How to Estimate Your Film's Budget

Hosted by Chris Smith


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Chris Smith

Webinar hosted by: Chris Smith

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

For over a decade, Chris Smith has built budgets and made film and television projects as a line producer, producer, producer, and production manager. He’s worked on over ten indie features, spent a few years being an Executive in Charge of Production for the Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, NatGeo, MTV, and more, overseen commercials, infomercials, music videos, shorts, and plenty of other projects. He came up through production, so he knows every crew role and rental and why they each require a line item in the budget. His budgeting philosophy is simple: measure twice ‘cuz you only shoot once… hopefully. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary


Your film requires a unique budget based on the scale of the story, special effects, stunts, visual aesthetic, insurance, and so much more. But how much is that going to cost you? If you're looking for financing, how do you explain the dollar amount you need to investors?

You need a budget.

Do you know what budget tier your film is? How to create a production schedule? How to "guesstimate" your costs? How to do a budget display for investors? Well, you're about to find out!

Creating a budget is not in your everyday skills, and that's okay! Most writers and directors have never created a budget, making it vital to get the correct information to know what your production needs.

Quality budgets are the job of line producers, but they take time to create and are typically expensive. A line producer knows all the crewmembers, equipment, and unique additives that your script requires, as well as where you can save money. But you need this information long before you hire a line producer because you have to create an estimated budget to draw investors. This exclusive Stage 32 webinar shows you how to create an estimated budget for your film, including a Q&A with a professional line producer so that you can receive direct expert knowledge regarding your script.

For over a decade, Chris Smith has built budgets working on over ten indie features and has worked as an Executive in Charge of Production, creating reality content for Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, NatGeo, MTV, and more. Having moved through the production ranks, he knows every crew role and rental and why they each require a line item in the budget. He’s also built over a hundred budgets for every type of project you can think of.  His budgeting philosophy is simple: measure twice ‘cuz you only shoot once… hopefully.

By the end of this webinar, you will be able to create an accurate budget estimate and have the confidence to talk about that estimate with any potential investors and professionals that are as excited to get moving on your project as you. You will also:

  • Break down your script for the schedule and budget
  • Understand budget tiers
  • Know what causes unexpected cost increases
  • Looking at "comps" (comparable examples)
  • Learn how to communicate your budget effectively to investors
  • and more!



What You'll Learn


  • The Basic Elements to Guesstimate Your Budget
    • Understanding Budget Tiers
    • Breaking Down Your Script for Schedule and Budget
    • Creating a Preliminary Schedule
    • Creating a Guesstimated Budget
  • Understanding Tiers by Union Standards
    • Determine Which Unions are Right for Your Film
    • The Costs Associated with Each Union
    • How to Find Your Budget Tier and the Impact on Your Budget
  • Understanding Script Elements for Breakdowns
    • Understanding What Increases Cost by Elements
    • How to Focus on the Proper Elements to Create the Film You Want
  • Preliminary Scheduling
    • Understanding Why Scheduling is the First Step to Budgeting
    • Breaking Down Your Script into a Close Approximation of Shooting Days
    • Understanding Complexities that Extend Shooting Schedules
  • Finding Common Elements in Existing Films
    • Going Tier by Tier Through Existing Films with the Eyes of a Line Producer
    • Comparing Your Vision to Previous Examples
    • Creating a Basic Budget Based Upon “Saw” by Breaking it Down
  • Creating Your Basic Budget
    • What Should a Budget Look Like?
    • How to Populate a Guesstimated Budget Correctly
    • Tips, Tricks, and Equations to Come Up with Your Department Numbers
    • Populating the 4 Main Sections of a Budget
  • Wrapping it Up
    • Sharing Some Helpful Line Producing Tools for Your First Budget
    • Ways to Feel Confident Communicating Your Budget
    • Common Misunderstandings of Non-Budgeters
  • Q&A with Chris

About Your Instructor

For over a decade, Chris Smith has built budgets and made film and television projects as a line producer, producer, producer, and production manager. He’s worked on over ten indie features, spent a few years being an Executive in Charge of Production for the Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, NatGeo, MTV, and more, overseen commercials, infomercials, music videos, shorts, and plenty of other projects. He came up through production, so he knows every crew role and rental and why they each require a line item in the budget. His budgeting philosophy is simple: measure twice ‘cuz you only shoot once… hopefully.


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"I've never done an estimated budget before and Chris included so many things that never occurred to me! After doing my 'guesstimate,' I locked a producer and am about to start my first production ever."

- Terry D.


"I thought it was very well done. Chris was very straightforward and a pleasure to listen to."

- Michael W.


"Chris is wonderful! Wealth of knowledge & seems like a really cool, standup guy."

- Melissa L.


"Chris was great, very clear, knowledgeable and charismatic. As someone who has shot multiple films in the past, some of the first half content was aimed at beginners, but I got my money's worth with his case studies and strategies in the second half. Thank you."

- Javier B.


"it was great to hear from an LP to walk us through guesstimating a budget. Very useful info. I thoroughly enjoyed it"

-Yvette S.


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.

Reviews Average Rating: 5 out of 5

  • Great, broadstroke budgeting tools and advice. This is a great seminar for filmmakers and writers. I feel I can speak more intelligently about a budget ranges for my projects after this seminar.

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