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How to plan a film budget

Red Rock Entertainment advises to newbies

The idea of making a film can sound magnificent and intriguing. But how to plan the whole process from A to Z, not forget about the smallest details, ensure that everything is right, and, finally, that you have enough money for all that?

These are the typical questions every young filmmaker has to face because correct budget planning is literally the earnest of success. To ensure that you don’t destroy a brilliant film because of the calculation problems, knowledgeable investors from Red Rock Entertainment are ready to share a bit of knowledge with those standing at the beginning of their success path.

Work with script first

Script is the foundation of your future film and it determines almost everything about your budget. These are the things you need to work through:

  • Count the number of locations mentioned.

  • Check what scenes every each speaking role appears in (this determines the payment negotiations with your actors).

  • Count script days (for instance, The Breakfast Club happens within a day while Time Traveler’s Wife happens throughout several decades). This signifies the number of outfit changes you’ll need.

  • Determine the number of large scenes with lots of additional preps you’ll need.

Once the basic analysis is done, you need to create a script breakdown. It should include everything from the set and location of every scene to its special props and dressing. Here you can download a free script breakdown template to ensure that you consider everything.

Production assumptions

  • Target budget is your idea of the required budget. Frequently it’s very far from the reality.

  • Industry norms apply to films with a particular budget. For instance, in the US if your budget is over $2 mln you will have to pay a salary no less than a particular standard. Ensure that your account for such numbers in your country as well.

  • Equipment is essential for the quality of any film, but you need to be realistic. Red Rock Entertainment reviews hundreds of budget breakdowns every year and the conclusion they have for you is to film only with the best equipment you can afford (and the latter is more important than anything). The new era of filmmaking has proven that you don’t need to have the best equipment in the world to shoot a great film! Just check Tangerine or Night Fishing.

Don’t forget that there are such additions as light and sound to every camera, so these essential elements should also be included into the budget. But remember that light and sound needs are dictated by the camera you choose! iPhone production requires the completely different set of tools than Canon 5D or Sony F55.

Besides that keep in mind the following equipment elements:

  • editors need powerful computers

  • all equipment must be transported between locations

  • synchronization of sound and video needs manpower

  • rentals of any piece of equipment you’re missing should be included into the budget.

  • Crew size

Crew needs payment, so the more people you have, the bigger your budget is (that’s obvious). But what is not obvious is the size of a crew you need or should have.

· If everything is based on the budget, then 2-18 members of a crew are your close friends who can help you for food of fun time only. They do several jobs at a time but enthusiasm helps.

· 30 is an average number o crew-members for indie films. They can handle larger-scale projects and carefully shoot the details in minor scenes.

· 70+ is a full-size crew with all the departments represented. Such a large crew is an advantage for handling most situations, but it definitely requires a perfect production management.

The number of people you need is based on your script and financial possibilities. Your own philosophy is valuable as well. Some prefer shooting everything here and now with a larger crew, while others prefer slower shooting and a smaller crew.

  • Distribution plan

Distribution is what gives you and your investors financial profit in the end. So if you want to get any funding for your film project. Red Rock Entertainment advises to scrupulously go through your distribution possibilities and write a plan. Some part you can do yourself, such as posting photos or managing social media profiles. Yet, be ready that some distribution matter like festivals participation or sales deals require a firm hand of a distributor. Yes, you’ll have to take care of trailers; effects and music mixes (for foreign distribution), timed dialogue lists, encoding and duplicating for DVD, Blu-ray, DCP, etc. But professional assistance can make it all go much easier and smoother.

Schedule

In terms of schedule, you need to consider when you need to shoot the film. For instance, if you have summertime coming and need a couple of winter scenes, then the schedule should be adjusted appropriately for all cast and crew members to ensure that they all make time for your film. Moreover, the budget will depend on these additional shooting days (transfers, accommodations, food, etc.)

Don’t forget about the comfort of your employees during the shooting. For cold days provide warm drinks, heaters, rugs, and anything else required. For summer time, ensure to get shade and cold drinks for everyone.

Now the final tips about reasonably efficient schedule from Red Rock Entertainment crew:

  • Match location days and actor days as much as you can

  • Set the timing for days and nights (try to avoid the latter as much as possible)

  • Start small and end small (don’t go beyond your plan and budget if you want to shoot the film)

  • Plan the time based on the scene complexity (the more props, prep work, people, stunts, and camera moves you need, the longer it will take)

  • Keep the page count reasonable for every shooting day

The final word

Be ready that even if you follow every tip outlined above, you’ll still need to make several revisions to your budget planning. And don’t expect everything to happen within the split second. Unfortunately, budget planning is a very scrupulous and sometimes boring process that demands your full attention. Concentrate now to get the budget and the funding you need.

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