Chapter 4
Planning & Budgeting Your Film

The most important aspects of any film business plan are budgeting and planning.

A film schedule, in simple terms, is a list that provides all the necessary items and personnel you will need to make your film, as well as when and where they are needed. The film budget tells you how much the film will cost. Your film will stop halfway through if you don’t have enough money. If you don’t plan your schedule correctly, your film may suffer from loss of quality and/or remain incomplete due to a lack of budget.

This chapter will explain how scripts can be analyzed to create a realistic budget.


4.1 Developing Your Film Budget and Drafting Production Plan

This is usually the job of the producer. However, if you are working on short film production with fewer people, you might need to take on additional responsibilities and do this yourself.

Check out funding opportunities if you or someone you know are an independent filmmaker and want to develop their script or idea.

Your budget planning should start with the script breakdown. However, it is important to consider the film production schedule when determining your film’s budget.

Here we will talk about the importance of your film’s production plan and how it can impact your overall budget. First, let’s go over the steps of creating a shooting plan.


What is a Production Plan?

It’s very important that you know how to create a production plan. This will determine the success of your shoot and how much funding you will need.

A production plan is basically a schedule that outlines how resources and crew are used throughout the film’s time period.

Production planning software can provide templates that you can use to help you get the job done. If you are interested in seeing how different shooting schedules look, take a look at these examples (e.g. Movie Magic’s shooting schedule).

After you have learned how to create a shooting schedule and the format of a production schedule, it is time to start planning. This is the key to how successful your shoot will be. You should put in as much effort as possible.


What number of days are you planning to shoot?

You will need to plan how many days you will be on set when you are planning a shooting schedule. This is essential in determining how many days you’ll need certain crew members, actors, and resources on set.

If it is a three-day shoot, for example, your Director of Photography (DP) will need to be present on set during the three days. You will need to pay your DP for three days.

The same applies to equipment rentals that you plan on using as well as cast members or any other critical crew members you may need while on set.

Call sheets can help you and your cast organize your shoots.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right people for a particular scene or voice-over. It’s up to you to decide if you want to pay the rest of your crew or send them home. If you are able to negotiate a rate for a half-day, it may be possible.

It is crucial to plan which days you require a specific cast and crew, and how much you will pay them in the production plan. If you can’t get it right, you will be in stressful situations, no matter how small the production is.


What amount of travel are you planning to do?

It is important to factor in travel costs when planning and scheduling your production.

What locations are you planning to shoot at? What distance are they for each member?

If you intend to reimburse them for mileage or tolls, it is important that you include travel time for cast and crew into your hourly shooting schedule. You might even consider buying plane tickets.

You will need to be able to communicate with cast and crew members if you have multiple locations in your script.


Is There Overtime?

What if your plan was to get your shoot done in four days but the weather turned against you on the fourth day and you had no choice but to wait for better weather?

You should make a decision before you start shooting whether overtime will be paid to cast members and crew. If you have the budget, it is worth scheduling and budgeting extra “rain days”.

If you have to shoot for longer days than expected, there are many reasons to plan ahead. There are many things that can go wrong on set, which could cause you to have to extend your shoot dates. It’s safer to be safe than sorry.

These points should help you understand why a production plan is so important. It should make your production process much more efficient for you and your team.

Production planning and scheduling are time-saving tools that can help you and your crew make production more enjoyable.

But a production schedule should not be just for the time you are on set. Post-production should be considered, as well as the people involved (composer, editor, visual effects artist, etc.). If your film requires a lot of post-production work, you will need to create a film production schedule.


4.2 Finalyzing Production Plan

Film is a complex machine that has many moving parts. You must ensure that everything runs smoothly in order for the production process to be effective. A production plan is the best way to accomplish this.

It is not an easy task to finalyze a production plan. It takes effort and organization skills. These are the steps you need to take and considerations that you should consider when finalyzing your film production plan.


Read Through The Script

First, you must read the script and make notes. Reading through the script several times can help you identify the scenes that are most important and the time it will take to film them. This can have a significant impact on how you plan your production schedule.

Annotating the script and noting who is in each scene makes it easier to create your breakdown sheet. This will help you make your production plan template.


Breakdown sheets are a great idea

To keep track of everyone and everything that will be involved in a scene, a breakdown sheet is useful. This includes extras, cast members, costumes, makeup, set dressing and props.

You can easily see who is in each scene by creating a detailed breakdown sheet. This will allow you to place specific cast members in your scenes.

Many websites and services can automatically generate breakdown sheets. Studio Binder ( ) is one example.


Calculate the length of production

To be able to plan the logistics of your production plan you need to know how many days you will be shooting your film.

Studio Binder estimates that one-eighth of a page takes 15 minutes to film. This means that a page of your script will take approximately 120 minutes or 2 hours to shoot.

