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The Self-Taught Producer: How To Create a Budget

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

I’ve been producing since I was a teenager…before I even really knew what it meant. Never one to take a class or read a book about a topic*, I usually just jump in and use my common sense to get things done. This was also true of the first time I produced an on-camera story.

Having produced many stage plays and musicals, I could naturally draw from the criterion involved in those ventures when first attempting to put together a shoot. Yes, there were differences. The first thing I had to determine was how big a production I was putting together. This brought me to the budget: how much money do I have to tell this story and what/who do I need to pay in order to tell it?

To parse things out and add things up, a document with this information needs to be created. Not having grown up in an era of spreadsheets, I began making budgets as Word documents, with line items followed by monetary figure. Then, I would add them up with a calculator. Archaic, I know. Here are some of the items that might be included in a budget (there can always be more, depending on your production and budget):

  • Director

  • Editor

  • B Roll Shooter

  • Series Regular Actors

  • Guest Actors

  • Sound Recordist

  • Sound Mixer

  • Color Mixer

  • Lighting Equipment

  • Lighting Designer

  • Hair/Make-Up

  • Catering

  • Transportation

  • Original Music

  • Wardrobe Coordinator

  • Costumes

  • Props

  • Locations

  • PR

  • Premiere Party

You may say, “Why don’t you just create an Excel sheet?”. Here is my answer: After doing research on how to use Excel, performing many stabs at creating spreadsheets to no avail and with so many other tasks to complete as a producer, I decided I would just continue with my Word document budgets. Occasionally, I try again to create spreadsheets (just like a “good” producer does) but I still find myself wasting valuable time, falling down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos and discarded attempts. I’m just no good at it.

The point of this little insight into my self-taught producer’s experience? With so much to do and with time on the line, just do what you have to do the way you’re comfortable doing it. Will it raise eyebrows from those who do things “right”? Perhaps. But will you get your show on the road? You bet.

If you're game to try an Excel sheet, HERE is a link to some help. Good luck!

As always, if you have tips or comments, let us know below!

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