INDEPENDENT vs HOLLYWOOD (The Budget & Schedule Secret… Shhh)


You have finished your Screenplay. It is great. You are in Pre-Production and scheduling & budgeting, but need to know how many weeks to shoot, in order to prepare your budget properly… where will you get the answer?

The most common question(s) that pop up from first-timers is usually “How Long Is the Shoot?” or “How much time do I need to do it right?” or “How long is a Hollywood Shoot?”…

Budgeting and Scheduling are inter-twined. You need to know one to do the other…  and to start “How Long” or “How Much” pops up again and again and where will you get the answer?


Now, here is the answer.

“But I want to do it right?” What a dumb phrase.

What does that mean…do it right?

Do it right for you is “Get it done”, it ain’t gonna be perfect but “Get it done”.

You will start your career with your 1st feature but only if you “Get it done”… and I guarantee you it will not be perfect.

The phrase is “Progress not Perfection”.


Let’s just “get it done”.

Now, again, when planning your 1st feature film shoot or budgeting for it the very first question to ask yourself is “How Much Bloody Money Do I Have”….

And when you know “How much money you will have” for your first feature then you can BACK-INTO-IT and figure out how many weeks (see below) the shoot will be.

But first lets start with the Hollywood Method where you don’t BACK-INTO-IT.

Permit me.


Let’s “make it perfect”.

On paper, and in theory, it always sounds good to say “if it ain’t done right (aka: perfect) it ain’t worth doin'”.

This is excellent theory taught at those 4-year $200,000 Film Program (NYU, USC, UCLA, etc.) institutions.

MovieMoney-1    MovieMoney-1

However, is this realistic,


You are not, for your first feature film, going to be a Hollywood financed shoot.

You are not a $20-$30 Million Budget. You are not a $100-$200 Million special effects laden feature.

So stop learning  how Hollywood is budgeting, scheduling and making movies for that information is not applicable to you for your first and likely even second feature film.

Here’s Hollywood:

“THE LONE RANGER” (Johnny Depp) a Disney alleged $250 Million feature just wrapped and stating it was a 140-150 Day Shoot. Damn?! That’s 5-6 months of shooting day-in and day-out with a schedule of about Half-a-Page/Day.

“DJANGO UNCHAINED”, Tarantino’s film was a 130 Day Shoot.

130 days. Damn?

But then being the genius he is, with the amazing gift of dialogue, and a superb businessman… he then executed “Hateful Eight” (actually a true independent concept of 8 people in one-room…) which I’m sure was not 130 Days.

Writing-7   Writing-7 (Tarantino, the master independent filmmaker, plans his next shoot as either a dialogue oriented independent concept or a global studio Hollywood project)

“FURY ROAD”, the prequel to Mad Max, now up for an Oscar or two, with George Miller direction, was a 180 Day Shoot.

Huh? 180-days?

150 Days, 130 Days, 180 Days?

Now lets chit-chat…

“JAWS”, a big-budget Steven Spielberg shoot loaded with problems was supposedly a 116 Day Shoot.

“RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK”, another Hollywood Spielberg shoot, but after he had practice with “JAWS”, was an only 75 Day Shoot.

That’s sort-of 3 months and making a little bit of sense.

“LORD OF THE RINGS: TRILOGY”, yes all 3 flix, directed concurrently by Peter Jackson was a 275 Day Shoot but they, the studio said “it included Pick-Ups”

“EYES WIDE SHUT”, a Stanley Kubrick Non-Master Masterpiece, with Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman, according to Guiness Book of Records was the longest shoot ending at an astounding 400 Days.

400 Days?

How long did it take to create/produce Earth & Man… And on the seventh day he rested.

115 Days, 130 Days, 180 Days, 275 Days, 400 Days… This is Hollywood.

These are those movies that someday you are hoping to make… and make better… but these extended shoots are going to be your 5th or 6th Feature Films…

How do you get to your 5th or 6th Feature Film?

