Listen up Producers, this post is for you. Let’s break down what it takes to put the money where this film’s mouth is- or should be? We are going to answer key questions about the financial part of your film. This will help you save money and headaches.

The Breakdown

For the sake of example, we will say that your short film has been allocated $5,000. The money has no-strings attached and wasn’t crowdfunded.

Pre-Production

The planning process of the film is what I consider the most important. As a producer, this is where the road map is laid out. This is where the recipe is made for the cinema chefs to do their magic in the coming weeks. I cannot stress this enough how important pre-production is to your budget. You will @#$% yourself down the road, go over-budget, and put an unnecessary hold on the film’s progress.

Did I mention that it’s important?

With your $5,000 at this point, 80% of the numbers and figures that you come up with are projections. It is frustrating in this process to make “educated guesses” about where the money is going but think of it like a long road trip. You wouldn’t spend all the money at the first gas station and you can’t blow it all in Vegas and hitchhike to the coast. (Too many metaphors? No?) So during pre-production, you have to first figure out how much you’re going to need for pre-production. It’s usually not much cash but here is a potential list of expenses you may encounter:

Coffee

Printing (Screenplay Versions #1-#22)

Lunches with Executive Producers

Lunches with Actors/Crew

New Media Marketing (Facebook/Twitter Ads)

Coffee

Group/Project Management Software

Scenechronize (I recommend it)

Old Media Marketing (Flyers, Ads, Posters, etc.)

The next part for filmmakers is to break down the script into elements that can be made into a “grocery list.”

“Scene 3 has a shoot out between the cops and gangsters.
We are going to need gun props, cop uniforms, gangster clothing. How many actors? How many days will this take?”

As the Producer, you have to start thinking in terms of the literal. The story is most important but once the screenplay is in a good place then it’s time to bring those concepts in the clouds back into the dirt. Put a real life attachment to this movie. The more detailed you’re able to break down this movie, the easier it will be to make that projection.

The most expended resource in pre-production is Time. Between those above listed expenses, are a lot of meetings, phone calls, collaborations, re-writes, edits, on top of more meetings.


Production

The fun part of making a movie for most filmmakers because it’s making the movie. So out of that $5,000 how much should you plan to spend on production? You have broken down the script to the N-th degree and the “grocery list” is clear. Now, you have to start putting a price next to these list items. How much do cop uniforms cost? How much do prop guns cost? It’s this constant breaking down into the figures.

Big Question: How Many Days of Production?

Knowing how long this film will take to film is crucial. $5,000 starts draining fast when you need 10 days to shoot. If you have to take into account every moving part of the film’s production.

Here are the concerns to have when determining shooting schedules:

Script Page Length

  • An experienced crew can tackle 6–8 pages per day
  • A novice crew can maybe handle 3–6 pages per day

Number of Scenes vs. Number of Locations

  • Can you condense scenes in the same location?

Next Big Question:
What Does This Production Need?

Here’s the list of elements that you’ll need to breakdown for each scene:

Elements to the Scene:

Props

Costumes

Special FX

Vehicles

Camera Movement

Camera Gear

Sound

Lighting

Final Big Question:
How Many People are in this Production?

Knowing this will help determine several financial factors. Break this down!

Cast Size

Crew Size

Link: Crew Positions

Food (2.5 meals per day per person)

2 Meals plus a snackPlenty of WaterPizza should be your Last resort- Don’t Get Lazy!

Gas/Travel

Hotel/Accommodations (If need be)

Salary/Wages

Post-Production

Whew! Okay, production is out of the way. Usually, that’ll be about 50%-65% of your budget. Now, if there’s anything left, you can move onto post-production and beyond. If you have $1,500-$2,000 left for post-production then you’re in great shape.

In most cases, the video editing will figure itself out. If you are hiring an editor, my first question would be, “What kind of computer do you have?” If he doesn’t have a computer, then it’s not worth it to hire them. If you feel so bold, you and the director could edit the film. Most short films work like this because there’s less resources needed and less man-hours used up.

Remember, Time is your most valuable resource in this project.

So, the movie is edited and you think you’re ready to debut it.

The Final Final Question:
How Do You Distribute the Film?

Vimeo/YouTube- Free

Small Film Festival- $0-$350 per entry

Large Film Festival- $250+

Sell to Distributor- Give up 30–60% of Film’s equity and/or sales

Self-Distribution- Time and Hustle

Words of Wisdom

Budgeting this film, isn’t the sexiest part of filmmaking, I know. In fact, it’s a pain in the Ass most days. But as the Producer, you have to stick with it. Put in the effort, put in the time. I wish you the best of luck in budgeting your film and producing it.

-Time is your most valuable resource.-

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