key production costs that will go into your film. If you’re working with a tight short film budget, you shouldn’t worry too much about getting the top-notch equipment, costumes, locations, etc.

The Film Fund Budget Tip

You should focus on getting the best equipment and materials you can afford.

Some of the equipment you’re going to need to buy or rent will be cameras, lights, tripods, stabilizers, dollies, and sound equipment.

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Post Production Budgeting

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Like many aspects of your film budget, your post-production budget will depend heavily on the specific genre and scale of your film.

Are you going to need any CGI (computer-generated images)? Are you planning on having original music for your film?

If you’re shooting a low budget drama, you’re likely not going to need to worry about hiring multiple editors and VFX artists. But if you’re working on a sci-fi film, that’s something you’re going to need to consider.

You’re going to need to consult with your editor to determine how much he/she prefers to be paid over a certain period of time. Some productions can take months to edit, and some, only a few days.

The Film Fund Budget Tip

Make sure you communicate with your editor about the amount of time they have to complete the edits to avoid having to pay more than you need to.

Also, if you’re planning on having original music in your film, you’re going to need to hire a music composer, and possibly multiple musicians to develop the music for you. Again, speak with these artists on rates and the window of time it will take to complete these projects.

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Script Breakdown

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One of the first steps for formulating and finalizing your film budget is breaking down your script. When breaking down your script, you will be determining how many pages you’ll shoot in a day, as well as the total amount of days you will need to shoot your film.

Knowing how many days you will need to shoot your film will ultimately determine your budget and the amount of money you’ll be using each day.

The Film Fund Budget Tip

Determine which personnel (crew, talent, extras) and equipment you’ll need for each day of shooting. You don’t want to pay extra for having people on set you don’t need.

Once you’ve broken your script down by pages per day and have any idea of the specific equipment, personnel, and time needed for each day, you should begin constructing a shooting schedule.

If you’re wondering how to make a shooting schedule or how it will greatly help your film production, take a look at our previous post where we go more in-depth on the importance of production schedules.


Hopefully, these film budgeting tips and information drew a better picture for you on the complexities of film budgeting and planning.

You will need to account for costs in all aspects of your production, depending on the scale and budget of your film. Some phases of your production will have much higher costs and expenses than others. If you’re working with a low budget short film budget, or feature, figure out which costs you need and don’t need.

Some movies will have million-dollar budgets and some will only have a few grand. Don’t let a lack of money turn you away from making your film. Rather, have it be the motivation to want to make it.

Be creative. Get inspired by others. And most importantly, don’t give up.

If you’re looking to get funding for your film, check out our one-sentence pitch competition for the chance to win up to $10,000 in funding and other prizes for your film.

Get Up To $10K To Make Your Film

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What is the importance of film budgeting? ›

Having a well-thought-out movie budget gives your film a better chance of being successful, in terms of quality and profits. It doesn't necessarily matter how much money you have, especially if you're working on micro-budget short films — what matters is how you budget and utilize the money and resources you have.

What are the key components of film budgeting? ›

A budget is typically divided into four sections: above the line (creative talent), below the line (direct production costs), post-production (editing, visual effects, etc.), and other (insurance, completion bond, etc.).

What is the most important in film making? ›

10 Essential Filmmaking Techniques and Tips to Succeed as a...
  • Tell a Story Through Visual Storytelling. ...
  • Use Experienced Cast & Crew. ...
  • Create a Production Design. ...
  • Film the Story. ...
  • Camera Techniques in Film. ...
  • Lighting Techniques. ...
  • Editing Techniques. ...
  • Use Appropriate Music.
May 27, 2022

What is the importance and purpose of film? ›

For more than a century, and across widely different cultures, film has been the primary medium for storytelling, for depicting and exploring the world, and for engaging and shaping the human senses and emotions, memory and imagination.

