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Looking to put together a budget for your film or video project? Here’s everything you need to know. We’ve also included two free film production templates – an AICP budget template for commercial shoots, and a film production template for film projects.

Usually when a film project comes together, it begins with a simple idea. These single, small ideas can quickly become full fledged stories, either for a feature or short film you’ve been dying to make, or to solve the needs of a client or brand that wants to convey an important message. However, a mistake that many film and video professionals make when first starting out is the desire to rush from the initial idea to the final finished product without giving enough due attention to the huge amount of work that goes into everything in between.

Today, let’s take a look at one of the single most important parts of a film or video project: the budget. From the largest Marvel blockbuster to the smallest web commercial, every film project needs a budget. While these myriad of projects might be different in scope, size and needs, if you follow this basic free film production budget template you should be one step closer to taking that starting kernel of an idea, and turning it into a fully realized film or video.

Developing a Production Budget

When building a budget from the ground up, you need to take an inventory of the key crew you need to hire. This usually includes your essential production members such as the following (but is dependent on your individual project’s needs):

  • Producer
  • Director
  • Director of Photography
  • Camera Operator
  • Gaffer
  • Sound Engineer
  • Boom Operator
  • Editor

There are two ways to approach building your project’s production budget, and these vary depending on where you’re coming from either as an investor or an artist. The first way is by having an idea, or a vision, of what you want a project to be, then working from that end point to come up with a game plan to get there. And if you are managing your budget and project yourself, I would highly recommend checking out Assemble as a project management tool to help collaboration on your projects.

The other way to create a budget is by viewing your project as an investment, and approaching from the direction of deciding how much money you can put up – or bring together from others – to build your budget backwards based on the resources available to you. 

Either way, there is no right or wrong way to go about this. And truth be told, once you have a budget, you’ll probably end up working both backwards and forwards on it to tighten it up until you find a healthy compromise between what you want, and what you can actually afford.

Above-the-Line Budget

We also need to clarify a few aspects of what goes into your project’s production budget. In the film industry, budgets are often broken down into two distinct sections which are referred to as “Above-the-Line” and “Below-the-Line”. Let’s look at Above-the-Line first as it’s usually the area of a budget which needs to be addressed first and foremost. 

Above-the-Line refers to all the talent and people who will lead the creative aspects of your project and ultimately manage the rest of the production. From a traditional film perspective, these are your producers (and executive producers), writers and directors. We also consider actors to be above-the-line as they also have many of their salaries pre-negotiated as a set wage – along with all your SAG hires when working on a film production.

Below-the-Line Budget

The Below-the-Line section of your budget (which as you may have guessed, is usually separated by a line), consists of all the rest of your production crew including a wide variety of roles across pre-production, production and post-production. These roles are usually negotiated based on hourly pay and have to be more meticulously accounted for depending on your production schedule and including aspects like delays and overtime.

Before you finalize both your Above-the-Line and your Below-the-Line sections of your budget, be sure to double check to make sure that you have remembered to add everything you need into your budget. These include all your production needs, all the post-production roles and resources you might need to employ, as well as some industry standard miscellaneous expenses like production insurance, your production accounting, legal fees, publicity and all your local taxes.

Free AICP Budget Template

One of the best resources out there for commercial video producers comes from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) who have not only put together a great textbook template for bids and budgets, but also offer a full National Guidelines and Best Practices resource that has even been updated for working safely under COVID-19 workplace conditions.

We’ve included a template for a full AICP Bid Form to help you along the way. Download this free film production budget template below.

Free AICP Bid Form

Download our collection of templates for producers including Call Sheets, Release Forms, Shot Lists, Storyboard Templates and more

To complete an AICP budget, go through each sub-page (pages A through X) one by one, accounting for all potential crew and production costs needed for each section. Once each section is complete, tally the total at the bottom of the section. 

From here, take all of the section totals and tally them up in the top sheet to calculate your grand total. By utilizing this template, you can ensure you check off all potential costs and build a comprehensive budget for approval.

Free Film Production Budget Template

While every film and video project will undoubtedly be different, using the information above and leaving you enough room to adjust a budget of your own, we’ve created a free film production budget template for a standard film production budget.

Top Sheet
Production Company:
Name of Project:
Dates of Production:
Name of Producer(s):
Union Designation:
Above-the-LineDaysRateTotal
Story Rights:xxx
Development Costs:xxx
Producer:xxx
Director:xxx
Main Cast:xxx
Misc. Expenses:xxx
Below-the-Line
Pre-Production:xxx
Production Staff:xxx
Camera Dept:xxx
Electric Dept:xxx
Sound Dept:xxx
Wardrobe:xxx
Hair & Make-up:xxx
Set Design & Operations:xxx
Transportation:xxx
Post-Production
Editing Supervisor:xxx
Editor:xxx
Colorist:xxx
Visual Effects:xxx
Foley:xxx
Sound Design:xxx
Soundtrack:xxx
Misc Expenses:
Insurance:xxx
Accounting:xxx
Legal:xxx
Publicity:xxx
Total Budgetx

Feel free to tinker with this free film production budget template as needed to create a budget that works for your production and on your schedule.

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