Location Assessments and Recalculations for Film and Video Productions

Post calculation: The calculation after the calculation
Before the game is after the game | © Pixabay

The work does not end when a film project or video is entrusted to its audience. Not only in terms of audience figures (or the number of clicks on the Internet), but also in terms of post-calculation, the moment of truth is only now dawning.

As with football, the same applies to image films and video productions of all kinds: after the film is before the film. Post-calculation comes into play here, but already has an important function in advance of project completion.

You need to know

  • Each film calculation and video calculation follows three interlocking steps. At the beginning there is the parameterization. Then follows the actual calculation. The process is concluded with a final costing.
  • The final costing compares the costs budgeted for the project with the costs spent to date. At the same time, it produces an estimate of how much cost is still required to reach the target.
  • Budgetary site assessments are not only important for project management. As a final costing, they also allow for important analysis and a steep learning curve for production management and producers.

The post calculation is the last of three steps

Just as there is always an idea at the beginning of a film, there is always a whole series of numbers at the end. Every costing and budgeting process for video projects and films follows three interrelated steps.

In an ideal-typical process, the key data in a film project are first determined and then assigned numerical values. Once these first two steps have been completed (and approved by the client, showrunner or executive producer ), the way is clear for the third step in the work process: the budgetary assessment and the final costing, which is also called the final costing.

The three steps are:

  • Parameterization to increase production value in film (Article 1 of 3)
  • Budgeting (Article 2 of 3)
  • Location assessments, controlling and recalculation in the film budget (current article 3 of 3)

Budgeting and parameterization can overlap for preliminary costing in cost accounting and for the calculation of cost of goods sold and price calculation or overhead costing, and can also take place in reverse order. In this case, a fixed price is negotiated first and then the project is fitted into the possible parameters according to the principle of reverse budgeting.

Nachlkulation und Umgang mit Zahlen in Film- und Videoprojekten
The post calculation for film and video projects | © Grafik: Filmpuls

The FILMPULS article What does a film cost shows a table with reference values for current prices. Alternatively, and more simply, the cost of a film or video can also be determined on the Internet with the online film cost calculator from Filmpuls.

Goals of a post calculation for video and film

A cost summary in the form of a post calculation is not only used to determine a price. Their purpose goes further than that. Each budget provides four different, important services in the context of a video or film project:

  1. Budgeting and price determination (costing)
  2. Site assessment for a current, ongoing project
  3. Project analysis for the completed individual project
  4. Gain of knowledge for future projects (analyses, gain of experience)

All figures listed are only placeholders and have nothing to do with reality. No conceptual distinction is made between budget and cost estimate.

Starting point of a film calculation

The multiplication of an estimated or negotiated price multiplied by a unit of time or number of pieces and the respective required number results in a total for each of the required services. These numerical values are also important later for the final costing.

PriceDays/PieceNumberTotal [1]
1.1. Research and preparation
Coordination and planning10.-2 day1 pers20.-
Concept development10.-1 day2 pers20.-
Storyboard10.-1 day1 pers10.-
Shootingboard10.-1 day1 pers10.-
Presentation material10.-1 day1 pers10.-
PPM Booklet10.-1 day1 pers10.-
Couriers10.-1 day1 pers10.-

Source: Filmpuls, January 2017 [The entire sample budget can be found
in the Filmpuls scheme for video calculations.

Depending on the scope of the project, the budget ranges from one page (video clip) to 40 to 50 pages (feature film). Larger image films and TV spots are usually costed at ten to fifteen pages.

Structure of a calculation to determine the location (sample)

When calculating, there are three simple questions that come up every time you take a position. But they have it in them. In extreme cases, like the final costing later on, they determine not only the fate and impact quality of a project, but also the doer. These three key questions are:

  1. What (how much) was budgeted?
  2. How much of that has been spent?
  3. How much more can be expected to be spent between now and the end of the project?

The previous Total [1] is therefore moved to the beginning of the calculation as a default. This is followed by the editions already made [2]. Then come the still awaited issues [3]. This results in a second total [4]. It summarizes, at the time of location, what costs remain until the film or video is completed.

