I had a fellow filmmaker ask me, “Where does the money go?”. By money he means the film budget if you are fortunate to have one. I decided to write a post that deals with this glossed over aspect. This will not cover insurance cost, legal fees, etc. These are extremely important to filmmaking for the crew and talent, but it will not be covered here. As always you should consult a professional and have all your bases covered legally when partaking in filmmaking.
Let’s start with a nice round number, let’s say 10k. I think 10k is a solid start for a micro budget film. I could consistently put out 75-minute films in 10 days give or take. Let’s also assume that the script is written, and you are not paying for a screenwriter to produce first, second, third, and fourth drafts. Let’s assume you are the director and producer. Let’s also assume that you have relationships with other filmmakers (i.e., DP, Grip, Sound, PAs, etc.) and you are not a newbie. Why? Newbies pay retail and you can’t make your films for 10k as a newbie. The same film will cost newbies 30k to 50k, easily.
Below is my personal break down and allocation of 10k for a 10-day shoot. I personally think 10 days is too long for a micro budget feature. So, try to shoot for 8 days with 1 day for pick up if necessary. Here are a few parameters I think you should incorporate.
- Shoot your film for less than your budget, if possible. Off a 10k shoot aim for $8,500 or $9,000. This way you have $1,500 or $1,000 for unplanned expenses. Trust me they will come up. If you come under the budget, you can save the money for marketing and promotion or spread the love out to the cast and crew, if you are able.
- When negotiating crew and actor rates never negotiate day rates, try to do a flat. If your actor rate day is $150 per day. $150/actor x 10 days = $1500. If there are 4 actors, then you are at 60 % of your budget already. Lead actors get more than costars and actors who are in just one scene get only food and credit.
- If possible: Barter, Barter and, yes, Barter. Let your filmmaking friends know – if you can shoot, record, act, or PA for this flat fee then I will help you on your next project. When the time comes do what you promised.
- Consolidate actor’s performances and see if you can shoot one or more actors’ scenes in one day. Actors maybe be willing to work with a flat rate if you wrap that actor in one or two days.
- Ask anyone who has a home or apartment if you can film there for a nominal fee. You might be surprised. As a matter of fact, ask your fellow actors if you can use their apartments in exchange for casting them in your new film/films. It worked for me. If they agree, write them into the movie.
- DO NOT cut corners with craft services. No fast food like McDonald’s or pizza. A well-fed cast and crew is a productive cast and crew.
- Look for Student film crew to fill positions but check their work and ask qualifying questions when interviewing. Why? Because anyone can fudge a reel and resume.
- You as the Director/Producer will not get a salary. Get use to it. Put all the money on the screen.
- Tell your actors to come hair and make-up ready.
Shooting From The Hip Film Budget
- Sound recordist – $900
- Director of photography with film equipment – $900
- Production Assistant – $700
- Starring Actor – $800
- Co-Star – $500
- Co-Star – $500
- One Scene Actors – Food/Credit
- Locations – $1500
- Coloring -$1000
- Post sound mix – $1000
- Film editing – $1000
- Food – $1500
- Props/Set dress – $500
- Gas and miscellaneous – $750
It seems we went over budget by $1550. It happens and trust me it will continue to happen in the wonderful, less than perfect world of micro budget filmmaking. The budget game is an ever-changing world of give and take. You take from one column only to give it to another. So, we didn’t come under budget, but we got the film in the can and at the end of the day that’s what’s most important.
As always be inspired, be encouraged and be collaborative.