Film Budget Planning: How to Budget a Script Breakdown

Film Budget Planning: How to Budget a Script Breakdown

Producing a film involves costs. Among these include talent fees for actors and crew, rental fees for equipment, and expenses for food, transportation, and accommodations. These are among the things you will factor in to determine your production budget.

No matter how large or small your production is you need to think strategically. Particularly in making your film budget.

Having a well-planned budget will give your film a chance to become successful in terms of keeping production cost low, while making a quality film you will also have room for profits.

Filmmaking is also a business. Film capitalists will not just give out money easily. They will look at the potential of making some profit. Or you cannot sustain your dream of being a filmmaker if you lose money in every production venture.

With a film budget template, you will get a comprehensive and clear view of your production budget that you can present to your team and to your potential investors.

Film Budget Template: A Complete Guide, With Tutorials & Templates • Filmmaking Lifestyle

Filmmakers are looking for templates to help them in doing cost estimates of their production.

The film budget template helps filmmakers in the financial planning aspect in the production of their films. They help you in production management, scheduling and cost planning among many other things.

The template basically contains the outline of your film which is broken down to its main essential elements.

For beginners you can divide it into three parts:

  • Pre-production
  • Initial Photography or production
  • Post-Production

The next step is setting up departments and allocating a budget for them. These departments would include cast, crew, equipment rentals, and location rentals.

Always remember to add in additional budget inputs for expenses during production such as meals, transportation, accommodations, and overtime pay for the production and post-production crew including your actors. Another important part of expenses is insurance for the crew and actors.

Also, include a budget for the marketing and distribution of your film. Expenses for marketing and promotions are often overlooked by filmmakers there are times no or very little budget is allocated for these. In reality, experienced studios and filmmakers allocate a budget equal to or larger for marketing, promotions, and distribution compared to the budget for the main production of the movie.

For bigger productions the film budget is divided into ABOVE THE LINE and BELOW THE LINE

Above the line- Are people who are essential to the film like owners of story rights, screenwriters, producers, directors, and stars of the film. it denotes a level of importance in the production and in creative influence. They usually have fixed rates.

Below the Line- Are those working for the movie’s technical aspects. Unlike those above the line these Below the Line are deemed replaceable, the fees for the crew are per day basis.


There are so many elements to consider when calculating your film’s production budget.

One important thing to do when creating a film budget is to break the film into elements where you could allocate the budget.

Among these elements include:

  • Salaries/ Talent Fees
  • Equipment Rental or Capital Outlay for Equipment-For some independent filmmakers have the choice of renting out film equipment or buying some gear as there are times when it is more beneficial to buy equipment than having to rent it. Before thinking of buying equipment do a Cost-Benefit Analysis first before splurging your budget on buying things.
  • Production Design (sets, props, wardrobes/costumes)
  • Location Rentals (include permit fees, electricity fees, water fees)
  • Catering and Meals
  • Transportation (expenses essential to transporting personnel to and from shooting location sites, moving around locations)
  • Accommodations for crew and talents
  • Post-Production services/ facilities (editing, color-grading, visual effects, animation dubbing, sound effects, foley, rendering/ render farm)
  • Marketing, Promotion, Distribution
  • Copyrights, consent, rights
  • Miscellaneous Expenses
  • Insurance

Important Parts Of A Film Budget Template

Film budgets are tricky, that is why you will need a template to make the film budget breakdown much easier.

The film budget template is made up of several important parts:

  • Above the Line (creative talent, important production people) in some templates, this would refer as Pre-Production
  • Below the Line (direct production costs) in some templates, this would refer as Production
  • Post-Production (editing, visual effects, sound mixing)
  • Promotions, Marketing and Distribution

Best Practices For Film Budget Templates

There are many filmmakers doing best practices in making their film budget templates. But let me summarize these necessary steps:

  1. Determine how much money you would need to produce the movie. You must include all expenses
  2. Assign monetary values to labor, talents, services rendered by people during the production. This may be in the form of talent fees, salaries.
  3. Factor in potential income from investors, grants, advertisers, fundraisers, donations etc.
  4. Subtract the outside funding resources from the total amount needed to make the film.
  5. Keep track of your film production expenses starting from preproduction.

