June 20, 2019

Here's How to Produce, Prepare, and Budget Your Next Big Project [Video]

Do you have what it takes to budget and prep like a real Hollywood producer?

Producing projects like films and music videos is an extremely tough job that involves looking at every expense and pinching pennies where you can. You have to consider every stage of a production, understanding what might choices might be the most or least costly.

In this video, producer Moses Israel Guerrero sits down with Indy Mogul and works his way through mock-producing three different music videos at $500, $5,000, and $20,000 budgets. He gives in-depth explanations for all of his choices and offers some great insights on what you can do cheaply, and what you absolutely shouldn't skimp on.

Watch the video below.

Producing a $500 music video

They start with Tessa Violet's "Crush" video, which is shot in a grocery store and has a super easy, indie look.

Guerrero notices that there are only a few cast members aside from the artist. In addition, the video was likely shot with mostly natural light, and potentially all on a handheld camera.

He comments that the artist probably called in some favors to secure the location, the five- to six-person crew, and the cast. He estimates that they probably did a one-day shoot in less than six hours. Bathrooms and parking are available at the supermarket location, so big logistics are taken care of.

The crew probably consisted of:

  • Director of photography
  • 1st assistant camera
  • Director
  • Art director and art department assistant
  • Producer
  • Makeup and wardrobe
  • Grip and electrician
  • Production assistant

The bulk of the $500 budget probably goes toward craft services and post-production, with a little wiggle room for camera rentals if necessary.

Guerrero says the first step of this shoot would be to location scout and get a good idea of how you would set up. Then it's a matter of locking the budget, your crew, and the schedule.

Producing a $5,000 music video

The next video they look at is Wallows' "These Days," a much more involved project.

Within the first few seconds, a lift, an animal, and stunts are all involved. It looks expensive -- and Guerrero estimates the video's actual budget was somewhere around $20,000.

With a larger number of actors and dancers, you have to have casting, which means pre-production costs.

Guerrero estimates a 20- to 30-person crew. However, with the location being a house, bathrooms and parking are again taken care of.

He says he would approach this project first as a matter of locking the location, finding the necessary lift, and getting through casting. At least 10% of the budget will immediately go to the various department heads, with initial crew costs totaling around $3,500.

Then you have things like props, set decoration, as well as camera and lighting rentals. This end of the project can also add up very quickly, but Guerrero suggests using ShareGrid rentals. He claims you can find an Arri Alexa package for just $400 this way. (Unfortunately, these rentals are only available in select cities.)

After that, don't forget things like transportation (you'll probably need a van) and tables and chairs for the cast and crew.

Once he has reached a rough total, Guerrero trims down the budget by combining crew positions, scaling down the rental packages, lowering the rates for department heads, and finding a free location.

He points out, however, that you should never skimp on crafty. Treat your crew as best as you can, even if you have to pay them a little less. Send them home with extra food, too.

They managed to get this project's budget down to just over $4,000.

Producing a $20,000 music video

Finally, they looked at Shawn Mendes' "If I Can't Have You."

This one involves more elaborate lighting setups, complex camera moves, and a choir. Guerrero says some of these shots were likely accomplished with a Technocrane, which has a telescoping arm and requires two operators. The actual estimated budget for the video is closer to $70,000.

As a first step, Guerrero says he would pursue sponsorship whenever possible. He points out the Steinway piano and says he would try to partner with that company, which would get him a piano and an extra $5,000.

Initially, Guerrero budgets the larger crew at about $8,000, a number than includes both Technocrane operators at a fixed rate. The rental of a soundstage for a day would be about $3,000. Post-production costs would come to about $1,500.

Props include a couch, instruments, a bed, bed linens, a backdrop, microphones, and workout gear. Guerrero suggests that it's better to pay production crew an extra day to make returns on gently used props than it is to buy props and keep them. The art department will also need transportation for all these props to and from set.

Guerrero lands at about $20,000 in the end, but urges producers to set aside 10 to 15% of budgets for emergencies, so he would cut back to land at $19,000. He also says he would go to Mendes' label and ask for merchandise that he could then give the crew to thank them for their time.

What's next? Learn even more about budgeting for your next project

We've got tips on micro-budgeting your first feature, shooting a feature for less than $7,000, and lessons on DIY filmmaking from Robert Rodriguez    

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1 Comment

"Guerrero estimates a 20- to 30-person crew. However, with the location being a house, bathrooms and parking are again taken care of."

oof... I don't know how often Guerrero has to deal with bathrooms, but even with a 7-10 person crew only having 1-2 bathrooms becomes a big ordeal, especially when the talent is on set.

June 20, 2019 at 12:15PM, Edited June 20, 12:15PM

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Kyle Dockum
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