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Film Budget Breakdown: Part 3 – Production Expenses

budget prod expenses

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Now that we have completed our Above the Line section, it’s time to move on to the first of the below-the-line sections of the budget – Production Expenses.

As with the Above-the-Line section, upon updating these accounts, the top sheet will update to reflect the new expense total for the production section.

Production Expenses

The Production account is where most of a low-budget film’s money will be spent. This account is for all the costs directly related to the physical production of your film.

2100 – Production Staff

film budget account 2100 - Production Staff

This account is for the wages of your production staff.

Production Manager (PM)

The Production Manager is one of the most important people on any film set. The PM is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the production, making sure that everything runs smoothly and on schedule.

Unit Production Manager (UPM)

The Unit Production Manager is very similar to the Production Manager, and the difference arises when working on a high-budget studio film. In those cases, the Production Manager could be a studio executive in charge of many productions. In contrast, the Unit Production Manager is responsible for a single film, a single “unit” of production.

First Assistant Director (AD)

The First Assistant Director is responsible for managing the cast and crew on set. They are tasted with ensuring everyone is where they need to be and doing what they need to be doing. They create the schedule and make sure that the production stays on schedule.

Second Assistant Director

The Second Assistant Director is responsible for helping the First AD with their duties. They will often be in charge of the basecamp and handling the set paperwork such as call sheets, etc.

Production Coordinator (PC)

The Production Coordinator is responsible for helping the Production Manager with their duties. They will often be in charge of the production office and help to keep all the paperwork up to date.

Script Supervisor

The Script Supervisor is responsible for keeping track of the changes made to the script during production. In addition, they take note of any changes made on set (continuity) and ensure that those changes are recorded in the shooting script.

Location Manager (LM)

The Location Manager is responsible for finding locations to shoot at and securing those locations. They will also be responsible for any permits or other paperwork required to shoot at those locations.

Production Assistants (PA)

Production Assistants are the lowest rung on the production ladder. However, they do a little bit of everything, from getting coffee to running errands. So if you need something done on set, and it doesn’t fall under any purview of a particular department, chances are there is a PA who can do it.

Production Accountant

The Production Accountant is responsible for keeping track of the production’s finances and paying the bills. They are usually hired after the UPM and immediately get to work paying for the various office expenses of the production.

2200 – Art Department

film budget account 2200 - Art Department

The Art Department is responsible for designing and selecting everything that is put in front of the camera, aside from the talent, naturally.

Production Designer

The Production Designer is responsible for the overall look of the film. They are the head of the art department and oversee all aspects of the film’s design.

Art Director

The Art Director is responsible for working with the Production Designer to bring their vision to life. Sometimes, a film might have a Production Designer and no Art Director or vice versa.

Set Designer

The Set Designer is responsible for designing the sets used in the film. They work closely with the Production Designer and Art Director to ensure that the sets fit the look and feel of the film.

Concept Artists

Concept Artists are artists who create illustrations or sketches to help visualize the look of the film. For example, they might be brought on to design a specific character, location, or piece of machinery.

Storyboard Artist

Storyboard Artists are artists who create storyboards. Storyboards are like a comic book version of the film, and they help to visualize the action and shot choices of the film.

This line is a duplicate of account 1505 from the Director’s Unit. Some producers prefer to budget all artists under the Art Department.

Research

This entry is a catch-all for any research expenses required by the members of the Art Department.

2300 – Set Construction

film budget account 2300 - Set Construction

Set Construction is responsible for building the sets that the Art Department designs.

Construction Coordinator

The Construction Coordinator is responsible for overseeing the construction of the sets. They work closely with the Set Designer to make sure that the sets are built to specifications.

Construction Foreman

The Construction Foreman is responsible for leading the construction crew. They make sure that the sets are built on time and within budget.

Construction Labor

The Construction Labor is the crew responsible for actually building the sets. They are supervised by the Construction Foreman and report to the Construction Coordinator.

Box Rentals

The construction crew will most likely provide their own tools and hopefully at a price cheaper than renting them from a rental company.