You make your 4th Feature Film.

How do you get to your 4th Feature Film?

You make your 3rd Feature Film.

How do you get to your 3rd Feature Film?

“Are you getting the point?”

You make your 2nd Feature Film.

How do you make your 2nd Feature Film?

You make your 1st Feature Film.

“I think you have the point” … “Start at the Bottom”… “Start not Hollywood, but Independent, with a No-Budget or Micro-Budget Feature Film…. and budget & schedule for a 1-weekend, to a 1-week, to at the absolute most, a 3-week (18 Day) shoot.


DovSimens Film School   DovSimens Film School   DovSimens Film School (My 3 affordable programs… the “LIVE” (April 23-24, September 17-18 or December 10-11), “DVD” or “STREAMING” Film Schools solely focus on the business of making & selling your 1st Independent Feature) 

Now, let’s GET REAL.

How, long is your shoot?

Back to “How long is your shoot”… for your 1st feature film going to be?

The answer is simple.

First, ask yourself “How much money will you have”.

Do not lie. No ego allowed here. be realistic. Please.

And being realistic you will very likely have 4 choices based off of “How much money you will have”.

1ST: NO-BUDGET: 1-Day Shoot (1-Weekend)

2ND: MICRO-BUDGET: 1-Week Shoot (9-10 Shooting Days)

3RD: ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET: 2-Week Shoot (13 Shooting Days)

4TH: LOW-BUDGET: 3-Week Shoot (18 Shooting Days)

Now, which one of the above four are you gonna be?



Answer again comes from “How much money you will have”.

  1. YOU GOT $1K-$10K: Then you’re a Weekend Shoot, a 90-page script, with a Shooting Schedule of 1-Page (1 minute running time) every 20-30 minutes.
  2. YOU GOT $20K-$50K: Then you’re a 1-Week Shoot, renting 2 HD/Black Magic/DSLR cameras for 1 week but keeping them over 2 weekends, with a 9-10 Day Shoot and a Shooting Schedule, assuming 90 Page Script, of about 10 Pages/Day or 1-page in-the-can every hour.
  3. YOU GOT $50K-$150K: Then you’re a 2-Week Shoot, with possibly 2 Reds, a 90-Page Script, a 13 Day Shoot and a Shooting Schedule of 7 Pages/Day.
  4. YOU GOT $150K-$300K: Then you’re making what your publicist will call a “Just Under Million Dollar feature”, it is a 3-Week Shoot, with 18-Shooting days, a 90-Page Script and a Shooting Schedule of 5 Pages/Day.


Have you produced or directed a 1-week, 2-week or 3-week shoot?

If so please share (A) was it Hollywood financed or was it (B) Independent financed… and if so, then share how you approached the movie’s schedule.

Please share.

MovieMoney-1   DovSimensFilmSchool    MovieMoney-1

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4 comments on “INDEPENDENT vs HOLLYWOOD (The Budget & Schedule Secret… Shhh)”

  1. Travis ivey says:

    Daily Variety says they don’t post more than 5 movies in the production chart. How do we let the studios know we exist now in the proper manner since i am still assuming they are looking for us?

    Thanks Dov!


  2. joe sixpak says:

    if a page is about a minute of film

    please elaborate and explain how and why it takes
    20x – 150x as long to get a minute recorded

    any guidelines for planning , preparation, set up, retakes, rehearsing, break down, moving, or other overhead , yada yada
    that eats up productive time actually getting the scenes recorded

  3. As always…spot on Dov. Thanks.

  4. Amos says:

    Travis, they say they’re looking for talent but what they’re really looking for is “big-name already-famous-talent.” I have many great ideas for for mega budget movies, including 5 published full length novels but like Dov says, have to somewhere. I’m working on my 1st feature right now. I believe after this I’ll be considered worthy to be called Talent and hopefully get $20m in financing for my next project, then $200m after that, and so on. That’s the dream.

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