In 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 I want to ensure we’re teaching what is actually happening in the industry today, rather than outdated ideas or common misconceptions.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).
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).
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.
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.
Country by country breakdown
Below you can see the averages for the top nine countries (i.e. countries with over 20 respondents).
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.