How To Make a Detailed Film Budget

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Whether aspiring or experienced, filmmakers often wonder how to make a detailed film budget. Investors typically require a detailed budget and supporting documentation before deciding whether or not to support a project. Creating a well-prepared, realistic budget shows investors you are knowledgeable and committed to your project. Additionally, investors consider an accurate budget to be a crucial component in assessing investment risk. Think of a high-quality budget as vital to your funding efforts, helping you secure the chance to make your pitch.

In short, without a detailed film budget, there’s no film.

Before You Make a Detailed Film Budget…

Developing a budget that investors trust and accurately captures the costs to make your feature film, short film, documentary, or television show begins by breaking down your script into a detailed shooting schedule. While you can develop a rough budget based on your script, the industry’s best practice is to create a detailed shooting schedule first, which will be the basis for building the detailed budget.

In our experience, the best tool for creating a detailed film budget is the filmmaking industry’s gold-standard budgeting app, Movie Magic. The scheduling software costs approximately $500; the budgeting software is now subscription-based with a $240 annual fee. But before you can budget your film, you need to budget your time to learn Movie Magic: Plan to invest around sixty (60) hours into installing, configuring, and entering data into the software.

Call: 323.591.4776  Get a Budget Quote Contact Us

Using Movie Magic Software

After you have Movie Magic installed and configured, it’s time to export your script into a format the Scheduling software will recognize. If you’ve used either Final Draft or Screenwriter (two of the industry’s best script software apps), Movie Magic allows you to import your script directly, a huge time saver. However, if you didn’t use either of these apps, you can still enter your script manually. It just takes longer.

How does the scheduling software help with organizing your film or television script so you can make a detailed film budget? By inputting the elements (i.e., Characters, Extras, Props, Vehicles, Animals, Stunts, Special Effects) from each scene of your script into individual breakdown sheets, at the end of that very time-consuming process, you can then Sort and Select each breakdown sheet or Scene and begin the detailed process of organizing the Scenes into a logical shooting sequence. Once your shooting has been completed, you can export reports of many varieties, including ‘Day out of Days,’ which provides a unique calendar-like view of the days you need those elements to work.

Ideally, you’ll consult with a location manager, assistant director, line producer, or some combination to develop the shooting schedule for your project. These film professionals understand the requirements and intricacies of setting up, filming, and breaking down every type of scene.

You will need to consider a seemingly endless list of considerations, such as how long you’ll need a location, what equipment (camera, sound, lighting, power) you’ll need, how you will support the cast and crew while on location, what unions and guilds are involved (and the rate sheets for each), the permits and permissions required for each location, wardrobe and prop requirements, and so forth. Your First Assistant Director or Line Producer will modify the Movie Magic Schedule to fine-tune a realistic schedule so that you can begin exporting the reports and budgeting the thousands of line items that make up a Detailed Film Budget.

Picture showing a grip getting lighting ready

A Grip Prepares Scene Lighting

Creating Your Detailed Film Budget

At last, you are ready to begin making the detailed film budget for your project. To kick off this phase, you start by exporting all of the Day out of Days and Shooting Schedule reports based upon your current draft of the schedule and informed by the feedback from your Department Heads. Then, you must set up the Fringes, Groups, and Globals, containing the most recent union and guild rates based on the budget range you are estimating your project to fall within.

After you and your team’s many hours of demanding work, you may have the budget and supporting information investors demand, hopeful that it accurately reflects the costs and time needed to bring your project to life.

