Want to Produce, Write or Direct a Feature Film that actually gets made?

If “Yes” then you must realize, once having the screenplay, that when preparing a budget, what is realistic and what is unrealistic… that is…for you… as a first-timer.

By unrealistic I mean you can believe you are doing proper method by hiring a Production Manager (PM) or an Assistant Director (AD) to prepare a budget the “right way” or you, yourself, can purchase a budgeting software (Movie Magic, Easy Budget, Guerilla Budget, etc) program, fill in every line item, do it perfectly and as with a PM or AD come up with a budget between $1 Million and $20 Million…

This might appear to be correct but it is not be realistic.


Answer: Because you, a first-timer who is worried about this months rent or mortgage, are not going to procure $1-10 Million for your first feature film.

Ergo you did the budget unrealistically.

Now let’s get realistic but to do so, let’s first peruse (see below) the most common 7 Movie Budget categories for first-timers.


1st: NO-BUDGET Budget ($10,000-$40,000)

With this type of money your production is a 1-week or 4 weekend (4 months) shoot, with a 5-7 person Non-Union crew, shot in real time with 2 iPhones, a couple of apps, a separate sync Soundman, who has his own equipment and been on 4-5 shoots, and a $295 lens attachment for the iPhones.

(“Tangerine” last year’s Sundance hit was a No-Budget feature, shot for $20,000 with 2 iPhones, in real time, over one weekend.”)


2nd: MINI-BUDGET Budget ($41,000-$80,000):

This is a 2-week shoot (13 shooting days), with a 90-page script within 1-location, and a shooting schedule of 7 pages per day, a 6-8 person Non-Union crew, shot with one Red or two DSLR 4Ks, and hiring SAG actors but without becoming a SAG Signator and paying them $100/day or $500/week


3rd: MICRO-BUDGET Budget ($81,000-$150,000):

For micro dollars you will also do a 2-week shoot, with an 8-11 person Non-Union crew but hiring, without signing with IATSE, a DP & Camera Crew for $5-7K/week and a highly qualified Soundman at $2K/week with possibly $10-$25K for a TV actor to do a 1-day cameo but promote “Starring Him/Her” and $5K for an original sound track.


4th: ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET Budget ($151,000-$250,000):

With a little more money than Micro-B, an Ultra-Low-B is also a 2-week shoot, but this time with a 13-16 person crew, 3-4 locations, signing with SAG on Ultra-Low Agreement (Actors @ $100/day), with 2 TV semi-name actors at $20K each and $10K for an original score, from a dialogue oriented script, that you wrote on Spec, of 95-105 pages with no stunts, animation, Exterior Night scenes or visual effects.

(“Most Ultra-Low-Budget films like “Blair Witch”, “Cube”, “Panic Room”, “Saw”, “Cabin Fever” or “Rope” which are shot many times at the producer or director’s house, a friend’s apartment or cabin or someone’s basement or backyard.”)


5th: LOW-BUDGET Budget ($251,000-$400,000):

Now we’re talking the standard 18-Day, 3-week shoot, with a 16-20 person crew, 5-7 locations, with 3-5 pages shot EXT-NIGHT, Above-The-Line signing with SAG but not WGA or DGA and Below-The-Line Non-Union, not signing with IATSE, however hiring your 5-7 keys who are in IATSE and paying each $1,000-$2,500/week, with a solid food budget and excellent craft service, starring 2 semi TV names (run of the picture) and $75,000 for Post-Production and $15,000 for Film Festival attendance.


6th: INDY LOW-BUDGET Budget ($401,000-$500,000):

This Film will be marketed as a “Million Dollar Feature”, but is in reality a 3-week shoot, similar to the above Low-Budget budget, with an additional $100,000 to hire, besides the 2 semi TV name actors a Movie Name (A- or B+) actor ($100,000 at 3 Days), whose name makes it feel like a movie, who is taking the gig because he/she lives close to your locations, possibly knows you and likes being paid $100,000 for 3 days. Above-The-Line a SAG shoot and now enough money to sign with the WGA (Writers Guild) and hire a pro at $25,000-$40,000 for 2 drafts of your Treatment. Below-The-Line a 20-25 person Non-Union crew; with a 10-week Post Period (Pix Edit, Sound Edit, ADR, Foley, Music, Mix, M&E, Digitize & DCP) and $25,000 to hire a Publicist for a festival bang.


7th: CLASSIC LOW-BUDGET Budget ($501,000-$700,000):

You’ll quickly learn that Hollywood lies and inflates their alleged budgets when marketing. Play the game! This Film will be marketed as a “$2-3 Million” or a “$3-5 Million” Feature. It is usually produced by a name tv actor, who is the director, with a couple of his/her name actor friends at $25K per week also cast. Above-The-Line it is a 2 Guild (SAG & WGA) shoot, with a possibility, since the name actor is directing, of signing with the Directors Guild to ensure the actor becomes a DGA member. The shoot is 5-weeks (25-28 days) allowing the actors 3 takes for each setup, demonstrating better acting skills, with the movie now appearing to be a very well acted film and qualifying for Sundance, Toronto or Tribecca.


