Show Me the Money
Full documentation of a film’s production is one of the most important pre-production tasks for the producer. It is with a clear production budget you can have transparency as to how much money you have, where it is going in terms of each department, and where the gaps are. With this you can know where you can cut money, where you will need more, and then you can show possible investors and distributors what the financial status of your project is. Film production is not cheap and keeping all the assets organized is one of the most crucial planning aspects of a successful production. The film’s budget is made practical by using a film budget form that sets up the budget information in a way that is readable to those involved. Here is a method for setting up an easy, yet detailed, film budget form.
The film budget form is going to be designed in a basic spreadsheet formula with a series of information up top. Start out my labeling your production and production company. Below that you will need to list the total length of the shoot, the total travel and preparation times, the amount of time in each location, any union information needed, and the name of the director and line producer who may have produced the budget form.
The spreadsheet design is where the bulk of the film’s budgetary information will be. In the left hand column you will put the department number or reference number for a specific department. To the right of that will be the label of what department it is for. Next you may indicate a page number from a longer budget breakdown, which will be likely be prepared by a financial or legal professional. To the far right you will put the exact dollar amount that the department will need. At the bottom of the form once you have run through all the departments you will put special areas that will just be a label and dollar amount. This will include an additional “other” section for unclassifiable expenses. After this you will do special break downs to show how much money is being spent on above the line positions and how much is being spent on below the line positions. Generally speaking, below the line positions are around double what the total above the line positions are. Then you will combine the totals for a section of both above and below the line costs. After this you will include fringe costs, whatever they may be. Finally you will include a total that lists the total budget for the entire film project. This should include absolutely every position from the director’s fee to the cost of extras to all post-production costs. Make sure that you do not over look any department, and the best way to do this is to have the producer go through a full breakdown process and create crew lists that are comprehensive. Without this you can develop hidden costs that will not be included in the budget.