Studio Binder estimates that a 15-minute film will take up to 30 hours of production. This will probably give you five days production if you include the prep time. However, this is just an estimation.


Count For Unexpected  

As with everything else in life, things don’t always go as planned. Expect the worst to happen. Place more complex sequences in your calendar so that they can be implemented easily.

Inclement weather, faulty equipment and late cast members are just a few of the unexpected problems that could arise during a shoot. A successful filmmaker must be able to handle any of these problems and find a way around them.


Take Care of Your Cast and Crew

People are most productive when they have enough energy and time to recover between scenes.

You might consider spacing out scenes that require a lot of costuming or makeup. This will allow the costuming and makeup crew to put in their best effort for each scene. If all scenes are produced in one day, it could mean that you only get partial effort from the crew members who are overwhelmed.

It is applicable to your cast too. It’s possible for your protagonist to be in every scene of your short film. Your protagonist should be allowed to take breaks so that they are always ready to perform.

Make sure everyone has the chance to have a break and eat together. A happy cast and crew will make production run more smoothly than one that is agitated. Your production schedule template should include lunch breaks so that production runs smoothly.


Plan difficult shoots first

It is better to schedule difficult scenes early in production. If you find a better way to film, you can reshoot later. It will also be easier to gather all cast and crew members if you start with the most difficult scenes. Otherwise, it can become more difficult to get everyone and all materials together at the end.

You can start off on a positive note by getting rid of the tough scenes at the beginning. Everyone knows it will get worse from there. This creates positive momentum that will carry you through the rest of your production.


Avoid abruptly shifting emotions

You can have a dramatic emotional shift in your short film if your characters start out happy but then go through a terrible event that leaves them devastated.

Scenes in which your characters are displaying intense emotion should be planned for the beginning of the shoot next day. This will give the actors the opportunity to think about their performance in the evening prior the shoot.


When possible, shoot chronologically

It makes perfect sense to film all scenes in a location back-toback, regardless of where they are in the story. If it is possible to shoot chronologically, it should be done.


Account For Equipment Preparation Time

It can be time-consuming to set up and disassemble equipment such as cameras, lights, sound recorders and other devices. These processes can take longer if you have more equipment. You should know how long it will take to prepare your film production schedule and be able to account for it.


Mix Up Indoor and Outdoor Scenes

It is a smart move to plan a mixture of outdoor and indoor scenes that will be filmed on the same day. If filming outdoors is impossible, the scenes can be rearranged. If it rains, you can either swap the outdoor scene for the indoor one, or arrange an alternative location.

It’s also helpful in extreme heat or cold situations. Production can be difficult due to extreme weather conditions.


Keep in Mind Travel Considerations

You may need to travel further to film certain scenes. You can calculate the driving distances between different locations in your script online and add them to your production schedule. For many reasons it may take longer for some people to reach the same location.

If possible, film the scenes at the same place on the same day if it is feasible. This can save you time and reduce travel.


Check out Sample Production Plan Templates

You don’t need to create a film production plan/schedule from scratch. 

Studio Binder offers production schedule templates online ( Freelance Video Collective also has them (

A production schedule will usually include the scene number, whether it is indoors (INT or EXT), the day or night, the cast members, the shooting location, the script pages count for the scene, the estimated shooting duration, and any other notes.

To share your film production schedule digitally with other members of your film production team, you should create it on an online platform such as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Google Sheets allows you to share editing access to your film production schedule with other collaborators.


Organization is key to success. A detailed production plan is essential to ensure film production runs smoothly.


4.3 Managing Your Film Budget

No matter how much experience you have, creating a budget for a film is not an easy task. Budgeting, just like editing or writing, is an intricate part of filmmaking.

It’s crucial that you and your team have visibility into the film’s costs. Investors will also need to know how far your project is from profitability. There’s no way they will invest in your production if you don’t have this information.

There are many budgeting softwares that can help you make your life easier. Celtx is one of the most well-known. Celtx budgeting software is free to download.

It’s essential to be familiar with all aspects of film budgets and their components if you are an indie filmmaker who doesn’t have a lot of resources.

There are two possible approaches to this situation: 1) You need a generalized budget to present to film financiers to outline costs; or 2) You have already been funded and require a detailed budget to prepare for your shoot. No matter where you are coming from, the basic elements of the shoot will remain the same regardless.

In this section you will learn how to create a budget for film, how to list it, and how you can use a template to start creating one.

It doesn’t matter if you have funding, or if your project has been planned out, it is possible to estimate a film budget. You can quickly identify the areas that need to be cost-conscious, or make other financial or creative adjustments.



There are a million ways to categorize a film budget. But if you want to understand one thing about film budgets, it should be the difference in costs between “above and below the line”.

Above the Line

Anything that is directly related to your producers, directors, writers, or main actors, will be above the line cost. It’s that simple.

