How to Stick to a Production Budget

Aug 28, 2019

Video production is expensive.

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Video production is expensive. There’s no way around it. When factoring in all of the needed elements – equipment, labor, travel, permitting fees, etc. – costs can add up quickly. But clients don’t have endless funds or blank checks. Every project has a production budget that must be adhered to.

Managing a production project is a constant balancing act. You have to give the client what they need, and not spend more than they have to spend.

Here are some tips on how to keep your production budget in check.

Refine your equipment package

Depending on the scope of the production, your technical equipment can make up a big chunk of your total budget. production budget

If money is tight, and you find yourself over budget, you may need to refine your equipment package.

This can be challenging. You don’t want to jeopardize the outcome of the project by cutting equipment that you ultimately need. The key is to categorize your equipment as “necessity” or “luxury”.

If a specific piece of equipment is essential to the outcome of the project, then obviously it can’t be removed. But anything that was added to your budget as a “nice to have” line item, should be reevaluated and potentially cut or trimmed.

For example, you may have planned to shoot with 4 cameras for added coverage when you can technically capture everything you need with 3 cameras. Cutting a single camera can trim your equipment costs AND impact your labor – this is one less camera operator that you now need to book.

If you’re renting the client equipment that you own, you may be willing to discount or tighten up your rates as a measure of goodwill. This keeps all of the tools in the toolbox but still impacts the overall budget.

It all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re willing to live without.

Minimizing travel can greatly impact your production budget

Travel costs can add up fast. Airfare, hotels, per diems, and ground transportation can add thousands of dollars to a production budget.

There’s always a core team that’s needed for a specific project. And depending on the location, it’s inevitable that some crew members may have to travel. But if you find yourself in a budget pinch, take a close look at your travel dollars.

Are there any crew positions that you can book locally?

Is there anyone traveling who is not essential to the production? Or perhaps someone who can work on the project remotely (instead of traveling on-location)?

Cutting travel for just one person can shave hundreds of dollars off your total budget.

Sometimes travel is unavoidable but keeping it to a minimum will help keep your travel expenses lean.

Optimize your production schedule

When it comes time to dial in your shoot logistics, your schedule can actually impact your production budget.

Make sure you optimize your schedule as much as possible while still giving yourself a realistic timeframe to complete the project.

Try to avoid any OT if at all possible. This can mean staggering your call times or releasing certain positions earlier than others to avoid overtime.

If you have the benefit of an ESU, evaluate who you need to help with your setup. You likely won’t need your entire crew, or you may be able to book certain roles for a ½-day.

Prioritize what you need to make the project a success, but take a close look at your schedule to make sure you’re not clocking any unneeded hours.

Find a production-friendly venue

Your venue can have a big impact on your production budget. production budget

If your location doesn’t have much infrastructure – like power, lighting, or staging – then these are elements that need to be provided, thus inflating your production budget.

By finding a venue that’s production-friendly, you eliminate the need to bring in specific equipment.

Finding a venue with an existing lighting grid will save you on riggings costs.

Finding a venue with shore power means you may be able to eliminate a generator.

Sometimes your hands are tied when it comes to the shoot location, but finding a venue that’s already equipped to handle key components of your project can be a big cost saving.

If you’re looking for support for an upcoming production project, contact us anytime. We’re happy to help.

No Comments
  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2018-03-07 21:55:41

    We're glad you found this to be useful, Margaux. Let us know if there's anything we can help with.

  • Margaux Ford Reply
    2018-03-07 05:57:06

    I appreciate the tips on hiring a production staffing company to have more time to focus on the creative aspects of the project. Hiring a production crew is a tedious task, and can take up much of your time. We're currently working on a huge production, and I'll share this article with my boss so he'll consider on delegating the recruitment to a staffing company. I like that you mentioned that staffing company can ensure to have the right team onboard for the project. Thanks!

  • Robert McWilliams Reply
    2017-10-31 19:05:18

    Todd:I have an ad agency in addition to our production company. We put one of our clients on OTT two months ago up in Nevada. Seems to be working!Thanks again for the work earlier this month.Rob

  • Nicole Rohde Reply
    2017-05-27 22:28:45

    Hey Andrew, Any word as to whether or not the Jokers will be back for Comic Con this year? Please let me know. Thanks!!!

  • Aaron Estabrook Reply
    2017-02-23 16:26:57

    I'll be tuning in for sure!

  • David Patton Reply
    2015-01-16 13:16:02

    Interesting blog post Andrew. For those who are nearly ready to cut the cord, but still want access to key channels such as ESPN, I'd recommend checking out Dish Network's new service, Sling TV. It provides access to a handful of channels for $20/month.https://gigaom.com/2015/01/15/sling-tv-details-price-devices-networks-resolution-bandwidth/

  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2015-01-13 14:44:19

    Go for it! I'll admit that I was a little apprehensive about pulling the plug at first, but honestly, the transition away from DirecTV has been seamless. The only missing link is live sports, but there are a few work arounds depending on what sports you watch. Good luck!

  • Gregory Hart Reply
    2015-01-13 06:35:00

    While I am part of the 55 year old demographic that still has TV boxes and does TV viewing, I do my viewing using DVRs and networked PCs playing video files from an in-home server. I too have noticed that I view a handful of shows on a regular basis and have found various other sources for these shows. And now it has gotten to the point to where I am seriously considering ending my very long relationship with DirecTV and going streaming. Working in the TV industry also helped to open eyes to this as well. This transition from "old" TV is coming and the networks (Les Moonves, I am looking at you!) had better plan for it.

  • Gary Reply
    2013-08-08 09:44:39

    You've left out a HUGE part of this story by not mentioning Howard Stern's effect on the Sharknado buzz! #siris-ly

  • Marybeth Harrison Reply
    2013-08-07 14:46:29

    I can almost hear the theme song from Jaws as I read your post!