What are the 6 key things to know about budgets? ›

The following steps can help you create a budget.
  • Step 1: Calculate your net income. The foundation of an effective budget is your net income. ...
  • Step 2: Track your spending. ...
  • Step 3: Set realistic goals. ...
  • Step 4: Make a plan. ...
  • Step 5: Adjust your spending to stay on budget. ...
  • Step 6: Review your budget regularly.

What are the 3 essentials of effective budgeting? ›

For any organization, a budget, whether done annually or conducted throughout the year in the form of rolling forecasts, is a critical component for success. Any successful budget must connect three major elements – people, data and process.

What are the 3 major components of the budget process? ›

The federal budget comprises three primary components: revenues, discretionary spending, and direct spending.

How much budget does a film need? ›

The average cost of making a feature film is between $100 million and $150 million. Keep in mind that this is an average, meaning that there are feature films that cost less than $80 million and those that cost more than $200 million to produce.

How can I make a successful film without budgeting? ›

Zero Budget Filmmaking Tips
  1. Use Cash on Hand. Try to avoid credit cards. This will bite you somewhere later. ...
  2. Be Smart with Gear Rental. So, you can't afford to buy professional cameras? You're not alone, most people can't. ...
  3. Use Film Software. No need to spend a ton of money on this.
Sep 2, 2019

What is a good budget for a movie? ›

1. What is a good budget for a film? A good budget for a film budget including production and distribution costs is around $100 million. The average cost to produce a major studio movie is around $65 million and the distribution costs are around $35 million.

What are the 5 most important elements in filming? ›

The 5 Cs are Camera angles, Continuity, Cutting, Close-ups, and Composition. Let's go over them. Camera Angles. We can never forget that the camera is the viewer's eyes.

What are the three most essential elements of film? ›

Conclusion. Cinematography involves the use of three basic elements: lighting, composition, and camera movement. Understanding these elements is essential for aspiring filmmakers.

What are the important elements of the film? ›

There are five elements of film which is narrative, cinematography, sound, mise-en-scene, and editing. These five elements help determine the film and a way to judge a film.

What is the main idea of a film? ›

A theme is the film's central, unifying concept. A theme evokes a universal human experience and can be stated in one word or short phrase (for example, “love,” “death,” or “coming of age”).

Which is the most important element of film making Why? ›

But as filmmakers, our overriding concern should be movement. Movement also has a double meaning: 1) the physical movement of the camera or objects within the frame and 2) moving our audience emotionally.

What are the benefits of film? ›

Movies can provide several mental health benefits.
  • Boost mood. ...
  • Relaxation. ...
  • Motivation. ...
  • Improve relationships. ...
  • Reduce stress. ...
  • Inspire social and cultural reflection.
Feb 24, 2022

What are the 4 simple rules for budgeting? ›

It works because it's built around Four Rules designed to change your financial future.
  • Rule One. Give Every Dollar a Job.
  • Rule Two. Embrace Your True Expenses.
  • Rule Three. Roll With the Punches.
  • Rule Four. Age Your Money.

What are the 5 most common budgeting methods? ›

The five most commonly used business #budgeting methods are the zero-based budget, incremental budget, activity-based budget, value proposition budget, and Flexible budget.

What is the most important rule of budgeting? ›

The basic rule of thumb is to divide your monthly after-tax income into three spending categories: 50% for needs, 30% for wants and 20% for savings or paying off debt. By regularly keeping your expenses balanced across these main spending areas, you can put your money to work more efficiently.

What are the 4 characteristics of a successful budget? ›

To be successful, a budget must be Well-Planned, Flexible, Realistic, and Clearly Communicated.

What makes a high budget film? ›

High-budget movies are almost exclusively relegated to the $100 million+ tier. If this article was longer, we'd have more than three tiers – but it's not, so we'll say a high-budget movie is a movie with a budget of more than $50 million. Examples of high-budget movies: Dune (2021) – Budget: $165 million.

