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Build a Foolproof Budget for Your Short Film or Video

Jourdan Aldredge

Let’s take a hard look at some steps, tips, and tricks for building out a solid budget for your short film or video project.

When you first starting off in filmmaking, your impulse is to just grab a camera, recruit some friends, and go shoot. And while that may be the best way to truly get started, it’ll eventually catch up to you in terms of time, resources, and availability.

Once you’ve gotten the initial motivation to go and create something and have decided to spend a bit more time planning things out, rather than running and gunning, that’s when the actual stages of pre-production come into play.

From scripting to storyboarding to shot blocking, there are a lot of elements of pre-pro on the conceptual side. However, just as important are the tangible elements of putting together a film project.

So, let’s talk budget!


Outline Your Production Schedule

Build a Foolproof Budget for Your Short Film or Video — Outline Your Schedule

Mapping out a time frame for your shoot is helpful in determining your budget. Image by Rawpixel.com.

When starting off with your budget, you really need to start with a good idea of your scope and schedule for production. Ideally, you need to know the number of days and what you plan to shoot for each of those days. As a rough guideline (this can vary on different production scales), you should plan to spend at least one day shooting for every three to five pages of a script. Also, when you’re just starting out on your first budget, you can use one of the apps or free templates below.


Start with Your Hard Costs

When you actually start to put the numbers together, it’s often easiest to begin with the hard costs, as those are typically the most concrete to define. Your camera and gear are usually a good place to begin. If you’re renting a camera, you’ll need to know how many days you’ll need it, and what other lenses, rigs, and gear you’ll need to go along with it.

If you’re working with gear you (or somebody) already owns, you should ideally put that into your budget, too (even if you end up discounting it back later). Cameras, lighting, and audio will give you a base for your budget to begin with.


Actors and Crew

Now you can start looking at putting together your crew. This is where working with (or perhaps as) a producer will help. You’ll need to decide on just how simple or sophisticated of a project you’re going to need.

Here’s a great article that breaks down all the roles on set — and which ones you might need for your production. Once you have a rough estimate of who you’ll want, you’ll then need to figure out rates for each person (and if they have any hard costs they need, as well).


Plan Your Edit

One aspect many filmmakers neglect when putting together a budget is the amount of time and resources they’ll need for post-production and editing. Even if you’re editing your film project yourself, you’ll need to have a good understanding of how much time you’ll need to compensate for.

Again, this is a rough guideline depending on many factors of your editing process. But, generally, you can plan to budget three to five hours for rough editing of five pages of a script, then another three to five hours for revisions, color, and minor effects.


Consider All Costs Involved

Build a Foolproof Budget for Your Short Film or Video — Consider All of the Costs Involved

Considering all costs – major and minor – is important when budgeting your film. Image by FrameStockFootages.

After you’ve looked at these elements of pre-production, production, and post-production, you’ll need to really begin your work of filling in the blanks by considering all costs involved. There are both hard and soft costs everywhere in film and video production — from location fees, to production insurance, to meals and craft services, to even your time putting together this budget.

While it may feel kind of unnecessary or defeating to some when just starting out, the more precise you can get with your budget, the better. This’ll help as you grow into bigger and bigger projects, but also as you start applying for grants and getting more people involved.


Cover image by gnepphoto.

For more insights and resources for planning out your short film or video projects, check out these articles below.

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