Reliable Short Film Budget For Beginners – 4 Essential Tips

Best Guide For Building A Reliable Short Film Budget For Beginners

You have the right screenplay, the necessary filmmaking equipment, and buddies to round out your crew for a short film, but do you have a budget? Most independent filmmakers believe that all you need is an idea and some ability in front and behind the camera to make a short film.

The difficulty with this scenario is that things can quickly go off the rails if there isn’t a solid plan in place right from the start of pre-production.
What evidence do I have? Because I’ve done a few of short films without a plot, and they’ve all turned out to be catastrophes that I never discuss in public.

So, if you’re a budding independent filmmaker, the first thing you need do before taking action is map out the entire course of the production to guarantee that nothing goes wrong before the cameras start rolling.

In this post, I’ll go over the importance of pre-production, from screenplay to blocking your first shot, all while staying within the budget you set during the pre-production phase. So let’s have a look at some pointers for creating a dependable short film budget for your next production.

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Draft A Production Schedule

Make a plan for your work and stick to it. That is something I tell myself whenever I begin to consider making a short film. You’ll have a better idea of what your short film budget will be if you create a timetable for your production right away. 

To comprehend what your production schedule will look like, you’ll need to figure out the crew size, amount of filming equipment, and the number of locations needed for shooting right from the start of your short film budget.

Examine the screenplay to determine how many days are required to complete the job. When it comes to timing, something I learned in film school that works 90% of the time is that shooting 3-5 pages of the screenplay will require a full day of shooting. 

This, of course, is contingent on whether or not there are any location changes throughout the day. If you have more than three location changes in a single day, you may already be behind schedule before you start shooting. 

During pre-production, I like to use a budgeting template like Celtx Budget or Movie Magic to figure out my budget for my short film or feature film. Celtx is a low-cost option for inexperienced filmmakers that I highly suggest.

Movie Magic is a fantastic software package that handles everything, although it’s a bit pricy for inexperienced producers. However, if filmmaking is your passion and you want to make a lot of short or feature films, you should invest in Movie Magic. You will not be dissatisfied.

Related Article: Best Online Filmmaking Resources To Be A Better Filmmaker

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Figure Out The Equipment Costs

Now that you’ve established a timetable and determined the sites, it’s time to calculate the production expenses.

The first thing to consider is the cost of the equipment. You are ahead of the game if you are using your equipment. However, you should include an amount in your budget that you may use for contingencies if necessary.

For individuals who will be renting filmmaking equipment such as cameras, lenses, lights, audio equipment, and other materials, a production schedule is required to determine how many days are required for all of the equipment.

If you need help on what filmmaking gear you should have to begin filming with, click here for filmmaking essentials for those on a budget.

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Cast, Crew, & Food

Is this going to be a union or non-union shoot? 

There are advantages and disadvantages to that question, which you must weigh for yourself. If you use union performers, you’ll have to pay a daily fee for each actor, which will add to your short film budget. 

Using union actors, on the other hand, ensures that you receive professional actors, which can cut down on the amount of time it takes to shoot each scene. When you’re filming a 10-page screenplay in two days, that can be a major plus.

Furthermore, union performers lend credibility to your project in the eyes of the business. If you’re working alone, you might wish to enlist the help of another producer to take care of the portions of the project that you don’t have time for. 

If your short film isn’t going to be a showy music video, you can get away with merely a director of photography, 1st assistant director, 1st AC, sound operator, and makeup artist as a crew behind the camera. 

You’ll need to work out a day fee for each crew member once you’ve determined the number of people on site. Then there’s the food. Previously, eating costs consisted solely of pizza and pop throughout the day. However, in the age of the COVID-free set, you’ll need to budget for bagged food for each crew member, which may get expensive if you let it. 

Side note: For the time being, Covid safety precautions should be added to your budget. Masks, sanitizing stations, and other items will be required on set. For the time being, it’s just the new normal.

Click Here for info for Covid safety on film sets.



Editing is something you either have or don’t have the ability to accomplish. I know that despite the countless YouTube editing videos I’ve seen over the years, I still can’t edit to save my life. 

There are many significant aspects of the filmmaking process that every filmmaker should consider when budgeting for a short film or a feature film, but I believe that editing is the most crucial of them all. A good editor can sometimes save a project that has been badly filmed.

I recently worked on a short film called Return of the Raven, and the footage I saw on the monitor while filming had me quite concerned about the end product’s appearance. Because the project was rushed and not properly scheduled, several of the pictures I thought we could retake had to be kept in order to stay on schedule. 

However, when I discovered an experienced editor at a fair price, the editor did his magic on the material captured and transformed it into a festival-ready film. Who knows which festivals will choose the film, but the video we had before editing made me nervous that we had shot a bad movie.

If you’re editing the film yourself, you’ll want to keep track of how long it’ll take you to finish. Now, here is an estimate from one of my editing friends on how long it takes to edit a film. 

You should set aside three to five hours in your budget to rough edit at least five pages of script. Then add another three to five hours for edits, color grading, and any minor effects. This is a rough estimate, but keep it in mind when planning your short-film budget.


When it comes to budgeting for a short film, it’s critical to pay close attention to the pre-production, production, and post-production stages of production. You must plan your task and execute your strategy. Investigate any hidden costs that may arise during the course of the production. 

There are numerous more costs that aren’t included on this list, such as site fees and insurance, that you should consider while putting up your short film budget.

Something that my father-in-law always mentioned to me when I was an outside sales rep years ago and that was “keep your chin up.” 

Why do I mention that? Because when you are a beginning filmmaker just beginning this fantastic joinery of filmmaking, mistakes will be made, and you have to accept them and move on

For each film you make, you will become a better filmmaker and have a better understating of how to maintain a short film budget.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

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