Budgeting Lab: Build a Budget for Your Low Budget Feature in 8 Weeks

Payment plans available - contact edu@stage32.com for details
Taught by Chris Smith


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Class hosted by: Chris Smith

Producer of over 10 films + former Production Executive for Travel Channel, MTV, NatGeo & More

Chris Smith has been building budgets and making film and television projects as a line producer, producer, and production manager for well over a decade. He’s worked on over ten indie features, been an Executive in Charge of Production for a reality television company, created reality content for Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, NatGeo, MTV, and others, overseen commercials, infomercials, music videos, shorts, and more. Chris worked his way up through production and knows every crew role, rental, and item in the budget, as well as how necessary they each are. He’s also built over a hundred budgets for projects of every level and format. He even made a $250,000 feature during COVID. His philosophy of budgeting is simple: measure twice ‘cuz you only shoot once…hopefully. Full Bio »


Payment plans available - contact edu@stage32.com for details

Limited to 10 People - 2 Spots Remain


With so many platforms and distributors looking for new projects to fill their libraries, now is the perfect time to make your low-budget feature. But before you can take a single shot, you need to know what it costs. A bad budget can break a production before it even starts, but an expertly made budget can lead to investors and opportunities.

Before you go out to investors to finance your low-budget feature, you must know how much money you need and, more importantly, how you’re spending that money.

This ensures you don’t undervalue your project, which sets up production to run out of money before you finish.

To get the right sum for your project, you either have to spend money you don’t have yet to hire a line producer and schedule or build one yourself without any experience.

But, what if you could not only have a budget and schedule ready for everything investors expect to see but also have an expert look it through to make sure you’ve got everything you need?

What if a professional line producer who’s worked on hundreds of budgets could show you the ins and outs of budgets so that you know how to do it yourself for all of your projects?

In this Stage 32 exclusive lab, you’ll go directly through your low-budget feature script with Chris Smith, a line producer, producer, and production manager with over a decade of experience. He’s also built over a hundred budgets for projects of every level and format.

Over eight weeks, you’ll learn how to comb through your script to determine every line item you’ll need from pre-production through post.

Chris has made over ten indie features, been an Executive in Charge of Production, created content for MTV, Cartoon Network, NatGeo, and NatGeo, and has overseen countless commercials, music videos, shorts, and more. Having worked his way up through production, Chris knows every crew role, rental and item in budget, as well as how important they each are. 

Over the course of his career, Chris has built over a hundred budgets for projects of every level and format.

Chris will show you how to budget for:

  • The schedule
  • Above-the-line talent
  • Every crewmember needed
  • Rentals
  • Locations
  • Contingencies
  • Production and accounting fees
  • And so much more

Using a limited class size, you’ll have the ability to work on your own budget and receive Chris’s invaluable experience, plus, see how these lessons adapt to each of your classmates’ projects.

After every session, you’ll have an assignment to build on the information you’ve just learned and to practice while setting you up for the next session.

You’ll also have access to handouts from Chris, featuring the budgets and schedules from professional productions to see exactly how the pros get it done.

You’ll walk away with a budget, schedule, and the knowledge behind the choices you’ve made so that investors see you as a credible filmmaker and producer that they want to work with.

What You'll Learn

Read your syllabus and decide which feature-length script to budget and schedule. Be familiar with your project before we begin. Also, have note-taking tools with you. Have some questions ready as we’ll start and end each class by answering your questions.

WEEK 1: Introduction, Script Breakdown

This week we’ll cover how to look at your script through the eyes of a line producer and discuss script breakdowns to get us moving towards next week’s scheduling.

We will discuss what elements in a script need to be looked at to build a schedule and budget.


  • Break down your script at home, so it’s ready for scheduling
  • Familiarize yourself with a few schedules provided by Chris


WEEK 2: Intro to Scheduling and Scheduling

This week we’ll set up your schedule for the film. We’re going to take the breakdown of your feature and apply it in weeks. We’ll learn how to take a cast, specialty equipment, locations, special effects into consideration while making a schedule.


  • Continue building your schedule based on this week’s class and prepare for the next session
  • Familiarize yourself with supplied budgets


WEEK 3: Intro to the Budgeting Portion

Week three focuses on the first steps of getting the schedule into the budget. This is a lot of busywork, but it has to be done. Then we’ll start focusing on which unions and guilds apply at your proposed budget level.


