Film budgeting

Film budgeting refers to the process by which a line producer, unit production manager, or filmmaker prepares a budget for a film production. This document, which could be over 150 pages long, is used to secure financing for and lead to pre-production and production of the film. Multiple drafts of the budget may be required to whittle down costs. A budget is typically divided into four sections: above the line (creative talent), below the line (direct production costs), post-production (editing, visual effects, etc.), and other (insurance, completion bond, etc.) Film financing can be acquired from a private investor, sponsor, product placement, film studio, entertainment company, and/or out-of-pocket funds.

When it comes to reporting the budget of a film, the amount of the budget represents the gross budget, which is the grand total of actual spending to produce the project and not to be confused with net budget, which represents the final out of pocket for the producer after government incentives or rebates ("If you pay $50 for something but have a mail-in coupon for a $10 rebate, your gross spending still amounts to $50.")[1] One of the consequences of the Sony hack was the release of budget information of many films or TV shows, including the 2015 Adam Sandler film Pixels. The actual cost to produce Pixels, or the "grand total", was $129.6 million and the net budget for Sony came to $111 million after they received a government rebate in Canada that covered a portion of their gross spend (cost) in the amount of just over $18 million.[2] Even though Sony's out of pocket for the film was reduced because of the incentive, it does not negate the fact that the actual cost (amount spent during production to make the film) was still $129 million.


Tactics for cutting costs

Going over budget

In the US film production system, producers are typically not allowed to exceed the initial budget. Exceptions have of course been made, one of the most notable examples being Titanic (1997). Director James Cameron ran aground with the budget and offered his fee back to the studio. In other countries, producers who exceed their budget tend to eat the cost by receiving less of their producer's fees. While the US system is profitable and can afford to go over budget, some other countries' film industries tend to be financed through government subsidies.


Though movie studios are reluctant to release the precise details of their movies' budgets, it has occasionally been possible to obtain (clandestinely) details of the cost of films' breakdowns. For an example of a budget for a $2 million independent feature, see Planning the Low-Budget Film by Robert Latham Brown (ISBN 0-9768178-0-2).


Total: $74,243,106 [8]

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life

Total: $118 million[9]

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Total: $187.3 million[10]

Spider-Man 2

Total: $202 million[11]


The Los Angeles Times presented an extensive special report, dissecting the budget of the 2005 film Sahara. The documents had become public domain after a lawsuit involving the film.[12]

See also


  3. "Schedule of Minimums" (PDF). Writer's Guild of America. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  4. Imber, Peter (2007-11-06). "Inside the WGA: Even at $400K a Week, a Million Insecurities". Retrieved 2012-07-15.
  5. "DGA Rate Cards 2012 - 2013; Minimum Salary Schedule". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  6. "Pay Rates for Actors". Retrieved 2014-02-10.
  7. Weinraub, Jake (2011-08-02). "Forbes: DiCaprio Beats Depp for Title of Hollywood's Highest Paid Actor". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-01-29.
  8. "The Smoking Gun: Archive: The Sixth Sense". The Smoking Gun. p. 10. Archived from the original on 2006-09-05.
  9. Edward Jay Epstein. "Budget for Tomb Raider-2 With Angelina Jolie". (Requires Flash)
  10. "budget". Retrieved 2014-02-10.
  12. unting, Glenn F. Bunting (April 15, 2007). "$78 million of red ink?". Los Angeles Times.
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