Well-calculated is half the battle. In this article Filmpuls presents a calculation scheme for moving image productions and explains in part 2 of the article series on calculation for films and videos further important basics for budgeting for film and video.
A film budget is nothing more than a blueprint for the work to be produced later.
- A calculation scheme is no more and no less than a blueprint for a video or film.
- A distinction is made between internal calculation (only for the video production company) and external budget calculation. The latter will be disclosed to the customer or (in the case of feature films) to the funding agencies.
- A calculation is usually structured in several steps: cover sheet, overview, details, if necessary supplemented with written comments.
The film calculation as a secret of success
Professional film producers are of the opinion that, from their point of view, film costing is the most important basis for a successful cinema film, along with the script. Your reasoning: The calculation determines with which tools and with which team the filmmaker can work on his film for how long at each step. Viewed in this way, the budget defines and shapes every film in all decisive phases of production. For this you need a calculation scheme and you have to be able to read the video budget and understand it.
What cost movies? The equally important and banal observation that screenplay and calculation are the mother of a film’s success is not only true for great cinema films, but also for videos and any form of commissioned production with moving images and the create image film.
Also the premise, often quoted in Filmpuls, that a good film can only be made if three factors are present, namely expertise, talent and experience, is based on an underlying, reasonable budget and a clever calculation scheme.
Article series for the calculation of film and video
For the budgeting and calculation of film and video, there are 3 different steps in a calculation scheme, whereby steps 1 and 2 do not necessarily have to be carried out one after the other in chronological order:
- parameterisation (Article 1 of 3)
- budgeting and calculation (Article 2 of 3)
- location and post-calculation in the film budget (Article 3 of 3)
This second article in the Filmpuls series on calculation for film and video deals with calculation and shows with an example how a professional calculation scheme for cost accounting or for determining the sales price or target sales price can be set up.
The calculation scheme as a construction plan
If the calculation is understood as a construction plan for a film, the question of the level of detail of a film budget is easily answered. The more complicated the production and the longer the production process takes on the time axis, the more detailed the calculation scheme should map the production processes. This is the only way to make assumptions as precise as possible and to enable later budget control (more on this in part 3 of the series).
The level of detail itself has nothing to do with whether the budget is based on assumptions or on values already secured. Assumptions can be divided into two categories.
category 1 in the calculation scheme are assumptions based solely on experience. Category 2 includes assumptions that are supported by an offer from a third party (external service provider, for example a specialist in 3-D animation or a sound studio).
Assumptions of the category 2 can again be distinguished according to the type of bids. The binding offer of an external service provider is also based on assumptions (of the external service provider), but from the point of view of the requesting production company, it is associated with less risk than an indicative offer, which can be adjusted by the external provider at any time.
Internal and external calculations
However, a distinction must be made not only between (if possible) saved values and assumptions, but also in the calculation schema between internal and external calculations.
Internal calculations have the character of internal production working documents (also called “work budget”) and can change depending on the development of the project. In contrast, an external cost estimate (the “customer budget”) is static.
At the end of the negotiation with the client or (in the case of a cinema film with the financier) the client’s budget reflects the legally binding financial working basis.
How detailed must a calculation be?
There are no binding principles for the level of detail in the customer budget for a calculation schema. In general, the level of detail usually reflects the level of production risk borne by the film producer. If a binding lump sum for the production of a film or video has been agreed with the client, the client is usually less interested in details than if he/she shares the risk for the production in a cost-plus deal.
Example of a calculation schema
A costing sheet is usually structured on several levels. Usually includes a professional budget:
- Cover page
- Key data (if derivable from the film concept or already known). An example of key data can be found in the Filmpuls article on parameterization.
