For all the glitz and glamour that Hollywood is known for, there is a strict business side to it. From the technical aspects of filmmaking to finding the right actor for the role, one thing that connects these is a film budget. Like some of James Bond’s antagonists in every movie, a budget is devised to dominate the world. Now, filmmaking isn’t trying to go that extreme. Still, filmmakers want to develop an ideal film budget to create the artist’s vision to its fullest extent. Therefore, planning and budgeting are their best option.

No matter what the scale is of your film. There is always one constant, whether small or large, creating a budget for your movie. It should surely guarantee that every dollar is spent wisely. In addition, a carefully constructed budget will allow you to look critically at your departments. The film budget, in turn, gives a filmmaker much-needed precision in making valuable decisions throughout the process. But first, let’s go over the basic definition of a film budget.

What is a Film Budget?

Some budgets can be pretty simple if it’s just one professional video shooting one video. However, it can be rather complex if it’s a whole team with many different departments shooting a colossal production or one with several different versions. As you might expect, a budget for a film or video project works like a budget for any other venture. Need to build a home? You’re going to need a budget. Want to start a business? There is a creation of a budget plan.

For the film business, there’s no difference. The bigger the project in scope and time, the bigger the budget for items and deliverables. When breaking down what goes into a film budget, these are the basic needs and steps filmmakers must go through when formulating ideas and realizing their inventive concepts.

Above-The-Line: A Bite From The Film Budget Apple

For those unfamiliar with “above-the-line” in show business, the category contains development costs, actors, and crew generally involved in the development phase. In addition, writers, producers, directors, and talent fit into this category. The Above-the-line crew are the vital members that come on board before pre-production can begin. These costs are usually set, negotiated, spent, and promised before principal photography begins.

Screenwriters: Typically, screenwriters get 2% of the film’s production budget. In addition, a filmmaker has to factor in story rights, which may also need to be if the project is an adaptation of a book, video game, or play.

Producer: The producer can be the highest-paid. They are typically the first to get hired and the last to leave a project. A good producer can help bring in the cash flow or investors into the project to build more capital towards the project. Their hard work allows them to receive up to 5% of the production budget. Consequently, the more experienced the producer, the more they will charge.

Directors: Directors are another factor when considering covering any development-related expenses. Your director is the artistic energy and vision behind your film. A portion of deciding is the prep days you will be paying them for and their rate. Often, directors will stay on board during the post-production phase and supervise during the editing process.

Cast: This is where more negotiating and budget managing will come into play when working with actors. You’ll have to consider if they hire from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and their rate. Also, the film budget will have to be concerned about the notion that a stunt team maybe be needed if the production calls for it.

Below-the-line: A Decent Bit From The Same Apple

Below-the-line is the crew handling day-to-day duties during production. This area includes production costs, such as the equipment, staff, locations, permits, and vehicles, towards the film budget. Many of these members considered below-the-line are those in the camera, lighting, sound, production, makeup, and costume department. Part of this crew will also include assistant directors as well. But, again, the size of the film’s budget will determine the affordability of a big team.

This section of your film budget in accounting is an extraordinary income or expense that a production can incur. Also, when thinking about below-the-line in a film budget, the filmmaker must consider what encompasses post-production costs. These include visual effects, editing, and post facilities. Pre-production is the next step once the above-the-line and below-the-line crews are selected.

Pre-production: Mastering The Planning Phase

Pre-production consists of all the items the filmmaker must address in the beginning phases of production up until the day they shoot the film. This slice of the budget will account for location scouting, insurance, office expenses, and courier services. In addition, script fees, casting director rate, and just about anything else will need to be paid for before getting to set. Several extra costs might occur during pre-production. Some will fall under the category of:

Production Department Costs: Considering internet use, office rent, and general paper and printer costs during production are something to keep in mind when formulating a film budget.

Rehearsals: Directors sometimes rent out a space for rehearsals and take several days practicing lines with actors.

Scouting and Prep: Several key crew members attending recon/tech scout meetings

Production Design: This will be based on your budget and shoot. Booking extra time during pre-production for the visual aid for your film will be helpful.

Pre-production should be the easiest to predict in terms of cost. Similarly, shooting a low or micro-budget film will make this stage the cheapest of the many components of your budget.

