Tag: budgeting

How Writing a Budget is Like Writing a Script: Revisions (and a wee Spring contest)

You may have seen my PM101 budgeting pencil:
… or you may even have one (and laugh each time the eraser wiggles while you write). It tangibly demonstrates the proportion of time you spend writing a budget vs the time you spend revising it. Recently, it got me to thinking about script or story writing too.

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions
Both budgets and stories are sooo not done after the first draft! Actually, the “draft” you are ready to show publicly as the “first draft” is sooo not the first pass you penned – you’ve already revised it privately however many times you’ve needed to for you.

Then after the first draft, your creative team contributes, pointing out strengths and weaknesses. You evaluate feedback. You restructure. You revise. You tweak.
Limits and prerequisites are imposed as the revision process continues. How you thought you could shoot the movie cannot be done that way. Script is revised, the budget undergoes re-allocations.

One thing is for sure… both writer and PM spend a lot of time reviewing, evaluating, revising, and tweaking to make the script/story or budget the best it can be.

Wee Spring Contest: Win a PM101 Budgeting Pencil
dp-pnclHow about owning your own PM101 budgeting pencil? Whimsically remind yourself with each wiggle of the eraser as you write that you don’t have to write the “perfect” first pass or “perfect” first draft. It’s ok (and expected) to revise, revise, revise.

To celebrate this parallel of art and business through revisions, let’s have a wee Spring contest. Like and/or write a comment on this post (on WordPress, Facebook or LinkedIn) and I’ll draw a random winner at the end of Spring (June 21). 1 entry for a like, 2 for a comment, 3 for a more thoughtful comment.

Cheers, good luck, and good revisions to you,

P.S. “PM101” is short for my book’s title “Film Production Management 101” and though there’s a lot inside about the business side of the industry, I’ll bet you know now that because of parallels like this one on revisions, you’ll learn about the art side of the industry too in its pages, too.

Backwards Budgeting

When it comes to budgeting, whatever you do, don’t start at the beginning! Start backwards.


Peruse a budget template. That’s a lot of categories, isn’t it? Kind of makes the budget template seem smart by itself. Not so.

Sure, if you start budgeting at the first category and work your way linearly though the template to the end, you’re going to find line items you never considered. You’ll say to yourself, “that sounds good. I probably need one of those” and add it to your budget… and sooner than later your budget’s bottom line will swell to an unruly size. Who’d have thought that your production would cost so much!

The solution? Start budgeting backwards.

How much money might you have for the production? A ballpark figure will do, if the final financing amount isn’t available. That’s the end and that’s as far as you want to go.

Now go to the middle. Start budgeting the set crew categories below-the-line. You’ve decided on how many days, so that’s the place to plug in the first set of numbers. Bypass many of the template’s recommended categories. If you’re not entirely sure that you might want one of its recommendations, add it in for $1… the ridiculous amount will flag the category for when you review the overall budget after writing the first draft and then you can consider the recommendation in context of the entire budget and all departments in place.

Finally, fill in the other missing categories. By the time you review the budget from beginning to end (toward the end of your first draft), you will have a sense of the overall budget and can more wisely by-pass or select those extra categories.

It takes a bit of practice to know how big a crew and how many days a budget can support at different budget levels, but you’ll probably surprise yourself when you slow down a bit and let your logical brain kick in. The budget template is only a guide… and you’re the smart one writing the budget itself.

Cheers & smart budgeting to you,

Why Craft Service & Catering Should be Good

It’s a big budget production…  the production can afford it! Craft & catering should be good. It’s expected; it’s respectful.

It’s a low budget production… the production may not be providing enough time or money to the cast & crew to buy groceries. Craft & catering should be good. Production needs a healthy cast & crew; it’s respectful.

Good food, respect & a good shoot to you!

Ciné-surfer: $1M Budget Breakdown (from Oz Film Commission)

The Australia Film Commission has a set of feature articles worth perusing. One in particular is called “The Financial Lowdown“.

Though this article is a tad old (it references films shot between 2000 and 2003), the content is still excellent. There’s a breakdown of a $1M production budget that helps with understanding of generally where in the budget the money goes. There is also discussion of how many shoot days are typical for low budget features and much more.

So… read it, learn from it, bookmark it! Then you can peruse their other articles too. Are any of them of significant interest to you?

Cheers & happy budgeting to you,

Ciné-Surfer: Pacific Exchange’s Currency Plotter

 Working on coproductions, you care deeply about what the exchange rate is doing between the two or three currencies you are using (in order to maximize money making it to the screen instead of to exchange rate loss).

UBC’s Sauder School of Business has the the ability to plot exchange rates at the Pacific Exchange Rate Service… in effect a “Currency Plotter“.

There is nothing like looking at a graph of the currency exchange rate to give you a big picture look at the exchange rate related to your production and over time. I’m not saying you can predict the exchange rate, but… well… just make the choices, “make a chart” and see what I mean. It’ll be a tool I know you’ll want to use again and again:


Cheers & happy exchange rate plotting!