A film budget template tailored to fit your needs

There are many film budget template that are created to fit your needs. Among these include:

  • Movie Magic BudgetingCreated by Entertainment Pictures, this is the industry standard for managing production budgets. These are templates made by major studios, flexible and 100% configurable, cloud based, superb data security.
  • Gorilla BudgetingKnown for its user-friendly experience, developed by Jungle Software, It can be integrated with Gorilla Scheduling
  • StudiobinderThe template is made in Google Sheets so it is easy to share and collaborate. This tool is perfect for beginners working on their first film budget. This is not really a software but this is a template which is offered for free.
  • Celtx BudgetingThis is a part of Celtx management suite, it offers an ecosystem of software that allows production teams to stay on the same page from pre-production to post. Using this platform you can easily collaborate with your tean at every level of production. 


Below-The-Line Crew

These refers to technical crew of the film. Or those workers who receive input from above the line persons like directors. As such they do not give input (except when ask) creatively when making the film. As they are not essential, they can be replaced during the production.

Among the Below-The-Line crew positions include:

  1. Assistant Director
  2. Line Producer
  3. Cinematographer
  4. Art Director
  5. Costume Designer
  6. Camera Crew (camera operator, Key Grip, Grip, Best Boy)
  7. Lighting Crew
  8. Sound Crew
  9. Production Designer
  10. Production Manager
  11. Production Designer
  12. Production Coordinator
  13. Production Assistant
  14. Production Driver
  15. Editor

Add costs for pre-production and wrap crew

Pre-production is an important phase of your film production. And they can turn into a long, unorganized, and costly period. Make sure you organize and schedule pre-production. Film Budget templates will let you add pre-production costs for the wrap crew.

A wrap signals the end of the production phase. just before the film is ready for post-production. It is a tradition to have a wrap party as this marks the end of the actors’ collaboration with the film crew.

How To Make A Film Budget

Making a film budget is tedious. If you don’t have cash to spend on film budget template software. You can make a fairly simple film budget template.

In managing a film production you have to be prudent and must have foresight. Anticipate your needs and other things that would incur expenses.

Let us do a breakdown on how your film budget should be, and what items would be included in the budget.

The film budget has two parts:

  1. Preliminary Budget- general version of a proposed budget
  2. Second Film Budget- This is done when you get financing for your film. The costs here are more definite than the preliminary budget.

A preliminary budget will have:

  • Above the Line- The creative part of the production
  • Below the Line- The technical part of the production
  • Post-Production- Costs for post-production services
  • Others- Miscellaneous expenses

Factor in the costs for:

  1. Pre-production and Wrap crew
  2. Materials and other expenses for pre-production and wrap
  3. Shooting crew expenses
  4. Locations
  5. Production Design expenses (wardrobe, specialty make-up, animals, puppets, animatronic, sets, background, props)
  6. Studio Rental and other related expenses
  7. Labor for construction of sets and production facilities
  8. Equipment Rental
  9. Hard Drives and Storage devices
  10. Director and Creative Fees
  11. Talent Costs and Fees
  12. Talent related expenses
  13. Post-production work
  14. Refining the final cut of the film
  15. Other miscellaneous expenses related to the development and production of the film

Manage your production easier with StudioBinder

If you are a beginner in doing films, chances are you might be overwhelmed when creating your film budget or you don’t have the resources to get a software for making film budgets.

You can get Studiobinder. It is an ideal tool for project management and include budgeting templates for Google Sheets which makes it easier for collaboration.

The templates are free though it is not a software and indie filmmakers and students can use this as an alternative and affordable film budgeting solution.

There are standard budget tabs for above-the-line, production, post-production, and miscellaneous. The sums from the tabs will automatically calculate and total on a top sheet.

I highly recommend it since the template uses the Google Sheets platform for easy sharing and collaboration.

To start creating your film production budget download the StudioBinder template here.