The Ingredients for How to Make a Detailed Film Budget

For all the budget process’s complexity, the recipe for success uses surprisingly few “ingredients.” Here’s the recipe: Ingredients: 1 Compelling Vision

  • 1 Awesome Script
  • 1 Detailed Production Schedule
  • 1 Comprehensive Budget Utensils and Equipment: 1 Final Draft or Screenwriter software application
  • 1 Movie Magic Scheduling software application
  • 1 Movie Magic Budgeting software application


  • Step 1: Turn your vision into a script using your preferred app.
  • Step 2: Install Movie Magic and import your script. Enter all of the scene dates to build the breakdown sheets.
  • Step 3: Sort and Select and then Sequence a logical Production Schedule. Repeat Step 3 until the Shooting Schedule is refined and working from multiple points of view (i.e., Actor scheduling, Location scheduling, weather consideration, construction and stage scheduling, special effects and visual effects considerations… ad infinitum).
  • Step 4: Export the schedule reports and prepare for entering this data into the budget (line by line).
  • Step 5: Assemble your ingredients and mix them well in the following order:  ((Your Vision and Script)+(Shooting and Production Schedules)+(Accurate Budget)) = Your Vision Realized

Three things must come together for a successful film: script, budget and schedule

  • Step 6: Present results to investors.
  • Step 7: Repeat Step 6 until you get your project funded.

Free Film Budget Templates vs Movie Magic

You can find innumerable websites promoting templates for creating film budgets and shooting schedules, developing breakdown sheets, and every imaginable aspect of a film or television show project.

We strongly urge you NOT to use a film budget template, but instead to use Movie Magic for a simple reason: each project is unique, encompassing hundreds or thousands of decisions and data points. How can a template based on a handful of common elements possibly create your detailed film budget? It can’t, which makes using pre-built templates risky, especially for budgets.

Skillfully used, Movie Magic software provides the platform to build a detailed schedule and budget for your project, producing dependable results. There really are no shortcuts to complete this essential process.

Call: 323.591.4776  Get a Budget Quote Contact Us

The Best Use of Your Time: DO NOT Make a Detailed Film Budget

We’ll go out on a limb here and guess that your passion for filmmaking lies somewhere other than mastering complex software to generate budgets and schedules. We suspect it lies in turning your creative vision into a film or television series people will love and pay to see. So, we pose this question: Is it worth your time and energy to learn how to make a detailed film budget? Or is it a better use of your time to hire a professional?

To help you decide, here are seven additional considerations:

  1. On average, Film Budget Pro’s Film Budgeting Services cost 1/10th of 1% (0.001%) of your project’s budget.
  2. We carefully read every script before we create the schedules and budgets.
  3. Next, we create and share a detailed Critical Assumptions questionnaire with you and your team, review your answers, and consult upon any decision points you are unsure of (i.e., What is the best State to shoot for Tax Incentive considerations?)
  4. While we’re building your detailed schedule and budget, we are your project’s location manager, assistant director, and line producer; all rolled into one.
  5. We know what it takes to produce a project. (We’ve got eighteen (18) feature films and numerous television series to our credit.)
  6. We thoroughly understand the complexities of which guild rates apply to which projects, fringes, and union rules and guidelines detailed in the dozens of union and guild agreements and summarized in the EP Paymaster, a document exceeding eight hundred (800) pages. The Paymaster is filled with every possible job description in show business and the specific rates for each of the 46 Unions or Guilds. To properly serve our clients, we stay current with the frequent changes so they don’t need to.
  7. We understand the tax incentives for every State and can identify each line item within the budget that qualifies for these credits.
  8. We know Movie Magic inside out, with over 20,000 work hours, using it every day for the past 25 years, and know how to use its power to create an accurate schedule and budget for your film or TV series.

Given the complexity and importance of having an accurate and realistic budget, the best use of your time is to hire a professional team to make your detailed film budget, a company with the experience and proven success like Film Budget Pro.

Trust Film Budget Pro to Show You How to Make a Detailed Film Budget (Or to do it for you)

Securing top talent is essential for all aspects of your project. And, just as with other project elements, hiring top-notch professionals for your film budget is crucial, given its importance to the project’s success. There are enough risks and unexpected events in filmmaking without adding an inaccurate budget and subpar schedules to the mix.

Contact Film Budget Pro today to discuss how we can create an accurate budget that will significantly improve your funding and production efforts. You can reach us by calling 323.591.4776 or via our online contact form.

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