  • Continue to learn the rules and regulations from various budget tiers for the unions to apply next session
  • Find actor rates for specific actor levels you want in your film


WEEK 4: Above the Line

This week we’ll jump into the “Above the Line” portion of the budget. We’ll get online and learn which unions apply to which fields and how to figure out specialty rates. Also, we’ll go into what is and isn’t technically supposed to be above or below the line.


  • Continue filling out your above-the-line budget
  • Look at the IATSE crew rate breakdown and familiarize yourself with crew positions


WEEK 5: Budgeting Crew

This week we’ll cover crew for your budget below the line. Where they go, how many you should propose in each account of the budget, how to find reasonable rates at your budget level, kit fees, fringes, and more.


  • Continue populating your budget with crew and crew rates
  • Ordering up the elements we’ll be inserting next week: locations, stunts, special effects, vehicles, etc.


WEEK 6: Budgeting Below the Line

We’ll finish up filling in below-the-line production now that the crew is in there. This covers vehicles, craft services, rentals of everything, locations, gas, bathrooms, permits, art department, and everything else that isn’t a person that’ll be required to make your budget as accurate as possible.


  • Continue populating your budget with elements from today’s class
  • Get a basic idea of post elements for next week


WEEK 7: Budgeting Post and Contractuals

Now we’ll be getting to the last part of the budget where the magic happens. We’ll look at editors, sound design, graphics, finishing, contingencies, accounting fees, production company fees, and the like until we’ve got a roughly completed budget.


  • Complete the first draft of your budget
  • Look over your budget and schedule for next week’s class
  • Prepare any last questions you’ve got for the final class


WEEK 8: Cleaning the Budget and Final Thoughts

For this final week, we will be reviewing our budgets in a group. We’ll be going back through the budget, script, and schedule to make sure everything is accounted for in each and address any outstanding concerns, questions, clarifications, or problems in the budgets you are creating.

We’ll also be going over how to move things around in the budget if you need the final number to come down, go up, or just shift a bit around. 


  • Relax and feel good about having a new budget



Over the 8 week course, you’ll learn how to break down your script, build a schedule and a budget.

Sessions will vary between 2-hour group settings and personal one-on-one Zoom meetings with Chris. You will be held accountable to take the lessons from each week and move your work forward.

Plus, to keep you motivated and inspired, you will have access to a private, dedicated Stage 32 Lounge where you can communicate with your fellow classmates throughout the budgeting process.

About Your Instructor

Chris Smith has been building budgets and making film and television projects as a line producer, producer, and production manager for well over a decade. He’s worked on over ten indie features, been an Executive in Charge of Production for a reality television company, created reality content for Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, NatGeo, MTV, and others, overseen commercials, infomercials, music videos, shorts, and more.

Chris worked his way up through production and knows every crew role, rental, and item in the budget, as well as how necessary they each are. He’s also built over a hundred budgets for projects of every level and format. He even made a $250,000 feature during COVID. His philosophy of budgeting is simple: measure twice ‘cuz you only shoot once…hopefully.


Saturday March 12 – 9am-11am PST

Saturday March 19 – 9am-11am PST

Saturday March 26 – 9am-11am PST

Saturday April 2 – 9am-11am PST

Saturday April 9 – 9am-11am PST

Saturday April 16 – 9am-11am PST

Saturday April 23 – 9am-11am PST

Saturday April 30 – 9am-11am PST



Q: What is the format of a lab?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Classes are typically 90-minute broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.

Q: Do I have to be located in a specific location?
A: No, you can participate from the comfort of your own home using your personal computer! If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the class.

Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the webinar software: Windows 7 or later Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
If you have Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion): The webinar software does not support these operating systems. If you are running one of those operating systems, please upgrade now in order to be able to view a live class. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer

Q: What if I cannot attend the live lab class?
A: If you attend a live online class, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the class. If you cannot attend a live class, you will have access to the entire recorded broadcast, including the Q&A. Plus, your instructor will be available via email throughout the lab.

Q: Will I have access to the lab afterward to rewatch?
A: Yes! After the purchase of the lab, you will have on-demand access to the video recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like!








If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.

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