7 Ways to Bring Your Film / TV Project in Under Budget

If you’re a producer, then you know how challenging it is to create excellent work without going over budget. Before you compromise on a creative concept in order to control costs, it pays to investigate some out-of-the-box strategies for elevating your project without breaking the bank.

Read on to learn our Top 7 Cost-Containment Strategies for bringing your production project in under budget.

1. Prioritize Previz

“Happy accidents” have their place in every production, but paying extraordinary attention to planning will always save you money in the end. The previsualization process includes photography, storyboards, animatics and shot lists. The more complex the execution, the more powerful the solution you’ll need. Fortunately, there are user-friendly tools and methodologies for making the Previz process as painless as possible—and some of them even have short learning curves. When your plan has a lot of moving parts, you might want to use a strip board—a low-tech, and rock-solid method that’s stood the test of time. If the project requires camera complexity, consider getting good at a program like SketchUp or working with someone who is.

2. Hold Out for Helpful People

Our Industry is the same as any other—some people are in it to serve you, some are in it to gouge you. In production, everyone is under pressure, and if a venue or vendor makes an already-stressful process feel unnecessarily adversarial, go with your gut. If your initial conversations feel more hostile than helpful, it’s not going to get better when you’re locked into a contract. Work with cooperative, sincere people who value long-term relationships, and when problems arise, they won’t let you down.

3. Use Stations on Stage to Save Crew Time

Crew hours are expensive. To maximize efficiency and come in under budget, don’t work sequentially—work simultaneously. We advise setting up multiple stations so lighting/rigging crews, grips, electricians, set carpenters, prop people and your art department can stay busy (instead of taking turns). If you’re locked into one set-up, you can’t chip away at your close-ups, which might require rigging or high speed lighting. Instead, consider building a few smaller ”setlets”, each considering the unique needs of the shots. This way, your crew can be working while you’re shooting the “main set”. You may have to invest extra in props, product or lighting, but by setting up stations, you can significantly save in crew costs.

4. Don’t Skip the Morning Kickoff

We can see why meetings get a bad rap. Everyone hates sitting through a meeting when an email would suffice. That said, holding a daily morning kickoff meeting is a key time (and money saver) on any shoot. On the surface, it gives you a chance to go over the day’s work, and to align everyone with your Vision. But there’s more to it than that. Morning Kickoff helps every department to understand their impact on each other’s work. In an interdependent workplace like a production set, this is a major opportunity that empowers everyone to fine-tune workflows, update plans based on current conditions, and maximize the efficient use of time and resources—all of which will impact your bottom line.

5. Consider Owning Production Tools

Here’s an easy trick for cutting production costs. First, review a year’s body of work, and look at your equipment rental costs. Then, if you keep renting the same things over and over, see if it makes sense to buy them. Some production tools require heavy maintenance, and some technologies evolve so quickly that investing in them doesn’t pay off. But, if you’re seeing cheap, durable tools you can buy and keep, you can save significant money on rental cost—plus the time and cost of equipment sourcing, tracking and transport.

6. Find a Turnkey Studio

In a similar vein to owning your own tools, you can also save a lot by sourcing a soundstage that can provide a chunk of your production needs. Sourcing and transporting every last table, chair and cooler a la carte is more than tedious—it’s labor intensive, time consuming and expensive, too. Economies of scale can save you a lot, when you work with a studio that can package a substantial amount of their onsite resources into your deal. And, we’ve never seen a single production that hasn’t needed some random thing at the last minute. A turnkey soundstage is likely to have what we call “emergency expendables” like tape or plexiglass—things that can hold up your production when you’re working in an empty warehouse environment.

7. Shoot on the Outskirts

If you are smart enough to consider shooting in Romania (off-shore), why not 20 minutes out of any city? It’s a smart move to consider other nearby options where overhead costs are lower. Consider the total cost savings when you take into account parking, catering and everything else that’s cheaper on the outskirts.