Creating an independent film budget requires that you get very creative. Unlike studio productions, as an independent filmmaker, you have limited resources. After taking a weekend to break the screenplay into a schedule and a budget, you’ll quickly find the gap between the money you have and the money you need.
If this is you, here are some tips for fixing your independent film budget.
How To Fix Your Independent Film Budget
My producer friend Forest Murray taught me that your screenplay, your schedule and your budget are actually part of the same larger document. If you change one element in any of them, then you are actually changing all of them. Make sure you avoid making haphazard changes to any of the documents.
So as you work to lock down your independent film budget, time is money. Take inventory of your schedule, locations, and cast. You will want to eliminate as many variables as possible. With this in mind, here are three components that impact every budget:
1. Your script: What can you change in the script to get the same impact for less money? Do you really need to stage that dinner scene in a restaurant? Or could you get the same impact if the characters eat fast food in a car?
2. Your schedule: What can you change in the schedule to capture the story in less time? Do you really need three days to capture the opening scene? Or can you modify the shot list to get everything you need in one day?
3. Cost of elements: What can you get for a discount? What can you get for free? And what can you get on a barter? Maybe you can get access to the grocery store in exchange for producing a commercial?
Additionally, until you have a studio level budget, avoid casting animals and child actors. These are too unpredictable. And while you’re at it, keep in mind the weather is also unpredictable. Thinking this way will help you realize the bigger scope and scale of your independent film budget.