How Much Does It Cost To Make A Movie?

Out of all of the art forms, filmmaking is unique in the sense that it is almost impossible to cut corners. Though it is possible to make movies with small budgets, filmmaking is much different than an art form such as music where the constraints and equipment do not dictate whether or not the music receives mainstream exposure or not.

How much does it cost to make a movie? Movie budgets and profits change depending on the film in question, but can largely be anywhere from $1,100 to $412 million. Understanding which aspects of film production are essential is important for anyone looking to have an accurate estimate for their desired film’s budget.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down the necessary budget for many movies to show you just how complex movie budgets and profits are. Whether you’re a film buff or an amateur filmmaker who wants to get their start, we’ll be giving you an independent film budget breakdown that will allow you to make the right decisions when making a budget for your movie.

What is the Average Budget for a Film?

Before we begin our article, it’s important to highlight that the average budget for a film is approximately between $100,000 and $350,000. Though this doesn’t mean that all movies have to be made on similar budgets, it gives you a good idea of the average for films that are showing at major film festivals such as Berlin, Cannes, and AFM.

What Aspects of a Film Affect the Budget?

The significant chunk actually goes into production. Production has three phases. – Pre, Shooting, and Post phase. 


It is usually the development of the film right from conception, the planning and budgeting till the finalization of locations, crew, equipment and other costs involving the movie till you go on the floors.



The first thing you need to worry about when budgeting for an independent film is the camera. Without a proper camera, you can’t make the film, so it’s important to make sure that you not only have one that you can use for the duration of the film but understand how it works too. To figure out which movie camera is right for you, we recommend that you do a good deal of research before committing to a specific product.

That being said, you don’t necessarily need to purchase an expensive camera to shoot an indie film—movies such as Tangerine have shown that it’s possible to not only shoot movies using iPhone technology, but that it is incredibly cost-effective and can be easily mistaken for a more traditional setup. This is why doing your research is the most essential part of the camera finding process.

By knowing exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to make a decision that’s right for you and potentially save a lot of money as well. Because truly professional cameras can typically be thousands of dollars, you should also be aware of the different types of store return policies and discounts that can seriously reduce the budget of an independent film.


Of course, shooting the film itself isn’t just about having a camera. To make sure the film is audible, you need to make sure that you also have proper sound equipment.

Actors And Crew

After you have all of your equipment organized, it’s essential to figure out how you’re going to pay the actors. Though in independent film actors are content with getting smaller wages that are proportional to the budget of a film, you still need to be comfortable paying them at least a little bit more than minimum wage. It’s also very likely that you’ll have a crew hanging around during the shooting process, so you’ll also need to pay them.


The costs of shooting involve everything that is paid on a daily basis, right from location, set decorations, costumes, and makeup, lighting, rigs, etc. They eat the larger piece of the cake in this phase.

To ensure that everybody is motivated to continue working during the shoot, you should consider providing food and other amenities. If you don’t do this, the food that the actors need will come out of their paycheck, something that might create more tension in the long run. It’s important to note that the amenities should also include first aid if something terrible happens while on the shoot itself.


After you’ve begun to budget for all of those who will actually be working on the film, you need to consider where and when you’ll film it. It is probably the easiest part of the shooting process to figure out. Many independent films are often shot in locations that don’t require much money or planning to do effectively. 

For example, KevinSmith’s movie Clerks was shot for free at stores he worked at. They were also able to shoot the film outside of operating hours, giving them between 11PM and 6AM to work. This is an intimidating itinerary for those who value normal sleep schedules, but it is often better than having to add thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars to your shooting budget.

If you don’t necessarily know where to shoot your film, perhaps there are people you know who might be able to offer a space for free or a vastly reduced price. Often the connections we make are gateways to new opportunities, so don’t discount your network! However, in a pinch, it’s also good to not forget that public spaces are often wonderful places to work on a film. Public spaces also make it possible for you not to have to find your lighting setup, as you can utilize natural lighting depending on what time of day you’re shooting.

Post Production: 

The post is all about getting the film together. It involves editing, sound, studio bookings, visual effects, printing-related costs. The significant chunk here is eaten by editing and sound. 


Once you have all of your desired equipment for the film, you’ll need to make sure you can edit it. If you’re confident of your editing skills, you can take your hand at directing and editing, but you will want to have a friend or confidant who can offer second opinions throughout the production process. 

It is prevalent in independent film for one person to write, direct and edit the movie, so don’t be afraid to give that a shot to save money. To edit, though, you also need film editing software. If you want an estimate of how much that costs, Final Cut Pro X is a well-known video editing software that costs $299.99 for a full license. If you’re a student, though, there might be discounts available depending on which program you want to use.

VFX & Animation

Nowadays, VFX ( visual effects) and animation also demand steep costs in making of a movie. But, independent filmmakers mostly borrow time over money and try to do it by themselves. They use Adobe After effects and free 3D software like Blender to save on big bucks.

Music & Sound Design

So, Audio in the post hasmany functions. Firstly, it is the music and then the whole sound design. Itcomprises of sound editing, background track design, foley sounds, and dubbing.

How Do You Get Money for a Film?

Let’s face it—films are expensive. Although you know what exactly you need to make your ideal film, it’s understandable that you still have many questions about how you’re actually going to get the money to make it. Though there are some filmmakers who have been known to either self-fund their films or max out multiple credit cards to do so, you might also want to consider getting your film’s funding through patrons and investors. 

The latter type of fundraising would mean that you have to return some type of investment once the movie begins making profits, so we only recommend that method if you are absolutely certain that your movie is profitable or that you know it will be shown at some prestigious festivals.

Another great option to raise money for a film is to have some fundraiser, whether that be a physical event or an online one. For example, crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Gofundme have become immensely popular in recent years for funding a number of art projects and are perfect for filmmakers looking to get their start. If your film also talks about some social issue (i.e. environmental conservation) or other type charity-related topics, you can also look into partnering with local activist organizations to fund the film.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the cheapest movie ever made?

My Date with Drew was a documentary film from 2004 that only cost $1,100 to make! Despite this incredibly small price, the film profited over $262,770 at the box office.

What is the most expensive movie ever made?

As one of the most notoriously expensive film sagas to ever be made, Pirates of the Caribbean movies are well-known for having some seriously expensive budgets. However, none were as costly as Pirates of the Caribbean: on stranger Tides, a film that cost $412 million to make.

In Conclusion

It’s no secret that budgeting for a film is tricky. As a complicated art form that necessitates a substantial investment of money, properly making a successful movie requires a lot of knowledge and preparation. This is why we hope our independent film budget breakdown has been helpful so that the next time you want to make a movie, you know just where to begin!

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