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How to Make Your First Movie - Phase 2: Budgeting

Producing your first movie is difficult enough without running out of money halfway through. Reduce the chances of that happening with these budgeting tips.


  • Step 1: Plan an ideal budget Sit down with the director and plan out an ideal movie budget. It doesn’t have to be too detailed.
  • TIP: A budget is typically divided into four cost sections: talent, production, post-production, and miscellaneous.
  • Step 2: Cut the ideal budget in half Now, tell the director you want to slash the budget in half. He’ll probably be furious, but it’ll help him think in terms of dollars and cents.
  • TIP: Hiring film students, shooting digitally, and using unknown actors and cheap locations will bring down the budget.
  • Step 3: Explain all expenses Make the new, cheaper budget include explanations for every single penny the director intends to spend. This version of the budget should be dozens of pages long.
  • Step 4: Delegate the initial investment Delegate the initial investment. Ideally, most of it will go to shoot impressive scenes that will then be used to raise more money for the film. You’ll need a bit of it yourself, though, to finance your fundraising efforts.
  • TIP: If you don’t have an initial investment, you’ll need to use money from your own pocket. Make sure that your contract with the director clearly reflects this risk.
  • Step 5: Apply for grants Apply for filmmaking grants. There are institutions the world over that give money to new and independent filmmakers. Find them, and apply for every single grant that they offer, no matter how unlikely it is that you’ll get it.
  • Step 6: Find investors Find investors. Go through your alma mater or professional contacts.
  • Step 7: Present confidently When you do land meetings with potential investors, be confident. Talk up the director, the plot, and the starring actors. Never stray too far from your claim that the movie is a sure thing to make back its investment.
  • TIP: If you don’t yet have footage when seeking investors, show them a part of one of the director’s previous films.
  • Step 8: Raise a little extra Raise the money you need for your budget—and then some. Socking away an extra 15% in contingency funds—to help you out if disaster should strike—is a smart idea.
  • TIP: If you’re positively loaded with funds, give a little more financial leeway to the director, but save most of it for emergencies and the possibility that the film will go over budget.
  • Step 9: Count every penny Count every penny that the movie spends and that the movie makes. Write everything in your master ledger. This way, you’ll always know where you stand, and if the movie is still on budget.
  • Step 10: Have a backup If and when you have to work away from the actual shoot, have someone you trust—not the director—keep track of everything.
  • FACT: The 1963 film Cleopatra was originally given a budget of $2 million, and wound up costing $44 million— that’s over $300 million in current dollars.

You Will Need

  • Some initial investment
  • The names of potential investors
  • The directoru2019s cooperation
  • A financial ledger
  • A ruthless attention to detail

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