$20,000-$30,000 FEATURE FILM (AKA: Shot-For)


The $1,000-$10,000 No-Budget Feature and the $10,000-$20,000 Credit-Card Feature are now covered. So let’s proceed to the $20,000-$30,000 Shot-For Feature Film… With, “Shot-For” being the key phrase. Why? Because “Shot-For” is most common phrase heard after someone states the movie’s budget was”$20,000 to $30,000″.


“EL MARIACJI” was “Shot-For”20,000-$30,000.

“CLERKS” was “Shot-For” $20,000-$30,000.

“PI” was “Shot-For” $20,000-$30,000.

“IN THE COMPANY OF MEN” was “Shot-For” $20,000-$30,000.

“BLAIR WITCH PROJECT” was “Shot-For” $20,000-$30,000.

“PARANORMAL ACTIVITY” was “Shot-For” $20,000-$30,000.

“SHOT FOR”, “SHOT FOR”, “SHOT FOR” what the heck is this phrase.

Answer is pretty simple.

When someone makes a feature film, and the budget is minimal, then the producer or director when asked “What was your budget” by press at a film festival panel, always kicks-in hype and pushes the budget down (deflates the budget) to as miniscule a number as possible, creating a marketable ploy, and proudly claims it was “SHOT-FOR”… which (insert) is usually a number close to $20,000.

Now, everyone thinks “This person is amazing… look what he/she did for only $20,000”. Yes, tThere is a little misleading going on here…and…Welcome to Hollywood and quite clearly what they are telling you is that they spent $20,000 to shoot a movie…

Once again, they are clearly stating what they/he/she spent to shoot-the-movie. They/he/she is not lying and thus they/he/she is still permitted to go to heaven.

However, they/he/she did say they/he/she made the movie for $20,000… They/he/she says they/he/she SHOT-THE-MOVIE (aka: Shot-For) for $20,000…$20,000 for a 1-week shoot to pay for crew & equipment, actors & food but none of that money went to lab, to post production, to music/score, to audio tracks, to insurance, to… etc.

It was Shot-For… Get it?

They are actually deflating the budget.

99.9% of the time Hollywood (the major studios) love to inflate the budget and announce massive budget like $100-$200 Million or as Cameron is now doing on the next “AVATARS”… he’s actually announced the budgets will amount to over $1 BILLION bucks. (give me a break).

Back to the Point: Hollywood (studios) like to inflate budgets to create a marketing concept and Independents (first-timers) like to deflate budgets to create a marketing concept.

Paranormal Activity


Quite simply “Shot-For” is the amount of money that was spent to physically do a 1-week shoot. Cast, Rehearse, Rent Camera, Secure Location, Hire small Crew, Pay actors, Feed everyone, Rent/Buy a couple of props and Pay for nominal wardrobe.

What “Shot For” is not, is the budget (aka: amount of money) that it truly cost to make the movie (the final print or DCP) that you are viewing at a movie theater.

“Shot-For” does not include (A) Lab Bill, (B) Equipment Return Costs, (C) Insurance, (D) Editing, (E) Music,, (F) ADR, (G) Foley, (H) Re-Recording Session, (I) M&E Track,, (J) Final Print, (K) E&O Insurance, etc.

“EL MARIACHI” was “Shot-For”, “CLERKS” was “Shot-For”. “BLAIR WITCH” was “Shot-For”. “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY” was “Shot-For”….

I think you’re getting the point.

FS-$89 (2) DSC_8143

THE $20,000-$30,000 “SHOT-FOR” FEATURE FILM

So how does this $20,000-$30,000 actually get spent?

