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How to Cut a Film’s Production Budget Without Butchering the Story
Learn the easiest ways to lower your film's production budget without having to sacrifice the integrity and quality of your hard work.

Hangover Character Calculating

No one wants to be the person responsible for butchering artistic vision. It would be great to be the one on set that gives everyone what they want and keep everyone happy. But in an industry like film, it is rarely possible.

From small indie movies to Hollywood blockbusters, film production costs can quickly spiral out of control. If you are planning a budget or producing a film, we have set out a few ideas that may help get your production budget down leaving you more time to concentrate on what matters, making a great movie.

Begin with the Director

As a producer, you will have to make tough calls. That may sometimes involve upsetting people and that is fine if it is done for the good of the project. Do not be afraid to say no or push to move the shooting on.

A lot of this will often be with the director. If he is redoing a shot that is inconsequential, then time is costing you money. Reign in the director, or even better discuss beforehand the time and budget constraints.

Check your Actors

Most actors are professionals. They are hardworking, decent people who understand their craft and have their feet firmly on the ground. But some of them are not.

Egos wastes time and time is money. For every extra hour an actor turns up late or stays in their trailer, that is an hour of cast and crew wages that will never return. If the decision is in your hands, make sure the actors have a reputation for professionalism before the shooting begins.

If it is out of your hands, then try to speak with them on friendly terms about ground rules. Even a seemingly limitless film budget can quickly run down if actors are not working with the goal of completing the movie in mind. An excellent and quite hilarious example of this is the 1992 movie of the video game Street Fighter II.

Production Budget and the Screenplay

Before you begin shooting, take a look through the screenplay and check any instances where expensive ideas and shots do not build on the story or the character. It may look great to have someone dreaming as they walk around a crowded circus, but if an abandoned building would work just as well at half the price, then take the cheaper option.

This logic applies to characters. Do you really need three minor characters saying a sentence each, or could they be condensed down and spoken by one person? If you need crowds or extras, could you halve the number and shoot from angles that made them look like even more?

Finally, modify the locations to fit the screenplay. If you have permission to shoot in a national park, check out some of the main features in that area and see if they could work as replacement locations. That way you are keeping your cast and crew in one area, cutting down expensive logistics costs.

Use Location Wisely

Always remember that the location you are shooting in must add something of value to the script and characters. Ask yourself if they really need to have that conversation on a busy New York street, filled with traffic and extras. Or can they be having it in an apartment on set, which will cost a lot less.

Look for locations that can double up as other places. Many location shoots, particularly New York and Moscow, are often smaller towns or sets adapted to look like them. Shop around to see where the cheapest place to film is.

Use peer to peer location services if you want to use a place with a specific look or feel. Even better, ask around if anyone in your circle knows someone who would have a property that could be used.

Always have a primary location for shooting. It will make it easier as you do not have to transport actors, equipment, and crew. If you can make your primary location look like various places in the script, even better.

Plan in Advance

Planning in advance, for every eventuality, will cost you a lot of money. What could be worse than having a full crew waiting around doing nothing as you work out what to do next, or argue with the director about where to shoot.

To help you, make lists and spreadsheets of what will be shot on certain days. Who will be needed, what equipment will need to be set up, and any other requirements. Once you know this, you can total up the costs and add them at the bottom of the sheet so you know how much you are spending each day.

Once you have your schedule set out and have worked out costs, then budget for other areas. These must include pre and post-production and the one that many people forget marketing. Without the latter, no one will even see or hear of your movie.

Budget for Sound

Finally, never forget to budget appropriately for sound. You may need to have it mastered and mixed, so work out how much this will cost far in advance.

Decide on where you will be sourcing music. You could get royalty-free music and scores but it is often hard to find music that suits scenes and your movie. You don’t need a full orchestra and composer, but you could hire local musicians and composers to create it for you.


If you want to have total control of your production budget, you need a kickass budgeting template – something that you can use like a check list.

Leave your name and email and you will receive a free Google Sheet Film Budget template from Wizardy Budgets, plus tips and other helpful tools for film & video production!


Hopefully, you should now have cut a chunk from your production budget. If this is not allocated money, think about redirecting it to other areas of your production. Which you can do easily with Wizardy Budgets. 

We have tons of information on how to utilize money and budgets in production. Articles include everything from financing your movie to getting more out of your post-production budget. Browse our blog today and watch the finance in your production go further.

About O.Z. Ozmen

I am a line producer, video production company owner, budgeting wizard, and a Google Sheet enthusiast who started Wizardy Budgets. I manifest the visions of filmmakers, YouTube creators, music video directors, and brands.
October 16, 2020

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