Indie Film Budgets –  The Reality of the Film Market

Indie Film Budgets – The Reality of the Film Market

Raising money for films really comes down to a Value Proposition for people who invest in your film. The most difficult process is raising money for films. The easiest money raised is the contribution or favour or when you own professional equipment.images

Here is the actual Cash Budget levels for Indie Films  for first or second time Feature Film Directors

  1. The Weekend Film Shoot Production.  Cost for one of these films is about $75,000 – $100,000. You may actually shoot the film for $30,000 but all of the extras of Post Production and finding your market place after cost a considerable amount. Usually one gets television actors that are know to the public to act in the film. However the crew and cast are mainly semi professional or amateur You hope for Festival Success and a profit on the cash budge from Pay TV , DVD Release and mainly Internet sales. Nobody gets paid but everyone owns a part of the film. The Makeover is an example of a successful film made using this model.
  2. The $200,000 Micro Budget Shoot.  This is similar to the Weekend Film Shoot. The only difference is that you shoot in one block continuously and  semi professional amateur crew and cast get paid, They may have a small amount of points for reduced pay.
  3. The $1 Million Dollar Blueprint.  This is a very typical model. The Film is shot using professional crew and actors and a recognisable  C list or B list name really helps to sell  the film in the marketplace.
  4. The $2 million Dollar – $5 Million Dollar Indie Film.The film must have recognisable international actors. You will not get A Listers on this budget as a general rule. However, sometimes A Listers will do an Indie Favour and act in the film if they love the script. It is more likely that you will get High Grade B Lister actors who can sell the film all over the world. You may get a limited release in the cinemas. However, sometimes these films breakout and become a hit film if the film has advance buzz from a major film festival award from Cannes or Sundance. The Distributor may invest the Advertising Budget into promoting the film. images-1
  5. The $10 million Dollar Plus Budget. Think of Films such as The Kings Speech. and you have have an idea of what happens in this budget range. Generally, you will have an established Director and recognisable B List or A List  Actors Stars. You will need a major distributor attached with a big advertising budget of $15 million in the USA and at least an advertising budget of $2million in Australia.  Needless to say, not many films are made in this budget range.
  6. The Studio Film and Big Budget Films. These films have exceptionally large budgets and everyone involved gets exceptional pay.  A major studio or mini major needs to be involved in the package

Here is an example of a budget summary from Unbreakable from Wikipedia 


Unbreakable  _ Motion Picture 

      • Story rights and Screenplay: $6,000,000
      • Producers: $1,878,260
      • Director (M. Night Shyamalan & Assistant): $5,081,749
      • Cast: $ 35,068,388
        • Bruce Willis: $20,000,000
        • Samuel L. Jackson: $7,000,000
        • Robin Wright Penn: $2,500,000
        • Rest of Cast, Casting, Stunts, & Travel: $5,568,388
      • Production costs: $26,214,709
        • Visual effects: $1,000,000
        • Music: $2,253,456

Total: $74,243,106 [


This was only M Night Shyamalan’s second film as a Director and look at his fee. His first film was a smash success. The Fifth Sense. Amazing how success can change everything.

Today the market has changed dramatically since the time of the Fifth Sense. The Studios are taking much less chances and going for the safe bet. However great films get made all the time.

The Market place is much tighter with the advent of the internet and film piracy and the fact that the volume of feature films produced every year has dramatically increased.

The market recognises International Names in films. The bigger the names in your film, the more distribution and audience your film will receive. Sadly there are many quality films that never get seen outside the film festival circuit and very limited releases. The reason is that they do not have international actor names attached. The mass audience identifies quality with named actors or Oscars or major awards received.

The main advise is to always make films now and dream big.

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