2400 – Set Dressing

film budget account 2400 - Set Dressing

Set Dressing is responsible for dressing the sets built by the Set Construction department or found on location.

Set Decorator

The Set Decorator is responsible for selecting all of the furniture and props that are used on the set. In addition, they work closely with the Production Designer and Set Designer to make sure that the set is properly dressed.

Lead Dresser

The Lead Dresser is responsible for dressing the set in the absence of the Set Decorator. They make sure that all of the furniture and props are in their proper place and that the set looks exactly as it should. On a large production, there might be a Lead Dresser in charge of each shooting location.

Lead Person (Leadman)

The Lead Person is in charge of the crew members (the swing gang) that physically lift and move set dressings into place.

Swing Gang

The Swing Gang is the crew responsible for physically lifting and moving set dressings into place. They report to the Lead Person.

Draper

A Draper is responsible for hanging all the curtains and drapes and generally any hanging fabric.

Carpet Person

The Carpet Person is responsible for installing and removing all of the carpets, rugs, and any fabric on the floor of the set.

Fixture Person

The Fixture Person is responsible for installing and removing all of the fixtures, such as light fixtures. However, the fixtures must be wired by an electrician if they are going to have working lights.

Greens Person

The Greens Person is responsible for installing and removing all the plants, trees, and other organic greenery on the set.

2500 – Property Department

film budget account 2500 - Property Department

The Property Department is responsible for all of the things that actors handle on set. This account includes simple items such as dining utensils and car keys to dangerous items such as firearms and weapons.

Property Master

The Property Master is responsible for selecting, acquiring, and maintaining all the things actors handle on set. In addition, they make sure that the items are safe and that they are in the proper place at the appropriate time.

Assistant Property Master

The Assistant Property Master is responsible for assisting the Property Master in all of their duties.

Armorer

The Armorer is responsible for all of the weapons, firearms, and other dangerous props that are used on the set. They make sure that these items are safe to use and that they are properly stored when not in use.

Animals

This category is a catch-all for any animals needed during production, their trainers, necessary equipment, and housing.

The Animal Trainer is responsible for all of the animals that are used on the set. They make sure that the animals are healthy and that they are properly trained to perform the required tasks.

Picture Vehicles

Picture Vehicles are any vehicles that are used in the film. This includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and planes.

Manufactures

Any props that need to be custom-built for the production

Purchases

Any props that cannot be rented or borrowed and thus must be purchased.

2600 – Camera Department

film budget account 2600 - Camera Department

The Camera Department is responsible for the camera and all of its accessories, as well as the personnel that operates said equipment.

Director of Photography (DP or DOP)

The Director of Photography is responsible for selecting the type of camera and film that will be used to shoot the film. They also work closely with the Production Designer to determine the look of the film.

Camera Operator

The Camera Operator is responsible for operating the camera during filming.

1st Assistant Camera

The First Assistant Camera is responsible for keeping the camera in focus during filming.

2nd Assistant Camera

The Second Assistant Camera is responsible for loading and unloading film magazines (when shooting film). When using digital cameras the 2nd AC is in charge of managing the digital media (media cards & hard drives) as well as keeping track of the shot order.

Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)

The Digital Imaging Technician is responsible for on-set color correction and data management. They work closely with the DP to verify the technical integrity of the captured image and to help visualize the finished look that will be applied in post-production. With the advent of new digital cinema technologies, the DIT has become a very important member of the camera department.

B Camera Unit

The B Camera Unit is responsible for shooting additional coverage of the scenes. This could be shots of the actors from different angles or close-ups that were not captured by the main camera unit.

Steadicam / Gimbal Operator

The Steadicam / Gimbal Operator is responsible for operating the Steadicam or Gimbal. This is a specialized piece of equipment that allows the operator to capture very smooth shots even while moving.

The setup and operation of such rigs can be very complicated, and thus a specialist is often employed.

Camera Package

The Camera Package is the complete set of equipment that is needed to shoot a film. This could include the camera, lenses, tripod, media cards, batteries, etc.