- Budget overview
- Detailed calculation
Further information on the differentiation of contribution margin, costs of action, profit and cost-plus in a calculation scheme can be found in the article: To understand costs, profit and markup correctly in the film budget
The detailed budget of a video cost estimate can be divided into different segments to increase readability. The following sample shows the preproduction phase:
|Calculation scheme: 1. PREPARATION OF ROTATION|
|1.1. Calculation scheme research and preparation|
|Coordination and planning||10.-||2 days||1 pers||20.-|
|Concept development||10.-||1 day||2 pers||20.-|
|Storyboard||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Shootingboard||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Presentation material||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|PPM booklet||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Couriers||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|1.2.calculation scheme Location Scouting|
|Location Scout Region 1||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Location Scout Region 1||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Car (incl. petrol)||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Meals||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Travel expenses||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Expenses||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|1.3. Calculation procedure Casting|
|Casting Organization||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Casting Agency||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|casting studio||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Live Casting||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Equipment||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Casting Director||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Editing Casting||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|editor casting||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Expenses Casting Agency||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Expenses Cast||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Casting organization abroad||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Casting studio abroad||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Casting director abroad||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Travel expenses casting abroad||10.-||1 day||1 pers||10.-|
|Subtotal calculation procedure:||140.-|
|Holiday pay/social benefits 2||1||v %||5 pers||10.-|
|Holiday pay 2||1||w %||5 pers||10.-|
|AHV/ALV 2||1||x %||5 pers||10.-|
|Industrial and non-occupational accident 2||1||y %||5 pers||10.-|
|Family compensation fund 2||1||z %||2 pers||10.-|
|TOTAL 1 – PREPARATION OF ROTATION 3||340.-|
This is a layout for a possible calculation schema. The scheme is intended as an example and makes no claim to be general or complete, and should be carefully adapted for your own needs. For further information please contact info(at)filmpuls.info
Source: C.P. Olsson
Dealing with reserves
making films means making lots of decisions in the project business. And to learn. films are projects and the handling of moving image projects in film and video is almost without exception based on the principle of rolling planning. What no producer says voluntarily: surprises are included in the film business. The budget must take this into account.
In order to be able to deal professionally with the unforeseen and to make learning on an ongoing project possible at all, a film budget and thus a calculation scheme should include reserves.
Reserves are not hidden profits and should be shown in a calculation. In the USA, film calculations without reserves are considered unprofessional. Here, 10 % of the total sum (“below the line”) is usually budgeted for unforeseen events.
The rules for handling the reserve are clearly defined before shooting starts. If, contrary to expectations, no fires have to be extinguished with the reserve, it is either invested in the calculation scheme in Production Value in the film or the project is completed under the planned budget thanks to the reserve.
While in the project business every architect and every builder of every building project, even for the smallest silly garden wall, is budgeted with a reserve of 10 % to 15 %, the film and video industry and the majority of producers tragically manage, against all reason, to calculate again and again without any reserve.
Film projects without reserves threaten to become a habit in commissioned films. Whether stupidity, competitive pressure or ignorance: budgeting without reserves damages the film quality, reduces the impact of moving image communication and is at the expense of the reputation of the medium, the producer and the industry.
Key data in the calculation schema
There are no fixed rules for the interaction between parameterization and budgeting. A producer with many years of experience and expertise will be able to define the parameters unerringly on the basis of the key data and content without a detailed budget and calculation scheme and to set the production values instinctively.
Conversely, beginners would do well to derive scenarios for parameterization in the costing sheet from at least one rough cost estimate, or better still, a detailed cost estimate. Regardless of the direction from which budgeting and parameterization is approached, the goal is always the same: Calculation and parameterization/production values must mesh seamlessly at the end of the budgeting phase.
Indicative costs for films and videos
Determine the cost of a video or film without a calculation scheme depending on the running time and genre? The Online Film Cost Calculator from Filmpuls provides initial guide values within seconds at the push of a button.
The last, third part of the Filmpuls series on calculation and budgeting in the context of marketing and communication with film and video, will deal with the topics of budget control, location determination and post-calculation. Guideline values for film costs without a calculation scheme can be found in the section “Readers’ Questions” in the article: What does a film cost? And why so much!
Notes on the calculation schema
1 In most cases, a calculation scheme lists not only price and unit (required days or number of units) in individual columns, but also the “number”. This additional line not only allows you to list price and quantity (1 day at 10.-), but also to distinguish in a traceable way whether one or two persons are working in parallel for one work step.
2 The social security contributions and AGA/employer contributions in the calculation schema differ depending on the place of performance. The nature and level of the levies must be adapted accordingly.
3 Without action costs/profit or markup. These are usually only listed in the calculation schema on the cover sheet of the budget (budget overview).