Anything Goes : Budgeting by Tony Cella

Tony Cella

Budgeting

A prospective director asked me to have a budget done for a feature comedy I wrote before he takes a look at it. The screenplay is a little over 99 pages. How much will the task cost or is someone on here open to working for free or deferred payment?

Cody Tuthill

It really depends. I usually see anywhere from $1,000 to $5000. You certainly need to make sure you have a well done detailed budget especially when you are looking for investors.

Danny Manus

its odd for a director to ask a writer to have a budget done. Unless you're producing also. But a full budget can cost anywhere from around 1k-5kish.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Danny, here in NYC, if you are seeking a budget breakdown for a stage play (mainstage theatre), it will cost no less than $5,000. But I'm surprised to hear that "a prospective director" is asking a screenwriter to shoulder this expense. Is that the norm?

Tony Cella

Thanks for the advice everyone. I was perplexed that he expected a screenwriter to raise funds and supply a budget, but I'm new and don't mind picking up extra skills because most of my movie ideas fit the mold of independent films. Without a studio supporting an artistic endeavor, knowing how to do a bit of everything makes a big difference.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Thanks for posting the question, Tony, so others may share in the knowledge pool!

Tony Cella

Not a problem.

Donny Broussard

The Producer or UPM should be doing that for you and it'll cost you at least 3k. This Director sounds very inexperienced, so tread lightly and be careful not to get into a situation you'll regret later. Ask for contracts before you move forward and raise any funds on your own, because the second you do that you're more than just the Screenwriter. My advice however is to look for another director. Good luck.

Tony Cella

Thank you for the thorough advice Donny. You make some good points. I'm talking with other directors, but, if I decide to go indie, I may end up wearing more hats than anticipated. Knowing the budget will make it easier to pitch too.

Donny Broussard

Having a budget for a pitch for potential financiers is a must. Good luck to you, Tony. I hope you knock it out of the park.

Michael Wearing

Tony Knowing how much your film will cost to be made is of course an essential part of pitching your script. I use Movie Magic to create a schedule and budget. But there is other cheaper software out there. If you've got the money to buy the software I would do it yourself. That said I would be more than happy to prepare a schedule and budget for you. It will of course cost a few pennies but I would be willing to defer payment. As always the initial budget will be a guide, and would need refinement. Especially as rewrites come into play,I usually keep the total cost steady and just juggle departmental budgets and make savings by negotiating location, equipment etc costs. Let me know if you want me to help.

Shaun O'Banion

Agree with the info from everyone who has already spoken up here... I've done budgets for as little as $1200-$1500, but that was as a favor for close friends. The normal rate is closer to a $3k starting point - the reason for this is that, to create a fairly accurate first draft budget, one needs to create a decent first draft schedule, too... in order to calculate things like man days (prep days, shoot days and wrap days), P&H and other fringes, etc. This is not a simple process (if done properly). It takes at least a week of work (sometimes more depending on the project). It could involve any number of elements from figuring out potential shooting locations to determine potential tax incentives, to getting bids from vendors on equipment if specific items are needed that aren't readily available (fabrications, etc.) I guess the point is, you need a producer, and the director shouldn't be asking YOU to create (or pay someone to create) a budget. Good luck!

Parameswaran Nair

I guess, if he has not told you a ballpark and how to accommodate the budget in it then you need to estimate what your client's budget would be. Budgets are entirely dependent on the kind of equipment you use. The biggest component of small budget films is food. For a 100-minute film it would take at least about a fortnight to shoot (again, averages here), so travel will also take up a lot.

Shaun O'Banion

By far, the biggest chunks of your budget will be Talent and Post. Talent because actors who can open a film are expensive, and Post is a lot longer than the shoot. Minimum of 13 weeks is advised.

Michael Wearing

I think the real issue here is that Tony, a writer, has approached a director, without having a producer attached. The director by asking the question, is really asking. "Do you know what you are doing?" Tony has in reality taken the first step of producing by trying to attach a director, but does he have the skills, knowledge and contacts for all the other aspects of producing. Whether his budget covers little more than catering, and expenses or includes the cost of bankable talent is very relevant, as it is a statement of the intentions of the filmmakers.

Pidge Jobst

Get Excel and a line-budgeting template and JUST DO IT! You need only express it's a loose budget. Why wait, especially if you intend on eventually producing, breaking down the script and line-budgeting it anyway. You can learn the process while there are no potential prospects, or learn it now while there is. Why wait on the Industry? It won't wait on you.

Tony Cella

@Michael, That approach would be understandable if he was a big name director or a professional with multiple feature films under his belt. If decides to take a smug approach because he's directed a couple short films, then he's not someone I want to work with anyway.

Chad Catuara

Yes, odds are against it but in this business most anything can and does happen, when parties sync. I've seen where all physical production is less than 10% of budget and they're usually the ones making the sacrfice and with no quid pro quo, when the picture becomes a blockbuster. I view reduced rates as sweat equity investment. That's the fair logical way to play the game.

Chris Pluchar

Tony, you can get a budget done for an indie feature in LA for anywhere from $250-$1,500 with some variation in quality. For basic pitch packages, you don't really need the finer details sorted out as any potential investor generally only looks for the top sheet. If you're looking for a union budget, then you pay more for the expertise that comes with that. You might want to simply start by discussing with the director roughly how much you guys want to do it for and can feasibly raise. That'll dictate the rest as a lot of movies can be made at a wide range of budget levels, it just changes who you can cast, how many cars you can crash, how many cameras you'll have, how many days you can shoot, etc.

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