Often times it is cheaper to rent an entire package than to rent each item individually.

Stills Photographer

The Stills Photographer is responsible for taking behind-the-scenes photos of the cast and crew as well as promotional photos of the film. These photos are used for press and marketing purposes.

2700 – Electric Department

film budget account 2700 - Electric Department

The Electric Department is responsible for powering and operating all of the lights used on the set.

Chief Lighting Technician (Gaffer)

The Gaffer is responsible for the design and execution of the lighting plan. They work closely with the DP to determine the look of the film.

Best Boy Electrician

The Best Boy Electrician is the second in command of the electric department. They are responsible for managing the electricians and assisting the Gaffer in executing the lighting plan.

Electricians

The Electricians are responsible for setting up, operating, and striking (taking down) all of the lights used on the set.

Generator Operator

The Generator Operator is responsible for operating the generator. This is a large piece of equipment that produces enough power to run all of the lights and electrical equipment on the set.

Pre-Rig and Strike Crew

The Pre-Rig and Strike Crew is responsible for setting up and striking all of the lights prior to filming. This is often done the night before or the day of filming.

This team can provide a tremendous amount of savings to the production by making sure that you don’t have actors and the rest of the crew standing around while lights are being carried off trucks.

2800 – Grip Department

film budget account 2800 - Grip Department

The Grip Department is responsible for most of the moving, hauling, and building on the set. They are also in charge of virtually any kind of “rig” on set. This can include camera rigs such as the dolly and the crane but can also include large frames for diffusion and backdrops.

They also work with the electricians providing shading and shaping of the lights with flags, reflectors and “cookies,” etc.

Key Grip

The Key Grip is responsible for designing and executing the grip plan. They work closely with the DP to determine the camera movement and execute that vision.

Second Grip (Best Boy Grip)

The Best Boy Grip is the second in command of the grip department. They are responsible for managing the grips and assisting the Key Grip in executing the plan.

Dolly Grip

The Dolly Grip is responsible for operating the dolly. This is a specialized piece of equipment that allows the camera to move smoothly while filming.

Crane Grip

The Crane Grip is responsible for operating the crane. This is a large piece of equipment that allows the camera to move substantial distances vertically and/or horizontally while filming.

Grips

The Grips are responsible for setting up, operating, and striking all of the equipment in the grip department.

2900 – Production Sound

film budget account 2900 - Production Sound

The Production Sound Department is responsible for capturing the audio on set. This includes dialogue, Foley (sound effects), and ambiance.

Production Sound Mixer

The Production Sound Mixer is responsible for capturing the audio on set. This includes dialogue, Foley (sound effects), and ambiance.

Boom Operator

The Boom Operator is responsible for operating the boom microphone. This is a large microphone on a long pole that is used to capture the audio of the dialogue.

Cable Puller

The Cable Puller is responsible for managing all of the audio cables on set.

Playback

The Playback Operator is responsible for playing back audio on set. This can be used for reference or for playback of dialogue, music, or sound effects.

For example, when filming a musical or a music video, this is of crucial importance.

Communications / Walkie-Talkies

Some producers prefer to have the walkie-talkies and on-set communication organized by the sound team.

3100 – Special Effects & VFX

film budget account 3100 - Special Effects & VFX

The Special Effects Department is responsible for all of the special effects on set. This can include explosions, pyrotechnics, water effects, weather, and more. More and more, it is common to also have some VFX personnel on set as well to

Special Effects Coordinator

The Special Effects Coordinator is responsible for designing and executing the special effects plan. They work closely with the DP and the director to determine what is needed and how to execute it safely.

VFX Supervisor

The VFX Supervisor is able to provide guidance to the director and special effects team as it relates to visual effects. They also gather on-set data that will later be used by the VFX team in post-production.

Special Effects Assistant

The Special Effects Assistant is responsible for assisting the Special Effects Coordinator in executing the plan.

Pyrotechnics

The Pyrotechnic Technician is responsible for operating the pyrotechnics on set. This can include explosions, fire, and smoke.

