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What Size Budget Independent Film Production Should I Aim for?

Filmmaking.

When deciding to start a film project it is difficult to decide the size of the production you want to make. There are certain merits for each a low, medium or high budget production. I’ll discuss each in the hope it will give a budding producer some idea which way to jump when starting out in the film business.
Low budget films can be very successful and very profitable. It is also good for learning the ropes without losing your investors a fortune. Low budget productions are usually more laid back. Actors and crew are often willing to participate in your production without upfront payments and are happy to take their rewards in profits when the film is in distribution.
This will allow you to keep the budget very low and also as a side effect will help you avoid union interference, rates and fees.  Also because the budget is very low you might be able to escape a guarantee bond which is very expensive and will add more constraints on the production. The downside to a low production is it will be almost impossible to get distribution before the film is completed and it may be necessary to have enough funds in hand to do one or two of the film festivals to attract distributors.
Medium size budget films may be able to attract distribution prior to filming and therefore be in a position to pre-sale some territories to assist in finding the final budget. A well known actor will probably be a member of a union like Equity and therefore as a producer you will be subject to their rules on filming. You may need to accept a ‘play or pay’ agreement before the actor will sign contracts.  In addition you will almost certainly require a guarantee bond and you will need to factor this expense into the budget. Be careful when taking on crew as the bonder will need to vet and approve your head of departments so make sure they have worked on bonded films before.
In the present economic climate it will be very difficult for an independent filmmaker to find funding for a high budget production and this is best left for the studios who are also finding funding tough at this time. However, if you have a solid package with a good international talent it may be possible to sell the entire production to a studio and take a one off fee.

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