How to budget your next movie

Creating a money plan for your next project doesn’t have to be scary when we have these tips to help you out.

Budgeting for a movie is a little scary, but it’s an essential and creative tool to help you come up with a plan for starting your project. The goal of budgeting is to ensure that you have enough money for everything in your project, expected and unexpected. This includes top dollar expenses like car chases to smaller details that are usually forgotten like snacks for the cast and crew.

Establishing this overall budget during production requires a lot of research and discussions with the director about what is possible with the resources available. The more thought out and planned a budget, the more likely the film will be successful.

Producer Ashim Ahuja sat down with RocketJump film school to break down how to budget, what the benefits are, and what to do when you run out of money:

Sit down with the director and read the script.

Talking to the director about what story to tell helps during filming when a department may need a little extra cash. Maybe you can do something on a larger or smaller scale.

After talking to the director about the story, break down the script to find out how many changes of location there are, characters, costumes and know that everything is taken into account in the script. This helps ensure nothing is overlooked when figuring out how much everything costs.

Find out how much everything costs.

A lot of research is required during this process. If you already know how much the rental of certain items for the movie will be, a good chunk of the budget can be calculated.

But if the script calls for a horse hunt and you don’t know how much it will cost to rent horses, give a horse wrangler a call and get an estimated price. Even if this scene is not shot for a few months, the budget is already planned for the shooting of this scene.

Don’t be afraid to call people and negotiate prices.

Filming on stages or in certain places costs money. Everyone you could possibly work with has a set price that you can add to your budget before saying yes to working with them.

The best part about calling people to find out their prices is that the price is always negotiable. You can talk the price down by telling them about your project and letting them know you are an indie movie. It can help you and your budget champion why they should let you film there.

Know where the money is going.

Everything costs money, but knowing where that money is going and how it’s being used can help keep track of the budget. Sometimes money has to be withdrawn from one department to help another department. That’s fine because the focus of the whole project is on telling a story.

Knowing how the money will be used to achieve the overall goal is a balance that requires detailed attention to where and how the money is being spent.

Don’t forget about post production.

Many people forget that color grading, sound, and music are necessary elements in a movie that cost money. It’s important to keep this detail in mind when budgeting during preproduction, otherwise the movie won’t get finished.

Make sure you feed your cast and crew.

One thing you don’t want is a group of Hangry people.

While it’s a small detail, plan for how much it will cost to have snacks and food each day.

The budget does not limit your creativity.

If the budget doesn’t allow for a particular stunt, find another way to do it. Can you get the same shot of an overturning bus with a toy bus? Does it help the story in the same way that a normal bus would tip over?

Don’t be afraid of the numbers. If there’s something you want to do, you can find a way by redistributing some of the budget or outsourcing funding. When you get a stunt or practical effect, be creative and do it to the best of your ability.

Everyone working on the project wants to help tell the same story. Finding compromise and balance will be an important factor during the shooting process, but the best thing you can do is prepare for anything before you call “action”.

There’s no equation to help you figure out a specific number for your budget, but try to go over the budget a little. It will give you some leeway when the unexpected occurs.

Do you have any budgeting tips that we left out? Let us know in the comments below!

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