Jump to content

What is in an indie-budget?

Recommended Posts

I just got my first short-film listed on imdb. Yay-me :)

(I'm just a small-timer, but it is a great feeling all the same.)

I have a question about the most appropriate thing to put in as the budget.

I used my own equipment and my own time, so technically it did not cost me anything extra to make the film.

Would you...

1: list the amount of money you were willing to spend to finish the film, even though you perhaps ended up spending much less.

2: list the amount of money you figured it actually cost you to do the film (basically just the electricity used during the hours it took to make the film, edit it, etc)

3: list the amount of money it would cost you if you had to rent/purchase equipment and crew, including expenses on meals you had during production. Even though you did not really have those expenses related specifically to the film (since you spent those money buying the camera/computer/etc for your own use at an earlier stage)


Sorry, the post got accidentally posted before I had typed it out (because I hit ctrl-enter on the keyboard, as I thought it would do line-formatting and not posting)

Edited by jacob larsen
post got accidentally posted before I had typed it
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The actual budget doesn't really matter. Also it can work against you e.g if a film has a low budget it might turn audiences away, "why would I watch that cheap film?" This is more of a feature thing, but micro budget features often keep quiet about the budget or pretend its more.

I wouldn't include the budget unless it helps "sell" the film, what do you gain by volunteering the information?

You do see features made for tiny amounts eg "Primer", "El Mariachi", "Following" that are big achievements, for such a low budget. At  that point the budget helps the marketing. At the high end e.g "Avatar" the budget is also a selling point, e.g "come see the most expensive film ever made, $300 million+ of spectacle." "This film was cheap" is less of a marketing opportunity. 

If your budget falls between two extreme's and most shorts are made on a wing and a prayer anyway. I wouldn't bother to volunteer it, whats that point? It just invites scrutiny. Unless you post the budget is quite high then it makes you look like your serious e.g I managed to get $100k to make a short, I'm serious. But then if the actual film doesn't look like a $100k short, you look like an inept filmmaker. 

In conversations I'm sometimes honest, but it depends.

The short I'm working on at the moment I'm not telling anyone the budget, certainly not the actors agents. Them having that information won't help.

The only time discussing budget is useful in conversations/articles for other filmmakers. I discussed a budget in an article in "Filmmaker Magazine" because I thought it would be helpful for the filmmakers reading and the film was a done deal and had already been in festivals. I'm also honest to my students about what things cost me and I don't lie on this forum either. 

Festivals often ask for a budget on the application form - I would either be honest or lie - depending on how I want to be perceived. 

Ultimately the budget is what you say it is, it could be the cash budget, or the in kind budget, or your time - its not like imdb are going to audit it.   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for your insight on this.

I had not really given the 'signal-value' much thought, but I recognize its effect on myself now that you mention it.
And how it can affect what you expect of a production and lead to a kind of prejudice (and one that may even still color your opinion after seeing the production)

That's certainly something to think about.

I am just not sure who is the broader target-audience for the budget-listing on imdb (who you really list the info for), and thus what the norm would be to list there.
Personally I rarely look at the budget-listing when checking up on a production there (I mostly just read the reviews and the technical specs :) )

So I was in doubt if it was mostly listed to benefit your reputation among other professionals (to make you appear more attractive for work-opportunities and such, in which case it would make obvious sense to follow whatever established norm exist) or more to satisfy the curiosity of the general audience (in which case the 'signal-value' point becomes more relevant)

I don't have any experience with how imdb is used from the pro-side of things, as I have only used it from the audience-side myself so far.

But if pros don't really need the budget-info listed there, then it may be smarter for me to omit it (and go by 'less is more', or at least 'less info is less clutter') since I generally don't have big budgets to play with anyway.
And then I can always submit it on a case-by-case basis, for example if trying to submit work to a festival that requires it or such.

Thanks Phil :)
Living is learning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Short films don't make money. Everyone knows this. So if you spent $100k on a 10 minute film you'd want to keep that to yourself as you'd seem like some trustfund one percenter who can blow 6 figures on a hobby project.   Many people would potentially find that offputting.   You mentioned reputation building in your post and that's a factor.  Impressions matter.

This is true with your crew listing as well. If you did everything yourself, then use pseudonyms and at least put in those key positions and don't take IMDB credit on everything. I would not suggest making up a 100 person crew cause again, that looks ridiculous.  A short film is a calling card and so in many ways, you want to give an impression that's true to who you are and how you want to work going forward.    Are you a writer?  Then make up a pseudonym for the director name.  Are you going to try to be a producer?  etc.  Only take IMDB credit for the position you eventually want others to pay you to do.

In other words, having 12 vanity projects on IMDB where you did absolutely everything and it's clear that they're all your personal projects looks worse than having only 2 that clearly show someone else paid you to be on their set.  Which is ultimately what most professionals want.  You want to seem qualified and capable enough for a producer who doesn't know you to feel confident hiring you.



