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7 Sneaky Expenses to Look Out for if You Are Shooting a Film on a Budget
Knowing your numbers is essential if you are shooting a budget film but there are some sneaky expenses that might creep up before you know it. Find out what you need to look out.

How much is your budget for shooting a film?

Studies show that the average cost to shoot a film is about $65 million. That doesn’t even count marketing and distribution. That could add around $35 million, totaling up to $100 million.

Even a low budget film has a maximum budget of $2.1 million. When shooting a film, you can’t afford to waste money and resources. You may already know the big factors to take out of your budget.

However, are you aware of the hidden costs in making a budget film? In this article, we show you some factors to consider in your budget when shooting a film. Read on to discover more if you’re shooting a film on a budget.

1. Music

Music is one of the final elements of shooting a film, usually added post-production—total expenses for music surprise many first-time producers. Getting the rights for even a single music track is often the most expensive.

Any form of music needs to get cleared before you can use it in your film. This could range from non-diegetic music to radio music, to a few seconds of an actor humming. You may need to hire an attorney or a music Supervisor.

If you want to avoid copyright strikes for music, consider getting a composer. Have them create all the music in your film.

2. Animals

When you factor in time and money, animal actors are expensive. Animals won’t often do what you need them to on the first take. Transporting animals in and out of your set alone can be costly.

If you have a well-trained animal on set, they can be more expensive. You may need to pay for the Animal Rental, the trainer or wrangler, and food and transportation. In one day of filming, you can spend over $2,500 on a single animal.

Hiring an AHA Site Rep to monitor your filming will cost about $500 a day. If you want to cut down your costs, consider if you can cut them out without ruining the scene.

3. Child Actors

Shooting a budget film with child actors are expensive for the same reason animals are. Child actors will not always perform as fast as your adult actors. Depending on the age of the minors on your set, it can cost you more time.

You may also only have a limited amount of time to shoot with a minor on your set. Many child actors have a limited time in which they can work. If you have 12 hours of work needed, expect that you won’t complete it in a day.

You may need to break up your filming into two to three days. You may need to add another day if things don’t go according to plan. In some states, you may need to hire a Studio Teacher to accompany your child actor.

4. Locations

The location alone should not cost you too much. You can shoot at ten locations once a day per location or at one location for ten days. Either way, it won’t have any direct impacts on your budget.

However, more locations can take up more time. Company moves and load-ins and load-outs can take 1 to 3 hours. If you’re shooting at one location for a few days, you can do walk-aways.

Shooting at more locations will cost you more time, which makes an indirect impact on your budget. If you want to cut costs, check if you can combine scenes in one location.

5. Background Actors

The cost of background man-days may surprise you. A man-day pertains to manpower times the number of days. If you have two extras over the course of three days, that’s equal to six man-days.

Background actors should get paid at least minimum wage. Hiring 200 background actors for 8 hours will already cost you around $16,800. This doesn’t include fringer, overtime, or meal penalties.

Even low budget films spend around $18 thousand to $30 thousand on man-days. Consider if you can cheat your scenes by using less background. Note how many backgrounds or large events like a bar or party scenes you may have in your film.

6. Driving Scenes

Closing down a road for shooting a scene can be costly. You may also need to ask for police assistance, which can add to your costs. You may also need a Camera Car and a Process Trailer if you want to shoot a scene from the side or front of a car.

Some scenes may not require you to shut down the road. Still, you will need police officers to assist you while you film. A single driving scene can cost you around $10,000. Aside from the camera car and process trailer, this will also include the officers and driver.

It will also cover your motorcycle fees and permits. You may need to close a road if you have actors crossing an active street. You need to be considerate of their time and traffic control needed to shoot the scene.

7. Day Players

Day players or supporting roles can cost about the same amount as extras. It can be easy to underestimate the number of day players you need in a single script. If you’re shooting a low budget film, avoid writing in day players and keep it at 3-4 actors.

If you have more the 30 speaking roles in your script, consider cutting them down. See if you can combine or eliminate day players who only have one to two lines.

With a SAG-AFTRA signatory, you may spend over $630 for each performer in a day. You may also need to add in the 10% SAG scale. This still doesn’t include any meal penalties and overtime.

Shoot Your Budget Film With These Expenses In Mind

When shooting a budget film, you need to keep track of all your costs. Factors like location and background actors can be easy to underestimate. Use this as a guide for planning out your budget.

What else can creep up? Let us know in comments below!

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