One of the main jobs of a producer is to create the budget and make sure everything in production and postproduction lines up with that budget. What are important line items that you want to remember to add to your budget for preproduction, production and postproduction? In this movie, author Richard Harrington and guest Rachel Longman walk you through the essential items needed in a budget.
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- So, one of the main focus as a producer is budgets. - Yep, and it seems like as a director, it's my job to break it. But I try not to. Now, one of the things we do here at our company is we make sure to actually use a spreadsheet so that we've captured all of the budget items. That way there's no assumptions and things aren't missing. You can check out a course available here in the online library about budgeting video projects, where we give you those templates and we walk you through in great detail the logic. But, let's take a look at a high level for this particular project.
So, one of the things we did was the pre-production section. And this is where we tried to accommodate estimating what it was gonna take for the producer and the production assistant. What's a production assistant's role during pre-production? - A production assistant's role could be running to go get things, going to get props for you. I could send them to go get prints, when we needed to get the foreclosure sign made. They're there to be the extra set of hands for a producer. - Yep, so it's important. Typically, that's at a lower rate. Now, these rates that you're seeing in here are just subjective rates, this project was from a few years ago, and we updated it with some sample rates to give you an idea.
Rates will vary greatly by market, so you can't use these rates for every single job or in any single location. These are just representative rates that are kind of an average value. Now, we also budget for the casting call and the location scout, and I think it's important to remember: Casting call and location scouts tend to be fees, and sometimes they take a little longer, sometimes they take a little bit less, but it's difficult to bill those hourly. And then, you had a little bit of money in there for scripting. Now, the scripting budget is a little bit low, than I would normally charge, but this was one of our regular clients and a non-profit, so, we kinda give 'em a break.
- We kinda gave 'em the non-profit-ish discount, and it's also a client that I've worked with a lot, so I kinda already knew that scripting wouldn't take as long, because I know what they like. - Yeah, and remember, some of that happened during the creative design, when we came up with the treatments and ideas. Now, depending upon the project, the market you work in, you'll end up with more. The production budget is very important to get accurate, because your director of photography, your lighting director, are all gonna wanna know what you've budgeted for and how much they can play with. So, this comes down to, in this case, having a director and a producer on set, and the director of photography.
- [Rachel] We budgeted the quarter day to allow the DP to be able to come to the location scouts. - [Richard] Now, the camera assistant for this particular project, their job was to keep the lenses in check. This was a higher-budget project with a digital cinema type approach, where we were using cinema-style lenses on a DSLR, and this gave us some flexibility there to do so. Beyond that, it's your typical crew. Gaffer for lighting, a production assistant to help keep everything in order, an audio engineer, a makeup artist, and breaking down what was needed.
There's really nothing huge or surprising here other than, we made sure to budget for the actors for two days and the extras, the non-speaking roles, for the two children for just one day each. - [Rachel] One important thing to make sure you remember you put in your budget is things for props, because of that can be forgotten that when you have a kitchen, sometimes you have to stage it to be what you want it to look like. You also need to put money in for wardrobe. - And making sure that you've budgeted for transportation to get the equipment there, meals for people, all of these things need to be a part of the budget.
Now, when we move into post-production, this is where a lot of variables happen. I tend to like to put extra money into post-production to accommodate if something goes wrong during the production stage, then we have a little bit of pad. Post-production is very nebulous, and let's be honest, most video editors will edit until you tell them that they can't edit anymore. - Yes, they will keep going, and they always find something they wanna fix. - Yeah, and that's great. That's why we love professional video editors. They're gonna really take the time to craft it. But you're gonna have to come up with a budget and some targets. So you had some time in here for your efforts plus you've accommodated for an assistant editor to load the footage and get it organized, and then, a graphics artist and an editor, as well as narration.
Talk to me a little bit about the voiceover session. - So, a voiceover session is almost like another recording day. That's where, as a lot of times you do it over the phone, if your VO talent isn't around, but it's one of the most crucial factors, in, especially, a PSA, when they're half the message right there, and they're usually your call to action. - And you wanna make sure you budget to actually supervise that session. Don't just send your narration out to a service and have them send it back. You need to be directing this performance. Now, sometimes, as the director, I'll do that.
Other times, since I'm trying to mentor folks, I'll often let Rachel or the producers do it, so they really have a feeling here. And this is their chance to get a chance to experiment with directing. Or, you could split it. Let them lead, but just sit back and be quiet and only open your mouth after you've given the producer a chance to have some input. This is a matter of personal taste. Now, to finish this out, just a handful of other things, budgeting for things like music licenses, sound effects, which you often need to create that reality. With commercials, you need to do some sound design.
It's not enough just to use the available audio that was there. And then to finish this out, we charge for things like archiving and storage, so that we can back the project up. After all, it's been a few years since we shot this project, but we're showing you everything that was involved. That's all tied to having a great backup strategy. All right, when we put this all together, we've done these line items ourselves, but we typically don't give the client every single line item. And why is that? - It can get overwhelming. And then they start kind of like focusing on parts of the budget that they don't understand.
And you don't want to go down that rabbit hole. So we usually condense it down and kinda do it by like days and fees and locations, so that they can understand it a little better. - Yeah, we'll just simplify the process so that they don't have to say, well, why am I paying for consumables? What's a consumable? Oh, well, we use gaffer's tape and gel on the windows. Well, I don't want that. Well, that's not actually a choice, we need it. And so, it's things like that. We put enough detail into the budget so they feel like we actually thought it all through, and with a scope of work statement, it's very easy to tell them, what are they getting? What is expected in this project? But we summarize the budget so that they don't have to worry about all the details.
Give them enough so they know that you did your job, and that it looks genuine and realistic, but not so much that you have an argument. All right, so, we bundle this all up into a scope of work statement, we send the budget over to them, and what's one of the most important things, once you've sent that budget over, before you actually pull the trigger and start hiring everybody? - You gotta get it approved. You have to get some type of formal approval, signature, we usually have a signature page at the end of ours that kinda gives the full commitment before you start spending money.
- Essentially, this is becoming a contract. You're gonna deliver these items, and they're gonna pay this much. Make sure in that agreement, you also cover things like overtime and additional shooting, and you'll find more coverage of this in our budget course, available here in the online library.
- Meeting the project and team
- Writing the script
- Casting actors
- Scouting for locations
- Creating schedules and budgets
- Shooting scenes
- Retiming footage
- Color grading
- Compressing for delivery