MOVIE BUDGETS LIE (So What’s Your Budget? $1M, $2M, $2-3M, $3-5M, $10-12M, $15-20M, $50-70M…?)


Let’s talk budgets. Movie Budgets and how they so clearly demonstrate that “Hollywood Lies”.

PS: Hollywood doesn’t lie… It markets… It markets by telling budgets… Now welcome to Hollywood.

The Million Dollar Feature Film? The $2-3 Million Feature? The $20 Million Budget? The $50 Million Studio Feature? The $200 Million Mega-Budget Franchise? Budget amounts are all over the place and first-timers need to know “what does it really cost” to make a quality movie?

AUTHOR’S NOTE (1): This article is totally based on my experiences as a Production Manager and Line Producer in the mid-80s on 3-week shoot features, that were never distributed theatrically but sold Foreign and released vhs USA/Canada. All were marketed as $1 Million Budgets… However, during prep and the shoot I never had access to more than $180K to get it in-the-can (35mm film format, 6:1 shooting ratio), with $50K for post… …To me $180K & $50K adds up to $230K, somewhere between $200-$300K, but the films were sold as $1 Million Budgets… Huh?

AUTHOR’S NOTE (2): But being a quick learner I realized, that $1 Million Feature Films are physically made for $200-$300K but marketed as $1,000K… Welcome to Hollywood.

AUTHOR’S NOTE (3): I then realized that $1-2 Million Feature Films were made for $300-$500K; and $2-3 Million Features were made for $500-$700K; Got $1 Million in cash and you’re making a $3-5 Million Feature; Got $2 Million in cash and you’re making a $7-10 Million Feature… Welcome to Hollywood.

“Welcome to Hollywood… And when it comes to budgets… Learn to lie.”

I don’t get it…Why is everyone in Hollywood struck with “verbal diarrhea” and desirous of telling everyone their budget? Why? Isn’t someone’s budget very personal information and should be private business?

Yet, everybody wants to know, when planning, “What’s the budget of your movie” and on the other side of the coin, when promoting, everyone wants to say “My budget is…”

Huh? Why? Again, what’s this budget obsession?


 (“What our movie costs is none of your fr*ckin’ business”)

Have you ever noticed that “Hollywood” (aka: Distributors, Producers & Agents) is the only industry, in-the-world, that actually tells consumers what their product costs to make before they sell it to them.

Hmm? Very interesting. Think about that.

Can you name me another industry where a manufacturer actually tells consumers what it costs to make their product?

Go ahead name me one or two… bet you can’t.

I can actually come up with one,, the Vegas Hotel/Casino world), also an industry dependent upon marketing and creating an image.

Other than Vegas and Billion Dollar Hotels… Hollywood is pretty much the only industry in-the-world where manufacturers (distributors-producers-directors) actually tells the consumer/viewer what it costs to make their products.


The budget for “Titanic” or “Avatar” is……

The budget for Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts next movie is…………

The budget for “Hangover VI-The 3D Musical” is…….

Then you hear numbers like $200 Million, $100 Million, $20-$30 Million, $15-$20 Million, $12-$15 Million, $10-$12 Million, $7-$10 Million, $5-$7 Million, $3-$5 Million, $2-$3 Million, etc.


 (“What our movie costs is none of your fr*ckin’ business”)


POINT OF INFO: Do you actually believe these numbers are actually real. And if you answer “Yes” then you are kind-of dumb!

HERE’S THE BOTTOM-LINE: From a distributors Point of View, the money spent (aka: budget) to make the film (taught in film school as the “negative cost”), is NONE OF YOUR FRICKIN’ BUSINESS. However, since you are rude enough to ask and naïve enough to think the answer you are about to get is actually the truth then distributors learned to manipulate you and give you a number that is inflated 600-800%.

Duh! Bottom-line is “They are marketing”.

“AVATAR” was expensive but $200-$300 Million.

Give-me-a-break. No way Jose. Who was in it? And don’t dazzle me with this crap about how expensive special effects are. Have you ever hired a “geek”? How much do you want to pay a “geek”?

$1,000/week? Wanna pay $2,000/week?

Now hire 50 of them. Do the math. Compute what these 50 “geeks”, who are very talented at their crafts, are grand total getting paid/year. Add on management. Add on cloud costs. Add on. Add on.

And with all the “Add ons”, plus Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Sam Worthington, Laz Alonso & Zoe Saldana salaries added on, this will still not come close to the reported “TITANIC” or “AVATAR” budget of $200,000,000.

