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Why a Film Production Budget is Necessary for a Successful Movie

If you’re anything like me, you despise math, and that’s half the reason you got into film in the first place. Aside from my intense desire to work on movies, television shows, and creative productions in general, not doing any math for the rest of my life was also a goal of mine. Now here I am, writing a blog about how important it is to budget for any video production!

But don’t worry, I’m going to tell you a fun little game I made up to make creating a budget super cool and awesome to do! It goes like this: Picture yourself halfway through a big Hollywood feature film production, full of stunts, special effects, big box office name actors, intricate set design, and all of the other elements that make movie magic. All of a sudden, the film’s producer on this Blockbuster is questioning why you have already exceeded your budget, and you have nothing to show for it except half of a film. You feel that hot sensation on the back of your neck and face, because you have no answer, and you didn’t even realize you exceeded your budget. Now others involved in the production are catching wind of this. The production manager is waving around receipts for all of the materials spent on the set, the director of photography is telling you they need to add another lens kit to their equipment rental package, and the stunt coordinator is asking you why the production insurance form you signed off on doesn’t include his team for some reason, and they are all worried they may not be compensated, so needless to say no one is looking you directly in the eye anymore. You get home that night and realize you’ll never sleep again until this is resolved, which means you’re probably never sleeping again. What could you have done to prevent this!? How could you have seen this coming?

Now remove yourself from this nightmare scenario game that I made up. Aren’t you glad a whole film set and the person or company with enough money to fund your production don’t hate you, because you royally messed everything up? Wouldn’t you do ANYTHING to prevent this hypothetical nightmare from happening, because you don’t want to ruin everything and you love sleep, and keeping your job? Well, you can! It’s called budget planning and tracking. Now, doesn’t making a budget seem like it’s maybe not all that bad compared with the potential outcome of not creating one? If so, the game worked! If not, I would be very interested to know what it takes to cause you to lose sleep.

Where To Start

Budgeting can be a daunting task, especially if you have never done it before. In most cases, there is a set amount of funds distributed to you ahead of time by a client or production studio, depending on whether you’re an independent filmmaker on an indie low-budget film, or you’re a member of the film industry on a large production. Once that amount of money is established, you can begin to plan the shoot. When beginning this planning process, it is important to go through all of the necessary production costs you are going to encounter during the shoot, on-set, such as day rates for crew members, and in post-production such as visual effects. Additionally, you will want to take into account location fees, craft services, travel accommodations, and the amount of time the production will take overall. There are potentially many more expenses in a movie budget that are required to make a successful video production, but the previously mentioned costs are a great starting point when beginning to plan your budget.

A lot of times, folks forget to include post-production costs in their budget, which can be detrimental if you are relying on an editor or editors that you are paying. Always assume the post process will take more time than you think it will, this will allow for some breathing room when creating the budget.

Making the Film Budget

Some great tools to stay organized while creating a film budget breakdown are excel spreadsheets or google sheets, or using dedicated budgeting software if you have access. These tools allow you to add numbers quickly, edit the list easily and keep an active tab of how the costs compare to your set budget. You can also color-code and separate categories easily from pre-production, production, post-production, and any other individual areas that you need to budget for. Differentiating the categories is not only a great way to keep track of expenses, but a great system for locating items in your budget as opposed to having everything in one long list.

Categorizing the list of expenses can also make the task of budgeting seem less intimidating, and help to allow for a more thorough list, so you do not need to try to think of everything to pay for all at once. Going through each step of the filmmaking process for your creative video is a great way to spot all of the potential costs.

No matter how thorough you are initially in creating your list for the budget, there is always a chance for extra costs to pop up along the way. Sometimes these costs can be expenses that were overlooked, and other times they are costs that could not have been foreseen or avoided. Either way, adding a contingency percentage will allow you to account for these surprises expenses as they arise. Once your list is complete and a final number for your budget is set, a good rule of thumb is to add an additional ten percent to that final number as the contingency. That extra ten percent will create a cushion for any unforeseen costs, and could be a lifesaver down the line.

Leave the Numbers to Us

Are you still of the mindset that making a budget is not for you? If so, that’s completely understandable, and luckily, you don’t have to! At 7 Wonders, we take care of all the budgeting and number crunching, so you can share your bigger vision. With years of experience, we have created hundreds of budgets for every kind of project, or creative video you can think of. Feel free to share your creative ideas with us, and allow us to handle the rest. You can reach out via this site!


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