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Feature Budget: Mediating Expectations

Updated: Jan 4

Even though my usual line of work has been, up until this point, freelance producing and commercial writing in Los Angeles and Atlanta, I recently picked up a couple freelance gigs mocking up initial line item budgets for some indie feature films. One is a low budget, one is an ultra low budget.

What I found with both of these is that the ballpark that the filmmakers for each wanted it to come in at was quite a bit below a realistic number.

There are always ways to get a budget lower, but as I make these, I think about minimum wage laws, realistic rates, and all the small costs that go into making a movie and when added up for however many days it takes to shoot a feature, it's really an expensive endeavor. And cutting corners can sometimes end up costing a production more.

So what's best: To try to have a higher budget and raise more money? To try to cut corners and possibly reduce production value / have a less happy crew? Or adjust a script to be a bit more manageable, or permit for reducing location costs or shooting days?

I would typically advise to revise a script to allow for a lower budget. Slashing production value just lowers the chances of a sale, so why not try to make the best movie you can. After all, it's the characters that are king.

These are my first feature film budgets since moving to Los Angeles to become a freelance commercial producer.

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