These include their rates and any other expenses that are related to facilitating their work, such as airfare, accommodation, transport, food, equipment, etc.

All development-related costs should be entered here, including a writer’s fees, rewrite costs, producers’ fees, etc.

Below the Line

The expenses below the line cost, however, include personnel, equipment, and location costs. Everyone, other than the writers, producers, directors, and department heads, is below the line crew.

The expenses below the line cover everything: from pre-production to post-production, including permits, vehicles and transportation costs, as well as equipment rentals.

If your budget only contains two categories, you should include both above and below the line costs. This will help potential producers or financiers to easily see how the project’s costs are weighted.


Top Sheet

The producer is often provided with a “top sheet” which shows the total budget. Investors look at a top sheet when deciding whether to approve a project and proceed with it.

Top sheets give a visual representation of your production budget. They are broken down into levels that contain financial information about all accounts required for the execution and completion of your project. Top Sheets are universal in content and are expected. It’s in your best interests to have one.



4.4 Popular Film Budgeting Software

There are tools that can make the lives of producers and unit production managers easier. AESA Films has selected the following Top 5 Film Budgeting Tools. This is not a Top 5 review – it’s the best software for film budgeting according to AESA films.


What is Film Budgeting Software?

First of all, let’s define what a film budget is. A film budget is the total expenditures for a film that are included in a specific project.

These expenses include equipment rentals, cameras, locations, cost-of-labor, talent, post-production, and other costs depending on the project’s size. For larger projects, it is possible to estimate distribution and marketing costs.

Film budgeting software can be described as a program that automates film budgets. It saves time, improves accuracy, and enhances the ability to manage film production.

Filmmaking budgeting software, for example, can be used to help productions assess their financial needs and the amount of money they have before starting a project.


Budgeting Tips for Producers

Every day, you should update your working numbers. This will give you a clear picture of your financial position and allow you to make the most informed financial decisions to support your vision the next day.


4.4.1 Movie Magic Budgeting

Entertainment Partners’ Movie Magic Budgeting is the industry standard in managing production budgets. It is best for scripted films and TV. It simplifies production budgeting and makes estimates. You can also dive into the details to get the most precise results.

 The software provides access to the latest union rates book for US filmmakers.

Attractive Features:

Provides cloud-based data access for real-time data.

Includes templates for film budgets from major studios.

Considerate to be the most trusted software for budgeting.

Flexible and fully configurable.

Allows to create categories that keeps everything organized and easy to access with smart tools.

Provides the highest level of data security.


4.4.2 Gorilla Budgeting

Jungle Software’s Gorilla Budgeting has a more user-friendly interface than other budgeting software. Although it integrates with Gorilla Scheduling, you will still need to hire a payroll company in order to complete the job.

Attractive Features:

Gorilla Scheduling allows you to import cast, crew, or locations

Keeps track of your expenses in relation to your budget

Allows to group line items from any budget section

Attach Globals to amounts or rates

Supports tax incentives

Provides as many conversion tables as you need

There are thousands of industry rates available

Supports percentage fringes and flat rates


4.4.3 Hot Budget

Hot Budget is the first choice for music videos and commercials. No matter what your project is, it’s perfect for bidding and clients love the easy-to-read top sheet.

The software can be integrated with features such as a currency converter, overtime calculator, travel budget, and many more.

Attractive Features:

All production staff can benefit from tools that increase productivity

Integrates Currency Converter and Overtime Calculator

Migration from one Hot Budget version to another is easy

Calculates overtime based on labor

Easy to actualize and make direct cost comparisons

Allows to send budgets to clients in PDF format


4.4.4 Showbiz Budgeting Software

Media Services’ Showbiz Budgeting Software is comparable to Movie Magic or Hot Budget. AESA Films prefers Hot Budget to create music videos and commercials, but Showbiz is definitely a close second.

Showbiz is the place for you if you are a commercial filmmaker and don’t produce any narrative content. You may find limitations if your work goes beyond music films or ads and into scripted ones.

Attractive Features:

In Accumulator columns, percentage values can be entered.

Macros for Title Grids available (date, time, filename, etc.).

Included the updated AICP Integrated Bid Formula.

The Summary page allows you to manage Applied Credits. This allows you to automatically calculate credits from multiple incentive programs simultaneously.

Globals can be used in Formula values and inserted in Account names and Summary text.

It is easy to reposition accounts on the Budget Tab.

The SubGroups manager has columns for Total, Included, and Excluded.

My Reports allows you to save frequently used settings for future reference.

Chart of Accounts allows you to hide inactive accounts.

Export option to CSV for Budgets and Vendor Database.


4.4.5 Celtx Budgeting

Celtx Budgeting by Celtx Inc is a part of a larger production management system that allows production departments to work together from pre-production through post-production.