Budget [1]Previously [2]awaits [3]Total [4]
1.1. Research and preparation
Coordination and planning20.-10.-10.-20.-
Concept development20.-10.-5.-15.-
Presentation material10.-10.-10.-
PPM Booklet10.-10.-10.-

Sample reading and interpretation for location:

  • “Coordination and Planning” are on track according to the site assessment. 20.- were budgeted, of which 10.- have already been spent, and at this stage of the location determination it can be assumed that with a further 10.- (which have not yet been spent) all the necessary steps can be taken. The budgeted 20.- will thus be met.
  • Also with regard to the “concept development” it looks like good weather: here the budgeted costs (20.-) are expected to be undercut by a proud 25%. This gives some leeway for the period leading up to the preparation of the final recalculation, should problems arise elsewhere.
  • The shooting board item presents a different picture: here the costs are expected to be exceeded. It is therefore necessary to examine whether there is a possibility of purchasing the outstanding services elsewhere/cheaper or whether the budget overrun for this item should be accepted in view of the budget shortfalls in other areas.

In order for the final costing to reach its target values, regular determination of the cost status is essential.

Because the site assessment, as part of controlling, is by its nature carried out before project completion and, in contrast to the final costing, with the information available at that time, the future costs still to be expected [3] and the Total [4]may still change.

It should be noted, however, that at least part of the future costs are not only necessary to complete the project, but are usually subject to contractual provisions. Every film and video is handled by a production company usually with specialists, freelancers and subcontractors.

Application in budgeting

Often, in Excel spreadsheets, the individual differences between the budgeted total and the expected total are also listed in each column in the calculation for location determinations. Due to readability, this difference is not shown in this article.

The frequency of site assessments is based on (1) the nature and (2) size of the project and (3) the risk involved. Depending on the definition of the function, the producer, production manager or production manager prepares the site assessments.

Structure of a final cost estimate (final costing / final costing)

The recalculation differs from the location determination in that it now consists of facts rather than assumptions. The issues are now different: there are no longer estimated values in the final statement. Wherever there were still uncertainties about the amount of invoices, these were clarified after project completion and recorded in writing with the supplier.

The argument often used that a final budget cannot yet be prepared because invoices are still “missing” is nonsense. Telephone and email are made up. The final calculation is often the moment of truth.

Budget [1]Previously [2]awaits [3]Total [4]
1.1. Research and preparation
Coordination and planning20.-10.-20.-
Concept development20.-10.-15.-
Presentation material10.-10.-10.-
PPM Booklet10.-10.-10.-

Reading example for final costing:

  • In the case of the “shooting board” item, it was still possible to take corrective action, as this item was completed as budgeted, in contrast to the forecast at the time of the assessment.
  • For the remaining points, the final calculation follows the predictions from the site assessment.

As with the budgetary position statement, the difference between the budgeted total and the final total is usually shown in all columns of the final costing in order to simplify the analysis. Depending on the size of the companies involved, this step can also take place in accounting.

Calculation: Analysis and Learnings

In the same way that site assessments as a tool still make it possible to steer a film or video project within a certain framework, the final budget enables valuable conclusions to be drawn and experience to be gained that will benefit future projects.

(c) Workflow Filmproduktion
Example workflow (click)

In other words: With site assessments and a final costing, learning is not only possible at the level of the individual project, but also across projects. If you work with a standardized workflow for different formats, products or processes (see example), you will be able to profit from the answers to the following questions, for example, without any problems and much effort thanks to the systematic evaluation of post-calculations:

How do different genres (advertising film, image film, product film, video clip) differ as a product in terms of

  • the cost per day of shooting?
  • the cost per minute of film or video?
  • the relationship preparation to production to post-production (image and sound editing)?
  • the relationship between technology and manpower?

Analysis is part of the reason why creating, reading, and analyzing budgets for film and video is not only experiential, but highly exciting. One big difference, however, distinguishes film budgets from a detective story: reading budgets and a calculation is guaranteed to become more and more exciting thanks to the experience gained.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

Maurus Eugster
About Maurus Eugster 7 Articles
Maurus Eugster is Head of Finance and Member of the Executive Board of Condor Films Ltd.

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