FIRST: SCRIPT ($100-$200): Why $100-$200. Simple. Because you wrote it yourself and spent that amount of money on (A) Paper, (B) Printer Cartridge and (C) Software (Final Draft or Celtx)

SECOND: CAST ($2,000-$2,500) 6-8 Actors for 1-week (7-Day Shoot) at $500/week for Actor #1 and Actor #2 (aka: The Stars); $300 for Actor #3 (3-Day hire at $100/day), $400 for Actors #4 & #5 (both 2-day hires at $100/day) and $300 for Actors #6, #7 & #8 (each 1-Day hires at $100/day)

THIRD: SHOOT/LOCATION ($1,000-$2,000): Plan for 1-week at a single location or at the most at 2-3 locations within 3-4 blocks of each other. Spend $100-$200/day

FOURTH: CREW ($8,000-$9,000): For a 10-12 person Crew needed for 1-week, to include DP ($1,500), CO ($750), PM ($1,000), AD ($500), PD ($1,000), PD’s Assistant ($350), Sound Tech with Equipment ($1,000), Grip/Gaffer with equipment & Best Boy ($1,500), 4 PAs with trucks or vans ($250 each, $1,000)

FIFTH: CAMERAS ($3,000-$4,000): 2 Red 4K Cameras with lenses & monitor

SIXTH: EQUIPMENT ($0-$1,000): Soundman comes with Sound Equipment; Grip/Gaffer comes with the Lights, a Dolly & Generator (if needed). The $1,000 is budgeted for miscellaneous Hard Drives, Backups, Dollies, etc as needed

SIXTH: EXPENDABLES ($1,000-$2,000): Bunch of one-time-only stuff that the DP, CO, PM, PD, Grip & Gaffer might need such as Batteries, Filters, Gels, Tape, etc. Most of the time these key crew people have their own kits loaded with expendable so prior to hiring a Key ask him/her about their Kit and let them know that you assume they bring their kit to the set.

SEVETNTH: WARDROBE (0-$1,000): Wardrobe is contemporary and actors bring their own which you approve of during casting. At most an additional $1,000 might be needed for Sewing, Dry Cleaning and Shopping.

EIGHTH: PROPS ($0-$1,000): This is where your Production Designer has learned how to use the phrase Beg/Borrow/Steal. At most put in $1,000 for anything that is super-super needed and can’t be borrowed.

NINTH: FOOD ($2,000-$2,500): To feed 10-12 Crew and 6-8 Actors for 7 days at $20/day/person, plus a Keurig Coffee Maker and a Costco Card

TENTH: MISCELLANEOUS ($3,000-$5,000): There is a whole lot of stuff that I haven’t included that $3,000-$5,000 will cover when one knows how to Beg, Borrow & Liberate (notice I didn’t say steal)


You have now spent $20,000-$30,000 and “Shot” your feature film. However, there is going to be (A) Post Costs, (B) Lab Bills, (C) Audio Synchronization, (D) Music Fees, etc….


Micro-Budget Filmmaking…Here’s the Producing Bottom-Line:

When you heard that a feature film was “shot-for” $20,000-$30,000 they probably aren’t lying.

But the actually movie that you see in a Movie Theater, either transferred and/or blown up to 35MM, to include timing and color corrected for a quality DCP, with all music rights secured and insurances, to include E&O, paid for probably cost the distributor between $100,000-$200,000… or at least that is what they are going to tell you just after distribution when you are now caught in their web of “creative bookkeeping”.

Bottom-Line: You made a movie. Be it Shot-For or Totally finished… you made a bloody movie, with a Beginning, Middle & End with minimal bucks, a relatively inexperienced crew, and little-to-no rehearsal, with actors who were barely paid… Wow.


You have started your career.


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One comment on “$20,000-$30,000 FEATURE FILM (AKA: Shot-For)”

  1. zameer Ahmed says:

    Dear Respected sir,
    Zameer is here from Beaumont Texas.sir am ere on Business visit basically am from pakistan.Its my 2nd Toure to USA…am happy coming here again like past….sir am a poet and writer (urdu language)…..i wish to creat a movie by your help in which i want to mix shooting some scenecs from pakistan and some from here…..is this possible to make this film in the budget of $20000 to 30000$? and to get this ready within 6 months? i will wait for ur kind reply sir..

    best regards
    stay blessed
    Zameer Ahmed
    Master media communications

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