A Better Budget: The Beginner’s Guide to Planning an Indie Budget

A typical feature budget has 30 to 40 categories, anywhere from 250 to 300-plus line items, and 400-800 “details” within those items. How does anyone figure all that out?

The good news is that you don’t have to start from scratch, or get it right the first time. The process is less mysterious than it seems.

The Breakdown

First, you need to understand your script at an atomic level, so break it down. Start with these steps:

  • Jot down each separate shooting location in the script. The bathroom, bedroom and living room of the same family house can count as one location. The outside of the house, however, should count as a separate location (i.e. you may have to shoot this somewhere else).
  • Write down each speaking role and what scenes they appear in.
  • Determine how many “script days” your story takes place in, and over how long a time period. Before Midnight takes place in one day; X-Men: Days of Future Past occurs over several days, spread out over several decades. This gives you a very rough idea of how many wardrobe changes and seasonal or period adjustments (snow, rain, fog, falling leaves, production design changes) you need to account for.
  • Determine how many scenes you have that require a lot of extras: sporting events, city streets, classes, dances, bars, weddings, funerals, and other major social occasions.

Next, create a breakdown sheet for each scene in your script. The breakdown sheets should contain (at minimum):

  • Scene Numbers
  • Interior or Exterior
  • Set (the room or area the scene is set in)
  • Location (the larger area, house or building that the set is in)
  • Short Description
  • Time of Day
  • Scene Length
  • List of Cast
  • List of Extras
  • Picture Vehicles
  • Stunts
  • Special Equipment Needs
  • Pets/Effects/Special Makeup
  • Props
  • Set Dressing

Analyzing the script this way will give you a better sense of its true scope. Low-budget indie films can be long on one or two items, but not on everything.

Setting Parameters

Once you’ve broken down the script, it’s time to make key assumptions for your production. These will guide you through the rest of the process.

Read the rest of this article from MovieMaker.