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September 22, 2014

What’s the average budget of a low or micro-budget film?

micro-budget film camerasIn November I am leading (along with James Cotton) a four-month part-time programme around micro-budget films. I want to ensure we’re teaching what is actually happening in the industry today, rather than outdated ideas or common misconceptions. So, being the data-driven fiend that I am, I have performed a number of studies into the topic.

Today I’m sharing some of the results from a survey I conducted with 542 film industry business professionals who have attended Cannes, AFM or Berlin in the past five years. In summary…

  • Across 542 film professionals, $396,000 was deemed the maximum budget for a micro-budget film
  • The maximum budget for “low budget” films was $2.1million
  • Film professionals in Africa feel that a film must be budgeted at least $3.4 million to be commercially viable
  • The figure for film professionals in South America was just $1.2 million

What is a micro-budget film?

Currently in the UK, many people will regard £150,000 ($245,000) as the cutoff for a film to be classed as micro-budget film. This is in large part down to the fact that £150k is the maximum budget for a film to take advantage of the SEIS tax scheme (which protects ~78% of investors’ money).  Film London’s Microwave micro-budget film scheme caps budgets at £150,000 ($245,000) and Creative England’s iFeatures is a “low budget” scheme at £350,000 ($573,000). I asked 542 film industry business professionals “In your opinion, what is the maximum budget for a film to still be classified as micro-budget film?” The average was $396,000 (£243,000). Average budget for a movie to be a micro-budget film

What is a “low budget” film?

In answer to the question “In your opinion, what is the maximum budget for a film to still be classified as low budget?” the average answer was $2.12 million (£1.38 million). Average budget for a movie to be a low budget film

Do opinions of low and micro-budget film differ around the world?

Yes. My survey was completed by professionals from 66 countries and so I was able to compare the opinions from around the world. Maximum budget for a film to be classified a micro-budget film Maximum budget for a film to be classified as low budget

How much does it cost to make a “commercially viable” film?

The topic of what a film “should” cost is obviously highly subjective. I asked my respondents “What is lowest minimum budget you think realistically needs be spent in order to create a commercial viable film?” I have not produced a headline average figure as the opinions varied hugely. From the chart below you can see that respondents based in Africa and South American disagree by a factor of three. Minimum budget need to make a movie commercially viable

Country by country breakdown

Below you can see the averages for the top nine countries (i.e. countries with over 20 respondents). Micro-budget films by country

Epilogue

Part two of this survey will be released next week, when I will present the answers relating to the sales and distribution of low and micro-budget film. The averages I used here are ‘trimmed means’ which removes the highest 2% and lowest 2% of answers. This prevents extreme outliers from skewing the overall average and means that my average is from the middle 96% of answers.

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16 Responses

  1. Lily September 22, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    Oh WOW! How do you call budget of a film that is being made for one thousand pounds? Nano?

    • zeek April 14, 2015 at 8:45 am #

      yeah…. nuclei maybe??? idk… im making one for less too…. maaaaaybe 5 grand if im lucky! :/ 1 million in canada for it to be a “viable film” though???? ugh.

  2. Sway January 13, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    What about USA indie film budgets?

    • Stephen Follows January 14, 2016 at 9:42 am #

      This research was based on a survey, so it’s mostly about opinion with defining terms. To look at real budgets we need access to data. We get some of this is in the UK but sadly other countries don’t have the same rigorous data collection as the UK. The budget data on the UK industry I sometimes use on the blog comes from private tax filings, which only the UK authorities have access to. The BFI is then able to give out aggregate data whilst protecting private details.

  3. William D. Prystauk February 14, 2016 at 7:00 am #

    Excellent article. On the one hand, it is discouraging that people equate money with quality when so many $300 million Hollywood blockbusters are horrendous. Then again, the challenge to make a film with little to know money is enticing, especially when one looks at micro-indies like HEAD TRAUMA, INK, RED VICTORIA, and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.

    • Lisa A. December 31, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

      You tell them! Some of these movies are pure trash with reiterated plots, mediocre characters and predictable outcomes.

  4. Drew January 14, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

    Part two of this survey will be released next week, when I will present the answers relating to the sales and distribution of low and micro-budget film.

    I can’t find the second part of the survey. That seems to me to be the far more valuable information.

  5. Ajwa July 16, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    what kind of survey did you use? can we see the type of questions were asked?

    Thank you

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