Developing The Budget For Your Film

Here’s some advice for you filmmakers out there.  When it comes to creating a budget for your project there are many obstacles you will encounter.  Collecting numbers and figuring out how much things will cost is one thing but in the end your goal is to present a comprehensive business plan that investors will appreciate.

Colin Brown of IndieWire has this to say on the subject:

“Budgeting, done properly, is more than just about bottom line numbers; it’s a high-wire balancing act worthy of the most creative dealmakers, as Anthony Kaufman found out when exploring the financing strategies behind the latest visions of Sofia Coppola, James Gray, Alexander Payne and Roman Polanski in his article for Variety this summer. In such auteur-driven cases, the trick is to make the movie for ‘the absolute lowest price possible without compromising the integrity of the film,’ Greg Shapiro, producer of current festival darling ‘The Immigrant,’ told him. ‘This seems a natural and obvious thing to do, but it is usually very difficult in practice. Budgets naturally go up, not down.'” (Read the full article here)

One key ingredient to grabbing the attention of a potential investor that many tend to overlook is attaching talent to your film.  Andy Kaufman has this to say in that regard:

“…names attract coin — at the right budget and with key cast attached. Producers and financiers say the principal ingredients to getting these movies made are much the same as they were in the past: packages that yield foreign pre-sales, securing locations that provide soft money and tax incentives, and foraging around for ways to cover the risk against the lack of domestic distribution.” (Read the full article here)

Even if you don’t have access to high-profile actors, attaching local talent is just as good for a low-budget project.  Actors with an impressive reel that have worked on successful projects in the past will not only attract investors, it will add production value to your production when working out a distribution deal.

However, you have to realize there is no true cookie cutter method to developing a comprehensive budget.  Each budget, just like each screenplay, is and should be unique to the production.  As Brown goes on to explain:

“In the end, budgeting remains a bespoke sizing exercise that starts with identifying the cornerstone elements of your screenplay and then building a made-to-measure budget around those essential items. You work out what makes a particular project exciting and back into the budget from there using all the data points you can muster concerning prevailing market conditions and available incentives. A carefully crafted budget, as this useful legal overview on film budgeting explains, should serve as guide to prospective participants ‘that the pieces of the film are proportionate to one another. If each cast member receives tens of millions of dollars, then the look of the film generally should not have home-made special effects.’ Remember a good initial budget is not a final accounting, but a professional-looking estimate that should [give] investors and distributors a level of confidence and comfort about the creative allocation of funds.”

What’s your strategy when developing a budget?  Do you find these articles useful?


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