I love creating budgets. I find it relaxing. Numbers don’t lie and it’s a great pre-visualization tool for any production. Budgets are one of the first steps in the development/prep stage for your project. When you do the first draft of any budget, you can’t know every answer or detail yet and many line items will be guesses. But there are 5 things that you really need to know or else you won’t get very far in creating a budget.
1. Create a tentative schedule
Make sure to do a script breakdown and then put together a draft of a realistic schedule that includes pre-production, production and post-production/delivery. If you don’t create a schedule, you’ll be missing key bits of information that are essential for budget building.
2. Cast & crew configuration/pay & fringe rates
Once you create a draft schedule, you’ll be able to figure out how many cast and crew you’ll need for each week during pre-production, production and post. Make sure you know what you plan to pay for the key and second rates for each department with multiple crew. And if you are paying your team via a payroll company, find out the fringe rate for each hire too. If you are working with union cast or crew, be sure to know the contracted rates and any other required union fees.
3. Number of weeks and days
This goes back to the schedule again. For each hire determine how many days/weeks they need to work during each phase of the film. Some hires will work for only certain phases and some will be on the project from start to finish (like the producers!)
Discuss with the director, director of photography(DP), post supervisor and editor what is required technically to capture all the footage. Understanding the project’s tech specs will dictate what format is required for delivery and that information will inform what equipment you will rent/purchase to film your project. It’s critical to test formats, equipment and workflow before you finalize your equipment and post decisions.
5. Where in the world
Most line items in a budget will be affected by where in the world you plan to shoot your film. Labor rates, food, transportation, equipment rentals, insurance, hotels and payroll costs are just a few. Also consider and decide if you’ll film on locations, on a stage or both so you can add that info into the appropriate budget sections.
If you figure out the information above, you’ll have a much smoother budgeting process. After that, be prepared to revise before you get to the point where you can lock your budget!