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Documentary Film Budgets

written by: Ashley Leonard•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 10/29/2010

Documentary film budgets are an important part of the production process. Before a documentary film can begin shooting, the budget needs to be created. A well-organized documentary film budget can help make a documentary film a success.

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    The Contents of a Documentary Film Budget

    Documentary film budgets can be very lengthy because of its contents. A documentary film budget needs to inform investors of the costs of everything and the shooting schedule. If you don't have investors already, the budget needs to persuade prospective investors that they should fund your project. A documentary film budget usually consists of the costs for the equipment, crew, cast and miscellaneous items. The budget should explain in detail where the funds are going. It should detail the exact costs for every item that is needed for the production.

    Costs for post-production should also be included within the budget. Post-production is one of the most important aspects of a documentary film and an experienced editor and top tier editing software is needed.

    Documentary filmmakers should avoid red flags within the budget, such as spending too much for a certain service. A prospective investor needs to feel comfortable spending their money on your project; they do not want to waste money.

    It can be difficult to create a budget for a documentary film because a documentary is not always planned and organized like a narrative feature. Some of the costs within the budget will be estimates and those estimates should be realistic.

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    The Structure of Documentary Film Budgets

    A documentary film budget should be professionally presented to prospective investors. Making a polished budget will show the investors that you are serious about your project. A cover sheet should be placed on the front of your documentary film budget. The cover sheet should give an outline of the project, such as the project's working title, project's director, project's producer and production company if one exists. A summary page should go under the cover sheet and it should outline the budget and what the investor expects from reading the budget. The actual budget should be placed under the summary page and it should show a line-by-line budget, detailing what is needed for the film and how much everything will cost. An outline of the crew's salary should also be placed within the budget because it is part of the overall production. Budget worksheets can also be incorporated within the documentary film budget. A budget worksheet can consist of a breakdown of the costs and various calculations pertaining to the cost of the documentary film.

    Every page of the budget should be placed in a folder or binder, so it can be easily read.

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    Easy to Understand

    Your documentary film budget should be understood by individuals who are not involved in the film industry. It is not a requirement to acquire investors that are well-versed in film or film production. There are many investors that are interested in funding a documentary film and your project can be their opportunity. When creating the budget, make sure that the investor will fully understand every part of it.

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