Hollywood lies and Lie # 1, the biggest lie is, “The Budget is…”

Always remember that whatever budget you read about, with respect to a movie, is actually a press release with a marketing concept to create a perceived value to help the Distributor and Producer make more people buy tickets, and simultaneously enhance the back end sales or deals or licenses to Pay-Cable Networks, Basic Cable Deal;s, TV Licenses, Book Rights, Foreign Sales, Product Placement Deals, etc…


Always remember “Hollywood is a marketing industry not a filmmaking industry”. Hollywood creates events every week. And Hollywood realizes that the higher the budget you think-it-is the more incentive-you-have to leave your house and give them $12-$15 at the theater.

So they inflate, inflate, inflate… they market and some people call marketing…lying.

Welcome to Hollywood


 “Hello, I’m from the IRS (Independent Revenue Studio) and I’m calling to see what you really paid to rent a camera, or hire a grip or a buy a prop.”

My general rule for discovering the real budget (aka: the negative cost) for any Hollywood movie is to take the number (dollar amount) they give is…

… (A) Move the decimal point one place to the left… Then (B) cut that number in half and you now have not the inflated marketing budget but the actual negative cost.

Thus, a $10,000,000 budget becomes… $1,000,000…. becomes… $500,000.

And for $500,000, in cash, you can do a 4 week shoot, with two Reds, starring two TV Names, paying each $50,000-$100,000 to get an Opening Title Credit on a movie that is going to be in Sundance.


… (B) Cut the budget in half and move the decimal one place to the left or multiply by 10%.

Thus, a $10,000,000 budget becomes… $5,000,000… becomes… $500,000.

Always remember, every movie has two budgets, the bulls**t one that is used for marketing and the actual physical cost, the true one, that it takes to make a movie. which is what is taught at my film school.


Dov Simens / Film Instructor


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16 comments on “MOVIE BUDGETS LIE (So What’s Your Budget? $1M, $2M, $2-3M, $3-5M, $10-12M, $15-20M, $50-70M…?)”

  1. Dov always have wonderful things to say.

  2. ed oliver says:

    good point but geeks will likely get more like 300-4000 a week
    maybe more in tinseltown

    its all supply and demand and right now geeks are relatively scarce who have the experience and ability to deliver

    1. ed oliver says:

      that was a typo

      3000 – 4000 not 300

  3. Michael Faunce-Brown says:

    My 82 minute teen action film “Fight Back” cost me £6,000. 16 locations, 20 actors. It was on Netflix and is now on Amazon. Send me $20 and I’ll tell you how I did it.

    1. Ha! It’s a great show. Congratulations!

    2. Dharamneel says:

      Hi Michael,
      can you help me to create my movie on that budget
      glims is in my profile page

      Thanks for appreciate in advance

  4. Dov S-S Simens is RIGHT ON!
    2 of the 3 most profitable features ever made WERE MADE IN MY CIRCLE. I never took a penny from the hundreds of millions each grossed and neither did my cousin from the Bronx; he signed a bad contract. Make sure you know the law.
    – Contact me to learn about and SEE the unbelievable $200 feature movie made in 2 days with 2 actors that was submitted to 14 film festivals and won 11 awards and made BIG MONEY. No longer on Netflix or Amazon and DVDs are almost impossible to find. The secret is INCREDIBLE!

  5. Got a great project. We FUND FEATURES ( and serialized video shows. .

  6. Brenda Charles says:

    Dov, can you help me? I’m making a video for a non-profit. and they want me to come up with a list of production equipment I’ll need to do the production and post-production. I’m new to the business, and I’m not sure what the best equipment is or the best prices. Could you give me a list of the necessary best equipment for a shoot for a new beginner, for a non-profit? The Director of the non-profit does not want a box-looking camera.

  7. Vaijayanti Pathak says:

    That is why it is called ” Show- Business”. It is not about what you are or what you have but what you
    ” SHOW”. People are very ready to get impressed with what is ” SHOWN” to them. Never mind the Reality. The reality is the Common Man lives a very uninteresting and unimpressive daily life. So he seeks Extended Glory by being able to say that he has watched a $200,,00,000 film. It’s a vanity hallucination. That is why the Film fraternity gets away with the Con.

  8. Muh says:

    So this is based on some jerkoff’s experience working on cheap garbage movies from the 80s? Way to stay current.

    1. Hollywood Implodes says:

      Hmm. Kinda sums up most of the Hollywood fare we see released today. Bland. Unrelatable characters. Awash in formula. Doesn’t matter how many zeros follow the budget. YouTube anyone?

  9. Batman says:

    Supporting cast and production crew. Insurance, location fees, sets, equipment, film, props, costumes, vehicles, labor, food, post production crew, special effects department, original music $$ or buy licensed music $$$ etc. etc.

  10. Movieholic says:

    50 geeks for vfx movie?
    you are kidding me, that’s not even enough for one little department. Big VFX movie hires thousands of artists working on it. I don’t feel so dumb believing Hollywood budget, but I feel stupid after reading your article.

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