Independent Feature Film


Film budgets are long works of literature, laying out, in meticulous detail, every delicate aspect of a production. The following is a real budget from a real movie. The producers gave it to us on the agreement that it remain anonymous. Though the following is real and accurate, it’s condensed; the complete printout runs to more than eighty pages—relatively small by contemporary standards. The film’s $18 million budget is on the smaller side of a major production, too.

Every film budget is written in the same way, more or less, but each has its own quirks. The project detailed below had three writers and three executive producers; an ensemble cast of six leads; seventy-three sets and fifteen wagons. The budget is separated into three main sections: in pre-production, a script is written and actors are hired; in production, various craftsmen create a world in front of the camera or support the one behind it; in post-production, the raw footage is edited into a film, sound and effects are added, etc. There are many expensive detours along the way. Mathematically minded readers may notice that certain subsections have accumulative totals that are a dollar less or more than they should be. This is how they appear on the actual budget; these small discrepancies are likely the result of estimated costs being rounded up or down.

This marks the first installment of Creative Accounting, an ongoing series that will show where the money goes for all of the major creative industries. Future issues will cover book publishing, television, fine art, theater, and music. Eventually the series will be collected into a single, indispensable volume, published by Believer Books.

—Darren Franich

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

Darren Franich lives and writes in San Francisco.

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