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FILM BUDGETING: AN INTRODUCTION
Almost every facet of the filmmaking process is distinguished by its lack of predictability. Anyone who has attempted to make a film will attest to this simple truth.
Not only is filmmaking a complex medium from a technical standpoint, it's a medium that places the filmmaker at the mercy of his own abilities and limitations, as well as those of his associates.
Throw in weather and logistical problems, which multiply in proportion to the complexity of the production, and you can see why making a feature film is very difficult indeed.
With that said, the best protection for the filmmaker is adequate advance preparation. This includes a realistic and carefully constructed production budget.
Importance of the Budget
Regardless of the type of film you intend to make--high concept, low budget, documentary, music video--potential investors want to know how much it will cost. Consequently, the budget is one of the key components of the sales package (along with the script and talent) used to raise financing.
Once the script has been purchased, the first step in producing the film is the preparation of the budget. This document encompasses all of the foreseeable expenses that will be incurred in translating the script to the screen.
Even when personally financing your film, you need to know the real costs involved and can't just "wing it." In fact, if you are putting your life savings on the line, it's more the reason that you prepare a comprehensive budget.
Budget as Blueprint
Everyone, from the student filmmaker shooting his/her first project to the professional making a feature length film, has a limited amount of funds to spend, whether that amount is $500 or $50,000,000. Common sense, therefore, dictates that funds must be allocated in such away that all costs are met through completion.
It would be a disappointment for the fledgling and a disaster for the professional if funds were exhausted before the film was completed. A solid budget is the best way to avoid such defeat.
The budget is constructed using experience, intuition, and research to determine current market prices for services and rentals. No matter how well the budget is prepared, however, it cannot guarantee completion of the film.
The budget can serve only as a basic plan as the project moves through each phase of production. It is not a substitute for frugality and common sense.
In addition to being comprehensive, the budget must be honest. Ignoring or guessing the cost of significant items defeats its purpose. Fudging is foolhardy and may seriously jeopardize the success of the project.
As an aspiring filmmaker, the ability to prepare an accurate budget is as vital to the filmmaking process as the ability to use the other tools of the medium.
Implementation & Implementation
Film budgets have a specific format, which evolved over the years from the old studio system. Templates are available from production supply houses and come bundled in production software. There are also plenty of free examples circulating on the Internet.
Once the budget is establish and funded, the producer must see that every cent shows up on screen. If a specific cost or line item does not contribute to this, perhaps it is better trimmed off and reallocated to another area of the budget. -Lou LaVolpe
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