Add your shooting crew expenses

One important factor in a film production budget is shooting crew expenses. In a section of the template, you can add shooting crew expenses which cover craft services (catering and other amenities) to safety and police personnel during the shoots.

You might want to include an estimate section for day rates along with space for overtime pay to help you monitor the expenses.

Start budgeting for shooting days and overtime make sure you have enough time to shoot whatever needs to be taken during principal photography.

First things first, what makes up a film budget?

A film budget covers the whole gamut of producing a film. These include pre-production, principal photography, post-production to promotions/marketing, and distribution.

It will include the talent fees and wages of all those involved in making a film. Then it covers props, wardrobes, sets, food on set, transportation expenses, location permits, filming permits.

Pre-Production Costs

There are misconceptions that the film begins during principal photography. The film starts its development before the camera starts rolling and this is what we call the Pre-production phase.

Costs for pre-production will include direct and indirect costs related to the making of the film. These include the fees for the persons involved in the development phase like screenwriters, producers, and directors. Depending on the film, story rights may also need to be obtained for example book authors whose work is adapted into a film.

Materials and expenses during pre-production and wrap

These may include office supplies, space rental, casting, working meals, scouting, and per diems. For wrap you might as well include food and drinks and a place rental for the party or a small celebration to mark the end of principal photography.

How Much Does A Low Budget Movie Cost

It all depends on the concept of the film. Typically a low budget movie a productions that costs below $5 million. Other films were made very cheap.

The 1999 Blair Witch Project was said to cost $35,000 to $60,000 for shooting, then an additional $200,000 to $750,000 for post production was given by Artisan Entertainment who brought the film’s distribution rights.

Robert Rodriguez’s breakout film El Mariachi, which was released in 1992 costs around $7,000.

How Do I Get Started On A Template For My Production Budgets?

If you are a new filmmaker or an indie filmmaker working on a shoestring budget. You might download Studiobinder film budget template for free.

It uses Google Sheets for easy sharing and collaboration, and it is easy to use.

Location expenses

These are the costs involved in securing a location for a shoot. These include location rental fees and permit fees.

Hard drives and transcoding

Hard drives is a must and a necessity during shoots. You would need them for dailies and rough cuts. Plus you would need backups for your files during shoots.

Celtx Budgeting

Celtx (Crew, Equipment, Location, Talent and XML) is well-known as a media pre-production software popular for its scriptwriting software,

Celtx’s budgeting software is part of their “video production plan,” for $30/month if billed monthly, and $27/month if billed annually.

It is cloud-based and their screenwriting software has a script breakdown function that itemizes by department and then adds these elements into your Celtx budgeting software.

Studio rental and related expenses

Studio rental expenses will depend on your needs. You might want a studio or soundstage for interior shots, this might include dressing rooms, recording studios, production offices or post-production suites.

Costs for set construction labor

It depends on your film. You might need a production designer, prop master, art director, propsmen, carpenters and production design artists.

Use A Template From A Production Budgeting Software

When computing your film budget it is important to use a template from a production budgeting software.

There are several popular film budget template such as Celtx, Studiobinder, Gorilla Budgeting and Movie Magic.

Director or creative fees

The fees for the director or related creative fees are usually included in the Above The Line Budgeting as they are usually involved in the development and preproduction phase of the film. In the film budget you factor in how much of the director’s time you will need from pre-production to post-production.

Talent costs and other fees

If you are hiring union talent you might consider the union minimum rates and look into the guidelines of the union which would have fees aside from the minimum rates for talent fees.

Other talent expenses

Talent expenses related to production include airfare, ground transportation, hotels, food allowance, and talents’ per diems.

The costs of running payroll

In the budgeting process for your film paying out all the expenses is difficult and tedious. However the costs of running payroll is sometimes overlooked because of the workload in managing the film’s budget.

Some companies that run your production payroll charge by percentages by worker’s type. Wrapbook’s pricing is 3/4% of 1% of all wages paid. These may vary depending on loan outs, contractors and union employees.

It is essential to know of these costs ahead of time so you can factor it in the budget.

Do you have a film idea that you would want to turn into reality? Pitch your film idea to Alamo Pictures today!