How to Budget a Movie

Learning how to budget a movie can be challenging but is a valuable skill that film producers have to master. The pre-production stage of movie making includes very important decisions that affect how movies are made. While there are various tools that can be used for completing this task, certain elements are essential to budget a movie.

To budget a movie, you will need:

  • Movie script
  • Word processing software
  • Actor schedules
  • Crew schedules
  • Location hours of operation
  • Film production software
  • Spreadsheet software
  • One notebook
  • Film crew rate cards
  • Talent rate cards
  • Post-production rate cards
  • Equipment rental quotes
  • Administrative fee quotes
  • Printer
  • Multipurpose paper
  1. Breakdown the script by listing actors, film crew, locations, equipment and all other elements needed to shoot each movie scene. Create breakdown sheets for each scene using word processing software when learning how to budget a movie. Scene information can also be filled in using breakdown templates in film production software. Separate the script and breakdown sheets into collections of scenes that can be filmed on the same day together. Use the schedules and availability of actors, crew and locations as a reference when organizing scenes to budget a movie. These scene collections will become the shooting days for the movie. Count each collection of scenes to figure out the number of shooting days needed for the movie. List the crew members and other film elements needed on each shooting day using a notebook. Transfer the notebook information to a film scheduling calendar using word processing software. A shooting schedule is important to determine what elements are needed on a daily basis.
  2. Open a new spreadsheet document and title the first four columns “Department Number”, “Department”, “Rate” and “Total.” Skip one row and type “Above the Line” under the Department column. Skip one row and type the script, producers, directors and cast each in a separate row under the Above the Line section in this Department column. Repeat the Above the Line sections for your “Below the Line” departments. List crew, post-production, locations, props, wardrobe, administrative and other departments on rows in the Below the Line column.  Skip one row and type “Grand Total" in bold text under the Rate column.
  3. List the daily rate for each crew and talent position in the “Rate” column. Multiply the daily or hourly rates of each crew member by the total number of shooting days he or she will be working. Add the total rate for each crew position in the “Total” column next to their daily rates on the spreadsheet. Repeat this step for the post-production department, prop rentals, location expenses and other administrative fees. Number each department and add all of the totals from each row. Type the sum next to “Grand Total” under the Total column on the spreadsheet. Print the scene breakdowns, shooting schedule and spreadsheet document now that you have learned how to budget a movie.



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