Weather Effects

The Weather Effects team is responsible for operating the weather effects on set. This can include rain, snow, wind, etc.

Water Effects

The Water Effects team is responsible for operating the water effects on set. This can include water explosions, waves, pools, and other man-made bodies of water.

Electronics Effects

The Electronics Effects team is responsible for operating the electronics effects on set. This can include things such as computer screens on set electronics that appear to malfunction.

Rear Projection

The Rear Projection is used to project images or film/video onto a screen or wall that appears in the background of a shot. This is most commonly used for driving shots with a stationary car and a projected video of a moving road projected behind the car.

Blue/Green Screen

The Blue/Green Screen is used to shoot against a blank background. This allows the VFX team to later add in any background they want.

Miniatures

The Miniatures team is responsible for building and setting up the miniature sets and/or models.

Fire Dept. / Safety

If you have any practical effects taking place, you’ll probably need some kind of on-set safety officer. For example, suppose your production has any fire or pyrotechnics. In that case, you’ll need to notify the local fire department and possibly have a member of their fire department on set for additional safety.

3200 – Set Operations

film budget account 3200 - Set Operations

The Set Operations category is a catch-all for a number of personnel and expenses that do not fit into other categories.

Set Carpenter

The Set Carpenter is a standby carpenter that is ready to fix any wood-based problems that arise during production.

Set Painter

Similar to the set carpenter, the Set Painter is ready to fix any paint-related issues that arise during production. This could be repainting areas where the crew scratched a wall or painting an overlooked piece of set decoration just before rolling the camera.

Greens Department

The Greens Department handles all plants, shrubs, small trees, etc., that are on camera. Sometimes these are orchestrated pieces of set dressing, and other times they can be used to hide unwanted objects from view.

Craft Services

Craft Services is responsible for providing food and drinks for the cast and crew during production. They will be set up at basecamp near the set, where people can come and get snacks and drinks throughout the day.

Catering

Catering is responsible for providing meals for the cast and crew during production. They will set up a kitchen near the set where they will prepare meals for everyone working that day.

Set Security

If you are filming in a public space or anywhere the general public has access, you will need to hire security to keep people from coming onto the set and disrupting production.

Portable Bathrooms

If you are filming in a location without bathrooms nearby, you will need to rent portable toilets for the cast and crew.

3300 – Wardrobe

film budget account 3300 - Wardrobe

The Wardrobe category is for anything related to the cast’s costumes.

Costume Designer

The Costume Designer is responsible for creating the designs for the cast’s costumes. They will work with the Director to ensure that the costumes fit the vision for the film.

If working on a period piece, a sci-fi or fantasy film, or a military film, then a costume designer will likely be a crucial member of the production. However, if your film is set in the modern-day and doesn’t require any unique costumes, then you’ll likely be able to do without a costume designer.

Men’s Costumer

The Men’s Costumer is responsible for fitting the male cast members with their costumes and keeping them in good condition throughout production.

Women’s Costumer

The Women’s Costumer is responsible for fitting the female cast members with their costumes and keeping them in good condition throughout production.

Manufacturing

This account is here in the event that clothing or costumes cannot be purchased off the shelf and must be handmade.

Cleaning

Cleaning is an easily overlooked account. It’s not just for stains; if your production runs more than a couple of days, it’s important to have your cast’s costumes cleaned regularly.

Alterations & Repairs

The Alterations & Repairs category is for any changes that need to be made to the costumes after they have been received or during production.

3400 – Hair & Makeup

film budget account 3400 - Hair & Makeup

The Hair & Makeup category is for anything related to the cast’s hair and makeup.

Head Makeup Artist

The Head Makeup Artist is responsible for the cast’s makeup. They will work with the Director to ensure that the makeup fits the vision for the film.

Body Makeup Artists

Body Makeup Artists are required anytime that you need to have makeup applied higher up the leg than the ankle or higher up the arm than the wrist. Therefore, if you have actors in swimsuits or shirtless, you’ll likely need a body makeup artist.

