What’s in a Budget…For a Movie Production?

how to budget a movie

The process of Film budgeting refers to preparation of a budget for a whole film production. This is usually done by the production accountant, the line producer or the unit production manager. The budgeting document can be up to 134 pages long, and it is used to secure funds for the pre-production to the overall production of the film. Although sometimes multiple drafts of this document are usually required in order to whittle down the production costs. The budgeting document is divided into four major parts; above the line, below the line, post-production and insurance. The budget doesn’t usually cover the film production as well as the marketing costs, these costs are usually covered by the film distributor.

The film budget is funded by the film studios, sponsors, product placement or an entertainment company. The budget is usually expressed in gross amount, and not confused with the net budget which is calculated after the government incentives are taken out. For instance in one of the best films in 2015, “Pixels”, Sony released the budget information of the movie estimated to be $129.6 Million. Although they received government rebate in Canada, which helped to cover up their gross spending portion, the actual cost was still $129.6 Million. In the most part the budget is usually handled with the sponsors, products placement and other funds, this basically explains how movies make money.

Elements of a Film Budget

Story rights

These are costs that are needed to cover the story rights the film is based on. It may be a play, video game, novel or even musical. The budget also varies from a couple of thousand up to hundreds of millions, depending on the story.


This includes all the money that is going to pay the script writers, as well as the screen doctors who come to revise the final draft of the script.


Executive and film producers are usually paid up front salaries for producing. Apart from that, there are also bonuses and the share of the profits. These costs are also shown in the film budget.


This is another cost that should be outlined in the film budget; this involves all the costs to pay the director.


This refers to all the cost to pay the actors in that particular film. The payment usually varies depending on the role of the actor, as well as the name. While some actors may demand $2300 per week, some usually demand up to $30 million per film.

Production costs

These includes all the costs related to the production of the film. This includes; crew wages, accommodations, catering, transportation, costumes and much more.

Visual effects costs

This involves all the computer generated effects of the film. The cost usually varies depending on the amount of visual effect work in the film.


This is the last element in this list; it involves all the costs of the music composition in the film. It is usually estimated that music usually consumes up to 2% of the film budget.

With these elements on can have an idea how the film budget is usually prepared. Not only that, but also all the important elements that are composed in budgeting a movie. These elements apply to the biggest and smallest movie budgets.