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 I want to ensure we’re teaching what is actually happening in the industry today, rather than outdated ideas or common misconceptions.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 commercially 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 America 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.