Budgeting when you’ve got no Budget

Posted: July 14, 2010 in Essays on filmmaking
Tags: , , ,

Hey, filmmakers. Got desire but empty pockets? Did you read Rebel without a Crew and get yourself all full of visions but not a lot of cash?

Been there, done that.

Guess what. You need a budget.

Budgets are the iron law of a controlled movie set. Without a budget, or with a budget you ignore, your chances of finishing what you started are nil. Or less than nil. Like, nil minus a screaming fit and now everybody hates you.

Do you want everybody to hate you?

So before you begin your magnum cheapus, make a budget. And stick to it. So here are three tips for making a budget when you got no budget.

Numero uno, start with what you do have. That camera your cousin has. All the lamps in your mother’s house. The time and talents of your friends and a few random strangers from craigslist.  List these as budget items.

That will keep you from buying what you already have, and it will keep in the front of your mind the infinite value of what is around you. If anyone spends a Saturday holding a boom pole made out of a broom handle on your set instead of playing X box, you should get down on you hands and knees and lick his shoes. In your mind. If you really did that, he wouldn’t feel appreciation as much as he would be creeped out.

Dos. Feed people. Budget money to feed people on set anytime you get people on set. If you don’t have the money to feed people, stop right now. Spend the next few months selling your blood and flipping burgers until you do have money to feed people. Even if it is all peanut butter sandwiches. It is the least you can do. Really. The least. The absolute least.

And the third tip, the third life changing budget tip: set aside money for contingencies. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking you don’t have much money to begin with, and your movie will fail if you don’t have prosthetic wounds for the big fight scene.

But every single movie ever made since the dawn of film has gone wrong. No plan covers the vagaries of weather or keeps your lead actress from catching a cold the day you actually rented the location. You will spend it, and you will need desperately to spend it when the time comes. You just don’t know it now.

So set aside at least ten percent for contingency. Seriously. You need to.

So there’s some advice. It’s free. I like free stuff. I don’t have to find money for it in my budget.


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