Celtx Studio workflows and affordability are the best options. This software is AESA Film’s first choice.

Attractive Features include:

You can effortlessly communicate and work at all levels of the Celtx platform, including pre-production, production, and post-production stages.

Industry-standard templates for building your film budget.

Budget reports.

Easy comparison of the actual and forecasted costs for each production.


4.4.6 Studiobinder

Studiobinder is an excellent resource for project management, with some helpful budgeting templates for Google Sheets.

Although it’s not a budgeting software, Studiobinder’s templates are free and excellent solution for independent filmmakers looking for an affordable solution. 

The standard budget tabs can be used for production, post-production, and miscellaneous. The tabs will automatically add up the sums and create a top sheet.

Attractive Features:

Helpful for beginners who want to learn how to create film and/or video budgets.

Easy to share and collaborate Google Sheets.


4.5 Strategies for Financing Your Film

Although many people have produced films, they are still struggling to make it big due to financial difficulties. Without financing, it is virtually impossible to make a film. The following strategies will show you how to find financing for your film, and make you wealthy in no time.

There is plenty of money available to filmmakers. You only need a good script and a strategy to get the money you need to make your film. Any of these strategies can be used to raise funds for your project.


4.5.1 Crowd funding

Crowdfunding refers to the raising of small amounts from a large group of people to finance a film. Successfully funded campaigns not only provide the funds for your production, but also help build a fan base. It’s also a great way for you to get started in marketing, which will be crucial for your film career.

It is a good option to raise funds for your film. Make a few offers and let people make donations to your film. People will be interested in your project, if it sounds appealing.


4.5.2 Government funding

Many countries offer tax incentives to filmmakers. You could apply for funding from the government and then follow up with the decision-makers until you have money in your bank account. A proposal and a business plan should be prepared to convince the authorities to grant you the money.


4.5.3 Pre-sales

Once you have the film idea, you can start pre-sales to raise funds. The movie may be sold at a lower price upfront to help raise the funds necessary for production. Co-producing with other filmmakers can help you reduce your financing burden.


4.5.4 Placement of Brands

It is a mutual benefit arrangement where you get financing and the brands get publicity. You will need to speak to brand managers on the set to get your products featured in the movie in exchange for cash. This is a more cost-effective advertising medium than TV or print media for most brands.


4.5.5 Music

You can work with well-known musicians to create original music for the film. These musicians are likely to have music deals and their own audiences, so you can make a lot of money with the song in the film. This strategy will only work if you find the right musician.


4.5.6 Profit Sharing

Get all stakeholders involved to finish the task and then get paid. Incentives such as a percentage share of the profits are possible. This will encourage everyone to work harder and smarter in order to make the film successful so they can share the profits.


4.5.7 Self-Financing

This means you can finance the project yourself, with the resources available to you. Once the financing is complete and the film has made money, there will no need to pay any investors or lenders. The entire profit will be yours.



4.6 Film Production Insurance

Film production insurance is essential for filmmaking. This is especially true when you consider the number of people on set and the multitude of tasks that must be completed. Film insurance protects producers, directors, crew members, production equipment, and all locations that are used for filming from any liability.

This section will go through the basics you need to know about film production insurance. A broker can help you make sure you are properly covered.


What’s film production insurance?

Film production insurance protects you and your project from any related liability. As no two projects are the same, a good insurance policy should be tailored to your production company’s needs.

Production insurance policies can be customized for the business and can cover a single project (short-term) or an entire year (long-term).

Producers have a lot of responsibility for what goes wrong. You can be protected from the following with a good insurance policy:

loss, damage and theft of rented or owned equipment,

liability for injuries on set,

business interruption, and

copyright infringement and libel claims.


4.6.1 Project-based (short term) vs. Annual (long-term production insurance)

Production insurance can be purchased on a project by project basis. However, if you plan to shoot multiple times during the year, an annual policy will likely prove to be more effective.

The price difference will be minimal when you consider the length of the coverage. It is wise to compare the prices of both.



4.6.2 Essential information you need to hire an insurance broker 

Your broker should have all the details about your production and a good understanding about how your production company operates as well as the type of project you are producing. This will ensure that you have the right coverage for your filming needs.

Talking to your broker about the type and scope of the project is important. Location type, working with animals or explosives, and vehicles are all important. Because nothing is worse than a serious problem that should have been covered by your insurance… but isn’t.


4.6.3 Key benefits of using film insurance brokers

a) Brokers don’t work for insurance companies. They are there to help you succeed and they have an interest in your success.

b) They can help you get the best level of insurance cover.

c) Brokers that specialize in specific industries may offer a variety of value-added services, such as claims assistance, employee education, and contract renewal support.

d) They are experts in their fields and can simplify the insurance jargon to create a customized insurance package for your business.


Filmmaking Basics & Filmmaker