(“Hi, I’m Dov Simens, I’ve taught filmmaking for over 25 years in 34 nations and I love dispensing the mystery and mystique of Hollywood with my very practical way cut-to-the-chase method of teaching.”)



Now let’s get realistic and prepare a realistic move budget for your very first feature film.

If you think low-budget is $2-4 Million then I advise make a $100,000-$200,000 movie.

If you think low-budget is $500,000 then I advise make a $25,000 movie.

Permit me to explain.

First-time filmmakers (aka: wannabees), like you, are a bit naive and hear things like “the average Hollywood Studio Low-Budget is $10-20 Million” then naturally think saying their budget is only “1-2 Million” will have studios going “why not”.

Problem is that $1-2 Million is still a lot of money.

Now, being mature and honest, rather than naive and romantic, here is how to approach your first feature film budget.

(“Kevin Smith’s “CLERKS” was likely conceived as a Half-Million Dollar Feature. But Kevin got smart. Cut the budget in Half. Moved the decimal point to the left one spot, found $25,000 and shot… Rest is history”)


STEP ONE: Pick the dollar amount that you naively think is low-budget. Let’s say “2-3 Million”

STEP TWO: Drop that budget in half. Now you’re think “1-2 Million”.

STEP THREE: Move the decimal place one place to the left. Now you’re realistic and the “$1-2 Million” becomes $100,000-$200,000 and produce (see above) either a Micro-Budget or Ultra-Low-Budget Feature Film.


Another example: What if you started by saying “all you need is $500,000”. Then…

STEP ONE: You think Low-Budget is “$500,000″.

STEP TWO: Drop that budget in half. Now you’re thinking “$250,000”.

STEP THREE: Move the decimal place one place to the left and you’re realistic budget is $25,000 and produce (see above) a No-Budget Feature Film.


You got it…

Now, with respect to yourself….be realistic. Get your 90-page one-location script. Think what you believe to be low-budget; reduce that budget amount by 50% and move the decimal point one place to the left… Get the money and shoot.


Happy Filmmaking,

Dov Simens /




Want facts. Not theory… Then my Film Schools ($89-389) are perfect for you.

Pick One. Graduate. Write. Produce. Direct.

Next “HOLLYWOOD (2-Day) FILM SCHOOL” sessions are August 18-19, 2018 and December 8-9, 2018.


7 comments on “INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING: THE 7 MOVIE BUDGETS (Can You Name Them?)”

  1. Albert Ramirez says:

    Thank you for the update on the different film budgets. I have taken your DVD film school, and it is interesting to see the changes that have taken place during the past several years.

  2. Greg says:

    Appreciate the article, but with all due respect you have a single IMDb credit, and that’s as producer. Not much of a resume.

    1. James Newbie says:

      Good one Greg! I’d like to see a breakdown of the film industry titles and hierarchy. Produce = Project Manager, Director = Creative oversight…whatever, I don’t even know what these title mean anymore. What is an executive producer verses a associate producer. Anyhow, I agree with your status check.

      I’m just starting, but have run across so many other so-called film makers and these guys are all ego driven. I can’t imagine giving one of these guys access to $100k so they can play god when they haven’t won any awards, or even made money commercially. I’ve made lots of commercials and animations so I see the money side of things. Recently, had invited someone to play a role on a short film and this dude did nothing but b-rate my directing, head hunt my cast and crew, and basically piss vinegar all over the project. Finally, dismissed him only to find out the guy was a nobody, had never made any money filming or won any awards.

      Another guy won an award at a local film festival for “first time filmmaker”. Talk about a door prize. It went straight to head. He’s running a seminar on “how to be a filmmaker”…Seriously. One film and now he’s an expert.

      I’ve won awards and worked for prestigious clientele and I don’t run around beating it over everyone’s head. As a matter of fact, I only break out those credentials when some pretentious dick start beating his chest. I still don’t know why they feel the need to do that. I just want to make a good film and don’t even care to put anything in the credits other than “by James Newbie”.

  3. Mark Curran says:

    I like Dov’s courses and books. He sells no-nonsense advice and focuses on making the film, not dreaming about it. As in anything, one must learn by doing. He’s also smart. He knows that 99% of the dreamers who desire to make a film will never actually make one, they only dream of the gold in the hills. Thus the old saying, ‘When in a gold rush, sell shovels.’ For over 30 years Dov has sold shovels. Why should he bother trying to mine gold when selling shovels pays better?

  4. Online says:

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do think that you
    need to write more about this topic, it may not be a
    taboo subject but typically folks don’t discuss such subjects.
    To the next! Best wishes!!

  5. fuckathisaguy says:

    this man is a moron.

  6. Henry Larry says:

    Really appreciate the practical advice on budgeting for independent filmmaking. The step by step guide makes it easier for newcomers to navigate the complexities of budget planning. It is empowering to see how starting with a more modest budget can lead to successful and impactful films.
    Window Repair Services in Marysville OH

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *