Shooting a movie, especially a feature film, is a huge task. We often hear about massive movie costs at the box office in the millions of dollars. we immediately thought to ourselves, “wow, how much does it cost to make a movie?” and “is it that expensive?” But is it so expensive to make these blockbuster movies that we’ve all come to enjoy?
what about the average filmmaker? how can he or she make movies that are cheap and within a budget? we’re taking a closer look at how much it costs to make a movie, why blockbuster movies have such big budgets, and where the movie money is spent.
Video: Introduction to Film Budgeting
average cost of making a movie
The average cost of making a movie is between $100 million and $150 million. Keep in mind that this is an average, meaning there are movies that cost less than $80 million and others that cost more than $200 million to produce.
The cost of making a movie varies depending on the number of actors involved, the amount of animation or special effects used, and the area in which it is shot. Many comedy movies and some animated movies, like the recent Dreamworks movies, are made for $70 million to $90 million.
decide the production budget
what does it have to make a movie that costs so much? the answer to that question varies considerably depending on the production. some movies are made for relatively little money, while others cost a lot of money.
image source: avatar
The budget of a production is primarily determined by the projected production features and the talent involved. high-end productions, such as avatar, cost more than 425 million dollars.
Typically, a film’s budget is based on:
- the crew and cast.
- the rights to the script and the writers who create it.
- production costs that are subject to change.
- post-production editing costs.
<li producers and directors.
feature films often involve large expenses for the actors. these days, many movies also have big budgets for visual effects. location, transportation, and stage construction costs are factors to consider.
independent film budget
“How much does it cost to make an independent film?” That’s an excellent question, you might wonder, and the solution is just as difficult to articulate. The truth is that the cost of making an independent film is usually much less than the cost of making a feature film. this is understandable given that few people have millions of dollars lying around.
If you’re an independent filmmaker trying to nail down a budget to shoot a movie, consider the recent budgets for some Sundance Film Festival entrants, which ranged from $10,000 to more than $100,000.
Ever since covid-19 forced production to halt, independent filmmakers have had it extremely difficult. Director and producer Miranda Bailey told Filmmaker magazine that investors “may not be interested in dangerous ventures” like independent films. however, they require a lower investment than feature films.
Your budget is ultimately determined by the independent demands of the film and the investors involved. however, you can expect the following professions to be included in your production costs:
film director: $250/hour
actor: over $500/hour
studio shoots: up to $400/hour
audio files: $1000/hour
video performance: $75/hour
b-roll: between 10% and 50% of its cost.
Other fees: It can cost you around $1000.
budget for a short film
Even short films, which many aspiring directors use to build a portfolio or generate interest for a larger project, aren’t cheap. the typical cost per minute for a short film is between $700 and $1,500, possibly higher. however, regardless of the length of a movie, the reality is that filmmaking is an expensive industry in general.
big movie budgets
The big budget movies you see these days are pretty common. avatar, directed by james cameron, is a classic example of a big budget movie with a budget of 236 million dollars. as a result, their significant investment paid off, with the film grossing over $2 billion worldwide. however, many additional films were not made on a mega-budget. they were, in fact, well below the usual budget of the film. for example, The Return of the King grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide despite costing just over $100 million. shrek 2, for example, cost even less ($70 million), but grossed nearly $900 million worldwide.
image source: ridgefield playhouse
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is another example of a big budget movie. With a colossal budget of $378.5 million and a worldwide gross of over $1 billion, the feature film holds the record for being the most expensive film ever made.
However, not every big-budget movie is a hit. there are numerous examples of expensive movies that could not justify their cost. one of them is the adventures of pluto nash. this picture had a budget of approximately $100 million, but only generated $7 million in revenue. how do you know is another example of this type of film. this image cost over $120 million, while it only made $50 million.
video: budget of a film in three different levels
Breakdown of expenses during the making of a feature film
While making a movie, you need to break down the cost into the following categories:
the script: the script serves as the frame of the movie. if the template fails, the building will collapse sooner or later, just like any other physical structure. the script is crucial in determining whether a movie is a hit or a flop. as a result, it consumes about 5% of the budget.
salaries and licenses: this includes the pay of the director, producer and featured stars, as well as that of the entire team.
production costs: production costs can easily consume 25% of your total budget. this substantial sum is used to finance the entire production of the film and the ongoing salaries of the crew.
Special effects and musical composition: Special effects can consume a significant part of the budget, depending on the genre of the film. in addition, the music must be produced following the stage and well performed.
Marketing: The most crucial aspect of building a movie and the expensive magic potion it requires is its marketing. You don’t want massive investments of over a hundred million dollars to go unnoticed. As a result, almost 35% of the budget is allocated to marketing or additional money is allocated to sell your new movie.
the role of film genres in budgeting
Using data from imdb and statista, we can see that some genres cost more on average than others. For example, on average, adventure movies are the most expensive film genre, with a budget of approximately $76 million. science fiction, animation and fantasy films are among the most expensive genres, with an average budget of more than $60 million. music, horror, and romance genres, on the other hand, have a relatively low average budget of less than $10 million.
tips for novice filmmakers to finance their films.
test the waters with low stakes: allow a margin of error. allow yourself to take a deep breath and go for it without risking your life.
Making movies with a team is more collaborative and allows you to tackle larger productions and stories. however, it is a significant waste of time and energy. you must be an exceptional producer to work on a team-based film. it is you who has the idea of the project.
Being the Writer and Director: To complete a feature film to your satisfaction, you’ll need a tremendous amount of experience and energy. either that or you’ll need some competent buddies to drag you along the way if you don’t have a lot of experience.
Some eccentric people start their movie careers with a crew. maybe you are part of a group of associates who want to make movies together. Or maybe they like significant companies with extraordinary goals. they’re usually working on something innovative together.
Start building a network in film circles: Film is a collaborative and expensive art form. you translate your script for the screen. however, if you don’t have a film network or body of work, I suggest you start building one.
tactics to reduce film costs
reduce night scenes: shooting at night requires the use of powerful and expensive lighting and the payment of night staff fees. By removing the night scenes from the script, broken arrow (1996) saved millions of dollars. several directors use the “day for night” method.
image source: previous posters
avoid shooting in famous or commercial areas: shooting a scene on the golden gate bridge, for example, requires stopping traffic, which results in a loss of money for the city of san francisco. the cost of filming a sequence like this for interview with the vampire was $500,000. For close-ups, moving the shoot to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge could save hundreds of millions of dollars in location costs. furthermore, some venues (commercial establishments such as hotels and nightclubs) are more receptive to gunshots than others. some low-budget filmmakers try to avoid paying location fees by capturing shots by trickery.
image source: movieart
record action sequences early on Sunday morning: record in the early hours of Sunday morning when traffic is lower. stopping traffic for a car chase scene is relatively easy.
cast unknown actors instead of established stars: It is a well-known fact that established stars get paid a bomb to act in a movie. however, it might be worth it if you choose to work with a newbie.
offer backend payments: actors, directors, and producers can take a large chunk of the film’s gross profits to forego their large starting salary. however, this has the drawback of reducing the financier’s future profits. it also has the disadvantage of being ambiguous. Disputes over Hollywood’s accounting methods can lead to audits and litigation. for example, it happened between peter jackson and new line cinema. The latter claimed for the film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, which grossed more than 2,000 million dollars, did not make any profit and, therefore, denied payments to the actors, the estate of tolkien and jackson.
image source: sotheby’s
Use a non-union crew: For studios that have signed contracts with the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), and Screen Actors Guild (sag), this is not an option (sag). However, for his films, director Robert Rodriguez has been known to enlist the help of experienced non-union crews.
Film in a different region: Many Hollywood movies set in American cities, for example, are filmed in Canada to take advantage of lower labor costs, which are susceptible to fluctuations in interest rates. change. they also take advantage of federal and provincial subsidies intended to help the film and television production industries in the area to expand and prosper. Many states in the United States have responded with their tax incentives. Other nations that frequently shoot Hollywood movies include Australia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Malta, and New Zealand.
exceeding the film’s budget
U.S. growers are often not allowed to exceed their initial budget. Of course, there have been exceptions, with the titanic being one of the most famous (1997). Director James Cameron went over budget and offered the company his fee back. Producers from other nations that go over budget are more likely to foot the bill by getting lower production fees. while the US system is successful and can afford to go over budget, the government frequently subsidizes the film industry in other nations.
image source: sotheby’s
movies with budget breakdown
Although film companies are hesitant to divulge details about their films’ budgets, it has occasionally been possible to receive (secret) information about cost breakdowns.
1. unbreakable (2000)
Story and screenplay rights: $5,000,000
- bruce willis: $20,000,000
- samuel l. jackson: $7,000,000
- robin wright penn: $2,500,000
- rest of cast, casting, stunts, & trips: $5,568,388
production costs: $26,214,709
- visual effects: $1,000,000
- music: $2,253,456
total budget: $74,243,106
movie trailer: unprotected (2000) – movie trailer
2. lara croft: tomb raider – the cradle of life (2003)
story and script rights: $4,000,000
- angelina jolie: $12,000,000
- extras: $250,000
- others: $5,000,000
production costs: $67,000,000
- set design and construction: $17,800,000
visual effects: $13,000,000
post-production costs: $1,600,000
total budget: $118,000,000
movie trailer: lara croft: tomb raider (2003) – movie trailer
3. terminator 3: rise of the machines (2003)
image source: moviedb
Story rights: $19,500,000
- arnold schwarzenegger: $29,250,000+ 20% gross profit
- arnold schwarzenegger perks: $1,500,000
- rest of main cast: $3,850,000
- extras: $450,000
production costs: $58,000,000
post-production costs: $4,000,000
visual effects: $20,000,000
other costs: $33,600,000
total budget: $187,300,000
movie trailer: movie trailer: terminator 3: rise of the machines (2003)
4. spider-man 2 (2004)
Story rights: $20,000,000
director (sam raimi): $10,000,000
- tobey maguire: $17,000,000
- kirsten dunst: $7,000,000
- alfred molina: $3,000,000
- rest of the cast: $3,000,000
production cost: $45,000,000
visual effects: $65,000,000
- composer (danny elfman): $2,000,000
total budget: $202,000,000
despite the large sums of money invested and the greater danger of losses, the films will be released. but there is a purpose to it. a single blow can change your luck, but a defeat can also be terrible. In addition, the average cost of a movie ticket in the United States has increased to approximately $9.11. Despite this, we all queue to see it and enjoy the movie with popcorn and drinks. So if you know how to make a movie and how to add all these expensive magic potions, you can make a good living.
It’s no secret that putting together a budget for a movie is a challenge. Making a successful movie takes a lot of experience and planning because it is a sophisticated art form that requires significant financial investment. That’s why we hope our independent movie budget breakdown has helped you figure out where to start the next time you want to make a movie.