Head Hair Stylist

The Head Hair Stylist is responsible for the cast’s hair. They will work with the Director to ensure that the hairstyles fit the vision for the film.

Wigs and Hairpieces

Wigs and hairpieces are sometimes needed by the actors themselves but can also be required by stunt doubles so that their hair matches the color and length of the actor they are doubling.

Prosthetics

Prosthetics are required anytime that you need to add or remove features from an actor’s face or body. This could be something as simple as a fake nose or something more complex like a fake leg.

Special Appliances

Special Appliances are similar to prosthetics but larger items, such as a replacement head that an actor wears.

3500 – Location Department

film budget account 3500 - Location Department

The Location Department is responsible for finding and securing locations to shoot the film. Additionally, this category is used for all travel expenses.

Location Manager

The Location Manager is responsible for finding potential locations and then securing them for production. They will also be responsible for getting any permits that are required to film in that location.

Survey Costs

Survey Costs are what you will pay the location scout to go out and find potential locations.

Travel Costs

Travel Costs are what you will pay to move the cast and crew to the location. This could be for travel within the country or internationally. It could be in the form of shuttle vans or air travel, or travel by other means.

Hotels & Lodging

If you are filming in a location that requires an overnight stay, then you will need to book hotel rooms for the cast and crew. This could also include apartments, house rentals, etc., for long-term stays.

Per Diem

Per Diem is a daily allowance that you will pay to the cast and crew while they are away from home. This covers the cost of food and other incidentals.

Police

Oftentimes times, having a uniformed police officer present on set can be extremely helpful. At the very least, they can serve as a go-between when other police or government employees happen upon the set and inquire about the validity of your production.

Guards

Depending on the location, you may also need to hire security guards. This could be for crowd control or to protect the equipment from theft, or just to offer peace of mind to your cast and crew.

Firefighter

Anytime you have any type of fire on set, whether that is pyrotechnics, special effects, or a simple fireplace, you’ll need to contact the local fire department and ask if they will require the presence of a firefighter on set.

Location Fees

Location Fees are what you will pay to actually use the location. This fee can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the location.

Government Representative

In foreign countries, you’ll sometimes work with a representative from the local government who can provide a tremendous amount of local knowledge and connections.

Permits

Permits are required anytime you want to film in a public space or on private property. The cost of the permit will depend on the location but can range from free to several thousand dollars.

Parking

Parking can be a significant cost, especially if you are filming in a large city. In addition, you’ll need to account for the vehicles of the cast and crew as well as any production vehicles.

Site Repairs

Depending on your location agreement, there could be a need to provide a fee or deposit for potential repairs.

Likewise, if you are filming in an old building or location, there may be some repairs that need to be made in order for it to be safe for the cast and crew.

Heating / Air Conditioning

Some locations will not have heat or air conditioning installed, and you will need to provide portable units for the comfort and safety of your crew. Furthermore, if you are filming during extreme weather conditions, you may need to provide additional heating or air conditioning for the comfort of the cast and crew.

3600 – Transportation Department

film budget account 3600 - Transportation Department

The Transportation Department supplies all of the transportation to and from the set when on location, and when shooting in town, they drive all of the equipment trucks and other production-related vehicles.

Transportation Coordinator

The Transportation Coordinator is responsible for scheduling all the transportation needs of the cast and crew as well as the production vehicles. They work closely with the Location Manager and Production Manager to make sure everyone and everything gets where it needs to be when it needs to be there.

Transportation Capitain

The Transportation Captain is in charge of all the drivers and vehicles. They make sure that everyone has the proper licenses and insurance. They also do safety checks on all the vehicles and make sure that they are in good working order.

Dispatcher

On a large production, a Dispatcher can be helpful in tracking and monitoring each and every vehicle used in the production. Each driver will check out their vehicle with the dispatcher, and they will keep track of the vehicle throughout the day.

Mechanic

A Mechanic is usually on call to help with any transportation issues that may arise. They can also do safety checks on the vehicles and make sure that they are in good working order.

Drivers

The Drivers are responsible for driving the cast and crew to and from the set as well as driving the production vehicles. They need to have a valid driver’s license and insurance.