Edited by Michael LaVoie
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wouldn't bother putting the budget in for a short, unless it's a requirement of the funder in a short film scheme.

The extremely low budgets you see for some films should be treated with care, since it may not include the funding required to get the film ready for distribution. That could be a lot higher than  the quoted budget.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Brian Drysdale said:

I wouldn't bother putting the budget in for a short, unless it's a requirement of the funder in a short film scheme.

The extremely low budgets you see for some films should be treated with care, since it may not include the funding required to get the film ready for distribution. That could be a lot higher than  the quoted budget.


Indeed, everyone bangs on about "The Blair Witch Project" costing less then $30k. The version anyone saw cost many times that once it had the audio remixed and an expensive 35mm film out.

With a short your inviting comment volunteering a budget so not worth it. 

Same if I end up shooting on an FS7 I would not mention it and hope people assumed I could afford an Alexa. If it ends up looking really good maybe I'd pretend it was an Alexa shoot on IMDb...

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Ooh a ghost-crew would scare me.

It's funny you mention it though, because with my music I use several pseudonyms for the various genres I do. But they are band-names and also serve a kind of 'legit' purpose; making it easier for listeners to know which songs are in their preferred genre.

They also do avoid 'artist-fatigue' though (a different pseudonym may make the listener think they are listening to something new and fresh, even though it's still the same person behind the music), which is similar to what a ghost-crew would do, so I guess I should perhaps not feel so alienated to the idea in movie-making.

It does have connotations of cheating to me though.
I mean, with pseudonym band-names the purpose is not really to hide that I'm the person behind it. But rather to associate different genres to an easy to recognize name.
But of course it does indeed obfuscate the fact that it's still me behind the music.

I'm really torn about that idea, but perhaps that's the kind of thick skin that's really needed in the business :)

Because I do get your point about coming across as the odd rabbit in the field if all my credits are for my own productions. And obviously, as a small-timer, I don't have all that many collabs to brag about yet, so most of my productions are ones where I do most things.
So I guess I'm kind of caught there, for the moment at least.

I will have to sleep on that idea, because I do get what you're saying.
I don't want my imdb-page to just become another facebook-profile, but without an agent I'm obviously left to making it myself.

Thanks for your words :)

@Brian & Phil;
Thanks again. I still have a lot to learn about these new (to me) side-aspects of movie-production :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I  the credit thing, I think it can look really silly when people credit themselves on two many roles. Especially when they give a separate full screen credit to each thing.

If I have done multiple roles i credit them as a single line eg. "Written, directed and edited by Philip connolly". That's pretty clean and sensible.

You could make up names for the other roles, but again could look silly. Why invent credits just keep it short. I credit myself on the max 3 most important roles I've done. If I did other roles and I probably did (e.g catering, dit, costume, art dept) i just omit those from the credits. Looks silly otherwise.

Or credit yourself as "made by" or "filmmaker". The overly self reverential credits makes you look silly if you go down that route. 

Or credit your cast and crew and go everything else ......



  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the movie itself you mean?

If yes, then that's how I do it too.

I do not have a long list of credits in the movie (or any other solo video-production I do) with my name showing up over and over :)

I agree that would be outright foolish :)

But on the imdb-page for the movie I had my name listed several times (6 times actually)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

often on small budget feature films, the producers use "alternate facts" to increase the budget listed.  If you're trying to sell a film with a zero budget, than that will be the starting point for negotiations.

On the other hand, some films such as "El Mariachi" make a point of publicizing unbelievably low budgets to generate "buzz".  I think they said they spent $7000 to shoot the film, but in the end, they spent perhaps 1M dollars to create a soundtrack and finish the film for distribution.

Generally, short films can cost about $1000/minute of finished film to really produce, so you might let that be your guide, though it probably won't matter much what is listed for a short film, unless you are lucky enough to have a buyer interested.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Bruce Greene Yes, that's another very good point. Thank you.

The short I got on imdb is not one I had thought of trying to sell though. I actually placed it in creative-commons, since its purpose is more to function like a 'business-card' to attract attention to myself (and to basically just get started with the whole imdb-process)

The short is also not new, but one I made in 2012. I just never took it further than putting it on youtube and vimeo back then. But I'm just trying to get more organized now and establish some kind of 'real' presence for myself and my work (and in turn hoping it may lead to some more opportunities in the future)

But for future work (commercially oriented) I can see how having a history of making 'cheap' stuff may be a bad thing.

Wow... there is a lot of things to consider regarding this.

It sounds like even attempting to do solo-work is not a very clever idea. But that getting some kind of agent/agency/representation is needed even for producers (I was under the impression that that was really something to only consider further down the road and not very early on (except perhaps for those who only do acting and not multiple aspects of the production))

@Tyler Purcell Thanks.

