Make a Vow to Budget

Film Distribution and BudgetBudgeting for the distribution of a film is critical. It is perfectly reasonable to assume in today’s market that production for a film can happen for under $1 million. If there are no known actors or directors, under $500,000 is acceptable. Two important things to remember when planning a budget are distribution expenses (deliverables) and marketing. Distribution expenses include masters, a Music and Effects (M&E) track, website, artwork, and a trailer. This should be no less than $20,000-$30,000. Marketing runs a bit higher, especially if you plan a movietheater release. You may need to double your budget for this.

Save Enough Money to Distribute

You may wonder what exactly comes with distribution. The following are suggested: M&E Track ($5,000-$10,000); film print transfer if you didn’t start with film ($30,000-$50,000); advertising for self-destitution (anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand); publicity, especially if you want to hire a publicist ($5,000 and up); music clearances (only applies if you are using music belonging to a label so prices will vary); stock footage (even if you think you don’t need one, reserve $2,000-$10,000 to fill in gaps); and film festivals (a few hundred to a few thousand depending on entry fees and other costs).

Planning for distribution costs is important. You don’t want to end up as the filmmaker that has an interested funder but can’t provide an M&E Track. Losing bids because you didn’t plan enough money in the budget is a crucial mistake that can severely affect the outcome of your film.

 The Money Returns…or Will It? Plan for revenue before you make the film. It may sound strange, but this will help you plot a budget and help you see how you will pay back investors. Think realistically about it but don’t sink to the depths of depression over it. It may take a few films before you find yourself in a position to negotiate. Focus on honing your craft and making great films in order to build a reputation for yourself.

The key is to not over-estimate your revenue projections. This often leads to over-estimating a budget which can lead to disastrous effects. Remember: box office numbers are not equal to the revenue for your film. These numbers are movie theater earnings, not filmmaker earnings. Even if the movie in question started as an indie film and is now making great box office numbers, don’t assume you have the same financing options as another film. Numbers vary widely for each film.

The six main revenue streams are: Broadcast, Traditional DVD, Foreign, Cable VOD, Internet VOD, and Direct-to-Consumer DVD. Movie theater earnings are not considered revenue; they are considered an expense. If you want to see your film in theaters, look to connect with a well-known producer, hire a more prominent cast or director, and budget for a theatrical tour.