What's the biggest budget for a movie? ›

Most expensive films (adjusted for inflation)
RankTitleCost (est.) (millions)
1Star Wars: The Force Awakens$446
2Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides$378.5
3Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker$416
21 more rows

How do I get funding for my first feature film? ›

How to get funding for a film. Film funding can be sourced from a variety of sources such as Government Funding, Tax Incentives, Pre Sales, Negative pick-up deal, Gap Financing, Fiscal Sponsorships, Film Grants, Product Placement, Private Investors and Crowdfunding.

Can a low budget film make money? ›

Low Budget Films Can Make Money

In fact, sometimes keeping the budget low provides more margin for profit. If the film flies and costs little to produce, then you are on to a real winner. The classic example of a low budget indie film that made it big, is The Blair Witch Project.

Where does the biggest chunk of a filmmaking budget usually go to? ›

Production costs: The production costs can take 25% of your total budget easily. This major chunk is behind the whole production and ongoing salaries of the team needed to produce the movie.

What are the 4 elements of film? ›

It includes dialogue, ambient sound, sound effects, and music. Consider how a “Boing!” sound in the soundtrack would change how we view a love scene or a scene in which an old lady falls down. Or think about how the wrong music would ruin the seriousness of a battle scene.

What are the 7 aspects of film production? ›

Mastering the 7 Stages of Film Production
  • Development. ...
  • Financing. ...
  • Pre-production. ...
  • Production. ...
  • Post-production. ...
  • Marketing. ...
  • Distribution.
Jun 21, 2019

What are the three main components of the film industry? ›

In this lesson, we explore the filmmaking process and the three-component system of film production, including production, distribution, and exhibition.

What is the rule of three in film? ›

An offshoot of those artistic rules, used in still photography and video, is called the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds states that you should mentally divide the frame (what you see in the viewfinder) into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. What you get is like a tic-tac-toe board overlaying your screen.

What are the 3 types of films? ›

Alan Williams distinguishes three main genre categories: narrative, avant-garde, and documentary. With the proliferation of particular genres, film subgenres can also emerge: the legal drama, for example, is a sub-genre of drama that includes courtroom- and trial-focused films.

What are the six elements of film? ›

When developing your next narrative work, make sure you're paying careful attention to all of these.
  • Setting. The setting is the time and location in which your story takes place. ...
  • Characters. A story usually includes a number of characters, each with a different role or purpose. ...
  • Plot. ...
  • Conflict. ...
  • Theme. ...
  • Narrative Arc.

Why film budgets are important beyond the cost of production? ›

Another impact of the budget is that many related costs rise and fall with the amount of the budget. For example, talent will charge far more on a big-budget film than they will for their identical services on a low-budget film.

Why is it important to make a production schedule and budget? ›

The production schedule is a versatile and important document for planning, forecasting, predicting, and meeting demand. It helps keep your operations working on time and under budget, which helps you keep your commitment to your customers.

What is major film budget? ›

Made on a budget of ₹32 crore, it was shot in 120 days and was filmed in over 75 locations. Major had limited theatrical release on 24 May 2022 in selected cities across India and it was released worldwide on 3 June 2022.

What does production budget depend on? ›

The production budget calculates the number of units of products that must be manufactured, and is derived from a combination of the sales forecast and the planned amount of finished goods inventory to have on hand (usually as safety stock to cover for unexpected increases in demand).

Who funds budgets for movies? ›

The producer is responsible for funding the film until that point and must pay any additional costs if the film goes over-budget. The producer will then take that contract to a bank for a traditional bank loan or to equity investors as collateral.

What are three main types of budgets? ›

The three types of budgets are a surplus budget, a balanced budget, and a deficit budget. The state budget is a financial document including income and expenditure for the year. An income- and expense-based spending plan is referred to as a budget.

Why are budgets important at least three reasons? ›

By tracking expenses and following a plan, a budget makes it easier to pay bills on time, build an emergency fund, and save for major expenses such as a car or home. Overall, a budget puts a person on stronger financial footing for both the day-to-day and the long term.


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