Production: Part 1

Much of your budget will go toward production costs. It is the most expensive part of your budget because of the cast, crew wages, and other items incurred during this phase. In addition, locations obtaining and gaining permission for those sites become expensive. For example, the filmmaker must seek consent unless the shooting location is on public-owned land. Lower-budget or student films can get away with more because of the small size of the crew.

Also, a filmmaker must consider the local authorities if the shoot involves guns and weapons. Before you shoot, you must inform the local police in public spaces. Furthermore, the production design is something to consider in this period. Indie films tend to overlook set plans, but planning and more money from your budget can occur if props are created or bought for the shoot.

Production: Part 2

Additionally, several other areas, such as costume, hair, and makeup, will need to be covered. The cost of the ensemble will once again depend on the genre of the film or if several identical copies of the same costume for the lead actors’ outfits may need to be purchased. Hair and makeup will also depend on the film genre the movie covers. Even low-budget contemporary films will need a makeup artist to apply essential cover-ups and keep the actor’s continuity in order.

Lastly is catering, transportation, and accommodation — people have to eat, right? Low budgets can accomplish this cheaply by having friends help. However, a more extensive set will require a professional catering service. Also, if the production is at a remote location, cast and crew transportation and accommodation will be a thing. The budget may include fuel expenses if crew members make long trips for the production.

A helpful tip for these expenses is hiring locally to cut costs. However, always overestimate the amount and have some cash left over for petty cash expenses during filming.

Post-production: Almost At Finish Line

One aspect just as important as the rest in formulating a budget is the amount of time and resources they’ll need for post-production and editing. These funds will go toward the editor, colorist, sound designer, composer, and the rest of your post team. So, music licensing, stock footage, and deliverables are also important to keep in mind. Editors’ wages will likely be the highest cost during post-production. However, there are some cases where the editor works independently, and negotiating expenses can be applied.

Ideally, it’s best to purchase several hard drives for the film. No matter the film’s budget, storing the movie in a safe and secure place is crucial for any filmmaker. Lastly is the music composer, music rights, and sound design. Every scope of filmmaking, big or small, will need permission to use any copyrighted music. Unfortunately, hiring music composers and sound designers and gaining the rights to well-known songs is expensive.

Skimping on post will cost the film to suffer, and the money you spend on production will be, to some extent, wasted.

Equipment: Having The Right Stuff

It’s obvious, but you don’t have a film without equipment. Some crew members and departments will bring their gear to work and charge the production a kit fee for using their gear. Kit fees are calculated by the day or week and vary based on the equipment and project. Additionally, keep in mind the quality of the equipment and if it’ll rental fee will save money toward the film budget.

Film Budget Miscellaneous

Distribution and Marketing: You’ll need to create a strategy to reach your audience and eventually turn a profit. Some cost-efficient options are blogging or reaching out to other bloggers/online publications. Consequently, this will allow those sites to share your film’s trailer or write a review. Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Vimeo, can also be instrumental in your films’ success. Finally, film festivals are a great way to market your project and bring in distributors to help release your movie.

Pick-up Days: Pick-up days occur after the scheduled shoot days to conduct reshoots or if something was missed during principal photography. The longer the shoots will delegate how many days are used for pick-up days and affect your budget before hitting post-production. For example, a short-form film will benefit from a day of shooting with a skeleton crew. At the same time, a more feature film will cost you at least three days for pick-ups.

Lost and Damage: Accidents can occur during a shoot. Considering lost and damaged in the film budget will cover lost, stolen, or damaged equipment. Using the deductible amount from your production insurance policy in the budget is best. The only amount you’ll have to worry about is the deductible if an expensive piece of equipment is involved.

Production Insurance: Insurance is a must for any production. Production insurance covers production in case of loss and damage as is required to secure permits and locations and rent gear. Film equipment is expensive, and the safety of your cast and crew is unmeasurable. So it’s well-advised that insurance is needed if anything breaks or a disaster happens during a shoot.


Creating a budget will help determine where to invest your time and money. Doing this will help keep surprises to a minimum and provide a guideline to follow during every production stage. Anyone who vaguely wants a career as a filmmaker needs to know how to make a film budget. However, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all budget format, and you must create a budget most aligned with your film’s needs.