I'm about to add an older documentary I did, to imdb, which is more 'serious' than my personal short. Perhaps for that I should consider a budget reflecting what it would actually cost if it was a paid job?

I guess I'm more of a movie-maker than a business-person :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Premium Member
8 minutes ago, jacob larsen said:

@Tyler Purcell Thanks.

I'm about to add an older documentary I did, to imdb, which is more 'serious' than my personal short. Perhaps for that I should consider a budget reflecting what it would actually cost if it was a paid job?

I guess I'm more of a movie-maker than a business-person ?

I mean if you're the only credit on the other show, I don't think anyone would care to read it on IMDB. It's far more important to show people you can work with others, then put everything on there. Honestly, 95% of what I've made is NOT on IMDB. Most are music videos, commercials, industrial films (editing one now) and projects that never got finished, I have LOTS of those. 

So I wouldn't just add stuff unless it's legitimate stuff that had a crew and such. 

Sadly, filmmaking is a business more than it is a creative pursuit. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Tyler Purcell My initial plan was to have 3 titles on imdb, to not appear like a 'one-trick-pony'.

The short, to show something that was fictional/drama

The documentary, to show something that was non-fiction (and the documentary actually had a crew. It was only the short-film I made completely solo)

And one music-movie (a kind of extended music-video I suppose), to show something music-related since that's what I do most. And the music-movie I have planned is also non-solo work.

Those 3 I think reflect a nice variety of my work, while still being such a small sample that it's still 'digestible' :)

At least that is what I planned before asking the budget-question :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

I wouldn't worry about budget if just having things on IMDB is the important part. Just don't put in any budget. 

I will go with that :)

At this stage my purpose/idea of having an imdb-presence is only to have a relevant 'calling-card' I can reference when being in contact with people. So I can at least show I have some level of dedication/commitment to all of this. 

I don't think me being on imdb, in and of itself, will do anything for me. But I'm thinking that being able to show a link to an imdb-page, with a little non-overwhelming info that at least hints at me having some varied experience, might make some difference (in the good direction) to how I might be perceived and thus my potential chances. Well, that's what I hope at least :)


Thank you to all who took time out to reply to this. I appreciate it :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...
On 8/5/2019 at 5:07 AM, jacob larsen said:

I'm really torn about that idea

Just don't list anything in the credits which you did but isn't relevant to where you want to go. 

For instance:

You did recording and post sound for your film yourself? GREAT!

But for the love of god, if you don't want a career in sound then do NOT put your name as "the production sound mixer / dialogue editor / composer / etc etc"! Nooooo

Much much better to leave those job roles empty

Pick the role(s) you want to focus on for your future career, a max of two roles, or maaaybe three, then for the rest of the roles they're better off being empty than having your name there!

Edited by David Peterson
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/13/2020 at 8:19 PM, David Peterson said:

Just don't list anything in the credits which you did but isn't relevant to where you want to go. 

Thanks, yes that one makes good sense to me :)

Perhaps not relevant for me to mention, other than as a small anecdote perhaps; during Christmas-season I notice how old movies in Denmark (1960s, 70s) often don't have any rolling credits at all. They may have a short intro with the star-actors names highlighted but often the movies end with a simple "The end" and then a hard-cut to black :)

I don't know if that was also done for the cinema-releases of those films, or if it was a trend of the time in danish cinema to simply omit the credits on the film itself.

And also, the audience always gets up and leaves during the credit-screens anyway, so nobody really reads them (Except maybe geeks and people looking for specific info)

On my music-videos I have, in later years, actually gone away from lengthy credit-screens. At first I thought it was cool to have cool credits that looked cool because, you know, it was cool :) 
But more and more I just have the minimum key-information listed. The things I would want to know myself, for a similar production, but not all the flashy cool stuff that doesn't really serve any other purpose than being artistic fluff.

So I think your advice is a good one as it will be a logical extension of the path, in terms of credit-list design, I'm already on :)

Less is more I guess ;) (Which is kind of ironic to say after having written such a long post here just now lol)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

There is nothing worse on a short film where you have a 10 min short and 5 mins of credits. Its even worse when people make DIY studio logos etc...  keep it sort and simple.

Make your IMDB credits work for you, basically your going to use them to try and get more work. So just give yourself the credits that will help that.

On the low budget for a short end the more I think about it, I wouldn't volunteer a budget publically on a site like IMDB. It could bite me in the ass later. For instance I could be applying for a producing job where I want to show that I can deal with larger budgets and inflate the budgets a bit in my application - or the opposite if I want to show my ability to work in a tiny budget. I don't want to be caught in the lie if someone googles me.

I have short I'm finishing at the moment - the budget will never be made "public". 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Phil ?

Yeah, I have learned that IMDB will not let you remove a budget once you have entered it, so that is also something to be aware of.

I learned that the hard way with the only short I have on there ? 

So my overall take from this thread is this: submit as little to IMDB as needed at first, since you can always add more later if needed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...