Picture Vehicles

Picture Vehicles are any vehicles that are featured in the film on camera. This can include cars, trucks, vans, buses, motorcycles, boats, etc.

Stunt Vehicles

Stunt vehicles are any vehicles that will be used in a stunt. This can include vehicles that have special rigging for safety or to perform a specific stunt. Stunt vehicles will need to be insured for more than the standard amount as they are at a higher risk for accidents.

Production Vehicles

Production Vehicles are any vehicles that are used by the production crew. This can include equipment trucks, generators, trailers, golf carts, etc.

Motorhome Rentals

Sometimes referred to as Honeywagons, specialized motorhomes are used as a dressing room, makeup room, and holding area for the cast and crew. They can also be used as office space for the production staff.

Personnel Vehicles

Some cast and crew will require a driver to transport them to and from the set.

Self-Drive Rentals

If you have cast or crew members that are coming in from out of town, you may need to rent vehicles for them to use while they are here. This can be a significant cost depending on the length of the shoot and the number of people needing a vehicle.

Mileage

If you are using personal vehicles for the production, you will need to reimburse the owners for their mileage.

3700 – Atmosphere & Extras

film budget account 3700 - Atmosphere & Extras

Atmosphere and extras, and background talent are actors that do not have any lines in the film.

Extras Coordinator

When working with a large number of extras, hiring an Extras Coordinator can be a necessity. They can help with organizing the extras and managing their paperwork.

General Extras

General extras are background talent that is not required to have any specific skill or training.

Stand-ins

Stand-ins are used in place of the actors when setting up lights and cameras. They need to have a similar build and hair color as the actor they are standing in for.

Silent Bits

Silent bits are a type of role where the actor does not speak but does perform some sort of interaction with one of the main characters. For example, a waiter or waitress who refills a cup of coffee without speaking to the other characters.

Special Ability

Special ability extras are background talent that has a specific skill or training that is needed for the film. This can include but is not limited to athletes, medical personnel, law enforcement, military, etc.

Minors

Even if they are only an extra, if you are using talent that is under the age of 18, you will need to have a Minor Release form signed by their parent or guardian. You will also need to have a chaperone on set with them at all times.

Wardrobe Fittings

If you have extras that will need specific costuming, then you’ll need to arrange for a fitting session and to pay for their time.

3800 – Film & Lab

film budget account 3800 - Film & Lab

Shooting on film is rarer and rarer these days, but if you decide to use film, this category is here to track and plan those expenses.

Production Raw Stock

The production raw stock is the actual film that will be used to shoot the movie.

Production Film Developing

After the film has been shot, it will need to be developed by a film processing lab. The number of labs that process motion picture film is dwindling year by year, so you’ll need to contact and carefully coordinate this step with a lab capable of performing this process.

Telecine / Transfer

After the film has been processed, it then needs to be converted to a digital file so it can be viewed and edited on a modern computer. This is usually done at the film lab or possibly can be done at another post-production facility.

Sound

Often times the lab that transfers the film to digital files will also offer the option to have the sound synchronized with the image for an additional fee. In order to take advantage of this option, you’ll need to provide them with the sound recordings, which are probably in the form of SD cards.

Hard Drives

As you transfer your film to digital files, you’ll need to purchase or provide hard drives for the lab to store those digital files.

3900 – Second Unit

film budget account 3900 - Second Unit

A second unit is used to film scenes that do not include the primary cast and do not require the direction of the Director. Second unit shots generally consist of inserts, establishing shots, aerials, and stunts.

Crew

The second unit crew could be as small as 1-2 people with a camera, or it could be a larger unit similar to the first unit. The size of the crew will be dependent on the number and types of shots needed.

Equipment

Because the second unit will generally work simultaneously with the first unit, they will need to have all of the necessary equipment to film their shots. This includes but is not limited to cameras, lenses, tripods, light kits, etc.

Up Next: Part 4 – Post-Production Expenses

Next, we will dive into the post-production account expenses.

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