Tips to Maximize Your Microbudget

Posted on: May 18, 2023

A camera operator wearing glasses and a warm jacket filming outside on a cold, sunny day.Photo Credit: Chris Murray / Unsplash

By B.P. Edwards

Finding the money to bring a project to life can feel ever-elusive, but it’s a necessary component of the filmmaking process. Whether your budget includes one zero or many, incorporating best practices to make sure your project stays within expenditure goals is important. Once you have your budget, you’ll need to ensure that every dollar is being maximized, and that’s where this blog post comes in.

Here are some tips for staying under-budget and handling your money with confidence—from pre-production through to post-production.

Ask Around for Support

Sometimes asking for a little support from a local business or equipment rental house can relieve a huge burden off of your microbudget. For example, I’ve had producers ask their local coffee shop for use of their outside seating for a few hours to film a short scene, and the coffee shop agreed on the condition that they receive a thank-you in the credits. The filmmaking process is one that many people are excited to be a part of. Lean on your community, but be respectful when taking up space as well. Always thank your donors, and it’s a nice idea to invite the business to your showing once the project is done.

Be Realistic

There’s nothing wrong with dialing back an idea in order to make your vision a reality. I can understand the desire to bring this AAA title to life in the proper way, but sometimes being realistic with your available resources will shape the what, when, and how your production can film.

I believe that doing something is better than doing nothing, and whatever it is that you do should be done with excellence. That serious dialogue scene might be the perfect scene to film on your microbudget, but that skydive might be a bit out of scope. Create attainable outcomes and select parts of your script that can be done within your budgetary restrictions.

Prepare a Spreadsheet

Regardless of the size of your budget, you should prepare a spreadsheet that provides your production team with an overview of what your budget will be spent on.

Your budget should show:

  • All the production’s line items
  • How much money is dedicated to each line item
  • What you actually spend on the line items

Whenever you make a purchase, subtract the number you spent from the overall budget and take heed if you’re overspending or underspending on your line items. You may spend significantly less on that lens rental or may have had a location donated, which re-rolls money back into the pool to be distributed into other parts of the budget.

Communicate with your production team on any and every expenditure, and don’t forget to keep your receipts.

Include a Contingency Fund

All good budgeting requires contingency. It’s good practice to overestimate the cost of production line items if you have reason to believe that there may be extra incurred costs should something go awry. That lens rental may have been significantly less than expected, but maybe your production team didn’t account for the Certificate of Insurance that’s required by the rental house in order to get the lenses out the door. At that moment, your contingency fund becomes the reason why your production did not go over budget. Keeping small pockets of money is a stitch in time that could save your production.

Raising Additional Funds

Once you have filmed your project, it’s time to get organized. Filming a scene from a much larger project gives you a proof of concept that you can share and utilize to garner additional financial support and donations.

Some ideas about how to raise awareness of your project to gain additional funds include:

  • Create a website
  • Prepare a pitch deck
  • Write a solicitation letter
  • Develop a social media campaign
  • Host a donation drive
  • Host a private screening

These are all ways that allow others to see what your team is capable of on a microbudget, and may produce lucrative results.

 When it comes to money, use what you have, and focus on what you can realistically do with your budget. Just because you’re working on a microbudget doesn’t mean that your project won’t get made. With these tips, some preparation, and clever, organized promotion, you’ll find there are plenty of filmmakers that are actively seeking to prove their mettle in production, and a lot of willing volunteers who, like you, want to see your story come to life.

Happy filmmaking, friends!

About the Author: B.P. Edwards is a Director, Cinematographer and Camera Operator from Pasadena, CA. Since picking up the camera in 2015, he has worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from feature-length and short films to commercials, music videos and documentaries. In 2022, he was inducted into the Society of Camera Operators as an Associate Member and has since continued to hone his talents in working above and below the line. He is a proud graduate of Langston University, and the owner of the production company, BEARVISION.

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