Budgeting for a low budget Feature? read this.

A friend posted: How do I create a budget for a low/no budget flick…for a low/no budget indie: 10 or so crew, from DP to grip, $50 to $500 / day… depending on how many and how close film crew friends you may have and how hungry they are, and willing to work on a “freebe”. So plan on between $500 to $5000 / day for 10 low/no budget crew… then add $15 to $25/day/head for food and craft services… so for 10 crew its another $200ish per day.. average indie film takes between 10 and 20 days to shoot. so you end up with a number between $5,000 and $50,000 for crew, $2,000 to $4,000 for food, and then you have to add costs for locations, cast ( non SAG or SAG and it’s additional costs) ( assume SAG NEW MEDIA at least $100/day/actor plus 16.5% for pension add( call it $120/day) ) so if you have 5 actors and the rest ( maybe 10 others ) are $50/day friends…
For the mid sized 15 day shoot you have another $10K to $15K for actors, production insurance at around $5K (assuming no stunts), Add around $2500/stunt for a working number (including stunt coordinator/up tick in insurance, and materials) travel, lodging ( if any ) at $150/day for a two person room, props maybe $2500, on camera vehicles $25 to $100/day, grip and electric equipment $200/day, camera equipment $100 to $250 / day, production van or 2 another $100/day, makeup $500, wardrobe $500, and general expenses $2500… then add to the production budget 10% for contingency.
Then on to post where you’ll need to cover an editor, sound designer, composer, colorist, VFX editor, re-recording engineer at around $250/day to $750/day each unless you can get friends to help… and assuming the production budget we’ve talked about here you’ll spend at least $25,000 to $50,000 finishing, prepping for the distributor deliveries, and paperwork.. simple… $50K to $150K for production and $25K to $50K for post for a typical low/no budget gig. and if your editor is a kid with minimal experience you’ll end up having to hire someone to fix it and you’ll need to pay a colorist… Do you know what color correction costs? guess…. nope Wrong. close to $450/day and a couple 3 days to properly color correct and shade a feature film. Of course you expect your picture editor to do that as part of their pay right?
also, don’t forget the 4 to 6 four terabytes disks you’ll need for media and the production media costs as well… that’s another $2K in disks and materials alone.
we haven’t even added in the cost of a script, the copyrighting and WGA submission, or E&O insurance, and the costs for all the deliverable materials for distributors, like a production photographer, a scripty, documentation, lawyer for all the script, cast, crew, location, product placement, and general contracts, the LLC in which you will make your film and other costs of running the film project on the business side.
In REALITY, your movie will cost you what you can afford to spend and unless you’re very very careful and have a lot of favors you can call in, it will look exactly like what you spent on it. SO, unless you write a script to FIT and specific budget, the right way is to breakdown the script, figure out what it will REALLY cost based on the script you wrote. Then figure out how much cash you can really raise from various sources. Then do the painful work of cutting down the script until you can shoot and post it for the money you can raise and the favors you can call in. oh, and don’t forget the cost of creating a real hollywood poster from a real hollywood poster company ($3K and the best spent $3K from the budget), and material to get it sold and delivered, or it’s just an ego piece that you’ll send to festivals for film maker masturbation and a couple cute little trophies to impress your friends, instead of making any money with it.
Another way is to figure out what you HAVE to spend based on the money you can raise is: Assume $50K for a no budget film: then $25K for production and $25K for post. Production side: $12.5 K for cast and producers/director/insurance and $12.5K for crew and expenses… take the $12.5K above the line and split that into 2, so $6K for actors and $6K for producers/director. below the line $12.5K is split between $6K for crew and $6K for equipment/locations/props/wardrobe/makeup,etc and $6K for food/hotels/equipment and the remainder of the production portion is for contingency.
The $25K for post breaks down to $6K for picture, $6K for sound, $6K for color/vfx/misc, and $6K for delivery with the remainder for contingency. As you continue to break things down, you quickly learn that you have buckets for things that are soooo small that you have to really call in favors at this budget level .
for example. sound alone: $6K… that’s $2K for sound design, $2K for dialogue and ADR and $2K for mixing ( did I bother to tell you that a dub stage at friends and family rates is around $1500 / day ? how about picture, $6K right? so that’s $1K for DIT/log/capture/doc/location editorial, $3K for the edit, and $2K for second and polished delivery. Assuming the edit of a feature takes 40 days… that’s 40 days of work for $5K = $15.00 per hour. The rate for a real editor is $50 to $150 / hour…
How about the crew? remember that $6K for crew… so we have 10 crew for 10 days ? or about $60/day or $5.00 / hour… crew run around $100/hr for a DP down to $25/hr for a grip and at least minimum wage for “help”.
and don’t forget all the days and work in Pre-Production that no one is getting paid for…. I don’t even want to think of how these extra days affect the actual bottom line payment/hour of work… ugh….
.. so keep that in mind as well. as you are asking people to work basically as slave labor for a puff piece or an ego piece… and don’t tell a crew or post person they’ll get “deferred”, a good pro will laugh and hang up the phone, knowing “deferred” really means ZERO pay. and don’t promise “backend” of any kind because you’ll probably never sell your movie unless you’ve got pre-sales before you start production….
The reality of life is 1. You can’t make a professional grade distributable feature length movie for under $50K when the dust settles…. 2. You can make one for $50K or a bit more.. IF.. you have a lot of friends and call in favors, and you absolutely know what you are doing… 3. The minimum you can, straight up hire, and create a paid-for feature length project is around $100K…