This Production Budget Template Will Save Your Life
If you’re a photographer or videographer, there’s a good chance that colors and camera angles excite you while numbers make your head spin. For many of us creative types, the last thing we want to worry about when planning a shoot is money or budgeting.
And yet, it’s one of the most important parts of the entire process! From booking locations to renting equipment to hiring a crew and outfitting your models, many of the decisions that go into a successful production depend on making a realistic budget and sticking to it. There’s nothing worse than making creative decisions under financial pressure.
A detailed budget is also important when determining your fee. If you’re working for hire, you need to make sure that your fee will cover your production expenses and leave you with enough left over for editing and other post-production tasks.
We want to make it easy for you to keep track of your expenses, so we’ve put together a sample production budget template you can use for your own shoots.
Before you begin
The budgeting process will look very different depending on the scope and scale of your production. A one-day photoshoot on a shoestring budget will have fewer variables than a 3-day video shoot for a corporate project.
For longer projects, you may be better off using a budgeting program like EventPro. For this production budget template, we’ll stick to a standard spreadsheet.
Start by categorizing your expenses in each stage of the project and estimating your likely costs.
Typically, you’ll want to break it down into three parts: pre-production, production, and post-production. If you have a lot of items in each category, use multiple tabs.
Pre-production includes all of the expenses that go into the planning and preparation of your shoot: office rentals, story and script permissions, talent fees, writers’ fees, etc. In film production, these are generally referred to as “above-the-line” expenses.
Don’t leave out all of the small costs either. Do you pay for public transit when you visit a prospective location? Buy your team coffee before each meeting? These costs can add up, so keep tabs on them from the minute you start planning your shoot. They can also help justify your fees to a client if they don’t understand how your process works.
Production expenses include everything that happens on set: location fees, equipment rentals, permits, labor costs, and catering. You’ll also want to have some “petty cash” on hand — money that you can give to a production assistant to run to the store and pick up anything you forgot to buy beforehand.
Whether you pay for everything using cash or credit, always get a line-item receipt so you can square the actual expenses with your estimates. Don’t forget to factor in recoverable expenses such as security deposits for equipment or locations.
Post-Production expenses cover the editing and distribution of your project. If you’re shooting on film stock, you’ll need to budget for development. If your project includes video, then you may need to hire an editor and soundtrack designer.
Be sure to include your “deliverables” or the finished copy of the project you’ll provide your client. Will you send it via Dropbox Pro or purchase a USB Flash drive? Are you mailing out prints to your Kickstarter supporters or to an art gallery?
In the film world, production and post-production costs are considered “below-the-line” expenses. It’s standard to include a 10% contingency for unanticipated expenses, such as paying for damaged equipment or scheduling re-shoots. You should also plan to cover reimbursements for any costs your team paid for out-of-pocket.
Sample production budget
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a sample production budget template:
Let’s say that this project is a promo video for a friend’s business. You’ve offered to shoot it for them over two days with a budget of around $2,000. You and your crew are working pro bono, so your major pre-production fees are the talent, the storyboard artist, and an office rental so you can have one 4-hour production meeting.
Your spreadsheet should include the cost of each item’s base rate and the quantity. That way, if anything changes, you can easily calculate the new total. For example, the actors are being paid by the day, so a 2-day or a half-day rate is easy to tabulate.
Don’t forget to leave a column for your actual expenses so you can keep an eye on any categories that are going over-budget.
For the production costs, your major expenses are locations, equipment, insurance, and catering. You’ve checked with your cinematographer to see what equipment you need to rent, and you have a quote from the location and the caterer. You’re still waiting to hear back about insurance, so you’ve left that blank for now but will fill it in later.
In this case, post production costs will be pretty easy to estimate. Your editor has given you a flat rate for audio and video editing, and has agreed to include 5 DVDs for you to give to the client. You’ve built in a 10% contingency fund for unanticipated costs.
Estimating your expenses
Some elements of the budget will be simple to calculate. If you’re renting a location, you can multiply the location fee by the number of hours or days you’ll be at that location.
Others may take a little more work to figure out, such as calling around for quotes for insurance or equipment rentals. If you have a large team, sit down with the head of each department to discuss their anticipated expenses. Your art designer may be in a better position than you to estimate how much they’ll need for costumes and decor.
If you’re looking to keep your expenses low or get your needs met all in one place, consider booking a location through Peerspace. Our Concierge Team can arrange for catering, furniture and equipment rentals, and more. We can also help you get quotes from our trusted vendors to take some of the guesswork out of your budget.
A solid budget is a must for any professional project, regardless of the size. Even if your shoot is small and you don’t think you need a budget, it’s good practice to get in the habit so you’ll be more comfortable working with numbers on larger productions later on.
This production budget template can be tailored to any basic photo or video shoot. For more advanced projects, consider using software like Movie Magic, which has tools to calculate union rates for cast and crew, and other industry-standard expenses.