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Budgeting a Feature

feature budget film budget 1.5 million dollar movie

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#1 Brett Graybill

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 07:16 PM

I've recently been asked to budget a 1.5 million dollar feature for my camera department, grip department, and electric department. Even though I'm still waiting on a treatment and a final script, the production would like general numbers to help with their investors. I've worked with the director in the past so I know the basic style but the task of budgeting seems too great and vague to breakdown. To those that have worked on budgets of this size or greater, how do you break down the math in advance? I assume there is a general percentage of a shooting budget that typically is given to the camera, grip, and electric, right?


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#2 Miguel Angel

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 10:52 AM

Hello Brett,

The task of budgeting a 1.5 million project might sound a little bit complicated but it is not at all.
The idea is breaking down everything into pieces so it is easier to manage, once you do that, it goes super smooth.

Of course the 1.5 million budget includes the tools you will be using.

I might have a little bit of OCD as I love having everything under control , surely, different cinematographers might have a different approach.

Whenever I am asked to budget a project, I ask one thing:
- Does the budget have to include pre - production, production and post - production or it has to be just pre - production and production?
It is interesting to ask about this because grading is an important part of your work and it needs to be budgeted too, and producers tend to forget about it.

Some producers might like to work with a concrete lab, some others might ask you to choose one and budget it.

Once I know the answer I break it down in 5 parts:

1) Camera equipment needed for the whole project.
2) Grip equipment needed for the whole project.
3) Electric equipment needed for the whole project.
4) Special equipment (camera, grip, lights) and days needed.
5) Expendables.

To do all of this you need to read the script and talk to the director to see what kind of things he wants to do, it is not the same to have a Technocrane for 30 days on set and using it all the time than using it in special shoots for, let's say, 3 consecutive days or even 3 separate days as you know already.

So, once you get to know what both of you want, it is time to create the lists and if you have worked with some rental houses in the past that you like, send them over and they will go back to you with a quotation as soon as they can; they are happy to do it!

What I usually do is creating the different lists and then sending them to the producer / s so they can forward it wherever they want to plus the different rental houses that I like.

As I have been a 2nd AC for 10 years, I always think about the basic expendables that the camera department might need and put it in the list, the more accurate about money the better, and as I said, I've a bit of OCD
The grip rental house and the electric rental house will add those expendables in their quotations so you won't have to worry about it (and once you are shooting, the keys will negotiate that also if they need more).

Of course, the quotations are the very first steps as a very good producer might suggest some changes in terms of tools or special equipment needed for some days but that's far away from the first step!

If you haven't read a script, I would ask the producers or the director how many days they want to shoot and then, I would create 2 or 3 camera lists with different cameras so the producers have an understanding of the differences and also a basic grip list with a basic dolly and a slider (that's because I love having the camera on a dolly on set all the time if I can, it is easier to move!).

For the electric list, if you have a little notion of where the script is going to happen, I would send them a very basic list too, telling them that you would need more info and scouts to know what it would suit the project the better and the list will change.

I am very sure that more experienced cinematographers might know what they would use in every single scenario but that's not my case hopefully somebody will hop on and tell you more about it!

If you don't want to bother any rental house at all, I would suggest a bit of window shopping online and write down the different prices they have and send the lists to the producers.

I can send you some lists I have created for projects in the past if interested and needed

Hope the answer helped a bit!

Kindest regards.
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