Thursday, February 10, 2011

Film Budgeting

Budgeting is an important aspect of film production.

During script development, filmmakers produce a rough budget to convince film producers and film studios to give them a greenlight for production. During pre-production, a more detailed film budget is produced. This document, which could be over 150 pages long, is used to secure financing. Multiple drafts of the budget may be required to whittle down costs.
A budget is typically divided into four sections: above-the-line (creative talent), below-the-line (direct production costs), post-production (editing, visual effects, etc), and other (insurance, completion bond, etc).



  • Story rights: The right to produce a film based on a play, novel, or new story. Can be paid from  15000/- to 100000/-
  • Screenplay: An A-list screenwriter can be paid 25000/- to 50000/- to write the first three drafts of a script.
  • Dialog writer can be paid 25000/- 50000/-
  • Director: minimum can be paid 250000/-( daily convense extra) for one movie up to 1st release , for a minimum of ten weeks' work. Traditionally, a director's salary is about 7 percent of the final budget.
  • Cast: An A-list actor can ask for anything from  200000/- to 700000/- (trailer, entourage, etc.). The rest of the cast, often come out much worse with many being paid the Screen Actors Guild minimum. Sometimes an actor will accept a minimal fee in exchange for a lucrative share of the profits;
  • Production costs: The cost of shooting the film including sets, wardrobe, location filming, hotels and transportation. The most prestigious productions will often employ the most successful, and therefore most expensive, crew, with the director of photography
  • Visual effects: if required can costs 100000/- to 200000/-
  • Music: The top film composers can ask for a six-figure salary, so of original music, could cost  500000/- with all expenses, rights etc.

The budget as an advertising tool

For blockbuster movies, high budgets are advertised to imply that the film will be worth watching. On the other hand, El Mariachiwas advertised as having a shoestring budget of $7,000. El Mariachi's actual budget including the distribution costs far exceeded $7,000. (It should be noted that the festival print of El Mariachi was in fact made for $7,000 - the additional budget expenditures came when the movie was picked up for distribution by a studio.)

Going over budget

In the US film production system, producers are not allowed to exceed the budget. Exceptions have of course been made, one of the most notable examples being Titanic. Director James Cameron ran over budget and offered his fee to the studio. In other countries, producers who exceed their budget tend to eat the cost by receiving less of their producer's fees. While the US system is profitable and can afford to go over budget, other countries' film industries tend to be financed through government subsidies.


Though movie studios are reluctant to release the precise details of their movies' budgets, it has occasionally been possible to obtain (clandestinely) details of the cost of a films break down. 
  • Story rights and screenplay: $4 million
  • Producers: $4 million
  • Director (Jan de Bont): $5 million
  • Cast: $17.25 million
    • Angelina Jolie: $12 million
    • Extras: $250,000
    • Other (inc. Angelina's perks): $5 million
  • Production costs: $67 million
    • Set design and construction: $17.8 million
  • Visual Effects: $13 million
  • Music: $3.3 million
  • Editing: $3 million
  • Post Production costs: $1.5 million
Total: $118 million

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

  • Story rights (Carolco and Gale Anne Hurd): $14.5 million
  • Screenplay: $5.2 million
    • John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris: $1 million
  • Director (Jonathan Mostow): $5 million
  • Producers: $10 million
  • Cast: $35 million
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger: $29.25 million + 20% gross profits
    • Arnold's perks: $1.5 million
    • Rest of principal cast: $3.85 million
    • Extras: $400,000
  • Production costs: $58 million
  • Post-production costs: $4 million
  • Visual effects: $20 million
  • Music: $2 million
  • Other costs: $33.6 million
Total: $187.3 million
Source: [2]

Spider-Man 2

  • Story rights: $20 million
  • Screenplay: $10 million
  • Producers: $15 million
  • Director (Sam Raimi): $10 million
  • Cast: $30 million
  • Production costs: $45 million
  • Visual effects: $65 million
  • Music: $5 million
  • Total: $200 million
Source: [3]


  1. Okay, but how do you budget for a REALLY cheap video (except perhaps by dividing all these numbers by a thousand)?

    1. I'll give you a very simple formula for making a relay cheep film budget.
      How much money can you lay your hands on?
      20k, 30k or 15k ?
      That's how much you make your film for.
      You modify the film to fit the budget.
      This is the approach Roger Corman took.

  2. Do you have a budget or top sheet for a $3million dollar film budget as an example or template or do you know a site where I can get a template or an example to view? Thank you for your time and attention to this matter:) My email is if you may please let me know:)