Tips for Budgeting Your Film Production Crew’s Payroll

Whether you’re trying to make a low-budget independent film or you’re fighting with the sheer magnitude of a blockbuster production, figuring out how much money to allocate for crew payroll is a significant difficulty for any producer working on any movie. 

We are here to assist you in getting your upcoming production up and running as quickly as possible by walking you through the fundamentals of creating a budget for crew payroll. We will walk you through the process of creating a budget by providing you with a free sample budget and pointing out a few easy strategies that will assist you in making the most of the money you have set aside in your budget. 

To Begin, Let’s Make Sure You Have All of the Necessary Equipment

On an island, there is no such thing as crew payroll. It is necessary to ensure that it is feasible within the overall budget of the production. Take a minute to gain some perspective and download Wrapbook’s free film budget template before we get into the specifics of the budgeting process. 

How to Prepare a Budget for the Staff Payroll

When you first start learning how to budget for crew payroll, it can seem like a daunting task. When you disassemble the procedure into its component elements, it becomes much easier to manage. Although the specifics of your process may change from project to project, the essential ideas and questions that influence your payroll budget will always be the same. Keeping this in mind, here are six procedures that should make creating a crew payroll budget quite simple. 

Beginning With Budgetary Projections is the First Step

When developing a budget for the specific purpose of crew payroll, it is essential to start with the large picture, just as it does when developing a budget for a whole project. Estimates of the preliminary budget are not final, nor are they very precise. Nevertheless, they must comprehend the requirements and constraints of your production. If you are still looking for funding for your movie, your preliminary estimations of the budget should take the form of a wish list. A target sum that represents your ideal financial situation to complete the production of your film. However, after you have acquired finance, you will know exactly how much money you have available to spend while still adhering to your financial plan. 

When This Happens, Estimating Becomes More Interesting

When you have concrete statistics, production budgeting becomes a serious endeavor. Your initial insight into how the various costs will interact can be gained by creating budget projections that are based on an actual overall budget amount. You can detect tensions, strengths, and weaknesses within the budget. It is also the earliest opportunity to establish a realistic estimate of how much you can spend on staff payroll, making it the most important part of the process. 

At this point, the budget for your crew’s payroll will simply exist as a number that may be compared to and contrasted with other numbers. For it to imply anything, the context of the cost categories—including things like equipment, locations, and production insurance—is required. Starting right now, we’re going to work on refining that payroll budget within itself. Both to uncover particular cost data and to develop a production strategy that can be implemented. 

The Second Step is to Construct a Tentative Schedule

The budget and schedule of production are inextricably intertwined at all times. Both the schedule and the budget are important drivers of the whole project. However, the schedule is the primary driver of the budget. Therefore, to get our crew payroll budget into a more precise condition, we need to investigate the many scheduling choices that are available to us. 

The process of figuring out how to build a shooting schedule is in and of itself a difficult task. Fortunately, at this stage, we just require the most fundamental pieces of information. Our requirements for the information are so fundamental that they can be summed up in a single, overarching inquiry: 

How Many Days Does the Schedule Consist of?

The number of days that are included in the schedule will determine the number of days that you will be required to have crew members present. Even though the production timetable is certainly our primary issue, we will also need to think about preliminary timelines for both pre-production and post-production work. In a nutshell, you will need to make an allowance for a given day’s payroll costs in our crew payroll budget if you believe that one of our crew members will be working on a certain day. 

In conjunction with budget estimates, the schedule provides information that is essential for the continued design of the budget. We are aware of the maximum amount of money that we can spend. We are aware of how long that money needs to be able to sustain itself. Right now, we have to determine how many different types of people we are capable of employing. 

Calculate Your Crew Size in the Third Step

The creation of a preliminary crew list is the next step in the process of allocating funds for crew payroll. We need to determine how many employees we need to hire and what roles those people will fill in our organization. 

This phase can be challenging because the wages for different crew positions do not match exactly. The gaffer is compensated at a rate that is greater than that of the finest boy electric. There can be a kit charge associated with the 1st assistant camera person. The base rate of pay for both the set PA and the truck PA is the same; however, it is more likely that the truck PA will be required to work overtime regularly. 

In the budget, we need to make allowances for all of this variability. You can probably guess how quickly mathematics will become more difficult. On the one hand, we are aware that failing to confront complexity head-on will, at some point in the future, result in undesirable surprises. On the other hand, we are well aware that surprises in and of themselves are a certainty. To walk the tightrope between these two realities, producers need to both be as meticulous as is humanly feasible and make it a point to leave “wiggle space.” 

There are multiple interpretations of the term “wiggle room.” As a matter of best practice, a portion of your budget should be set aside expressly for use in the event of unforeseen circumstances. In addition, the budget you create should leave room for some degree of general flexibility. It could just as easily take the form of expense categories that are purposely over-budgeted or a grasp of the various trade-offs that can be made within a budget. 

Keep in mind that developing a movie requires working with other people. The majority of experienced department leaders, for instance, are aware that production teams have a responsibility toward the company’s finances. If it turns out that their department needs to recruit an additional member of the crew, they will most likely collaborate with you to find a way to free up the necessary funds or find an alternative option. Oh, and just to add one more thing… 

Consider the Indirect Costs in the Fourth Step

There are additional expenses associated with hiring production employees besides the day rates. When preparing a budget for the crew’s payroll, you will likely need to take into account a variety of indirect charges. Things like workers’ compensation and payroll fees, for example, will need to be taken into consideration by you. However, there are frequently other costs associated with crew payroll that are not immediately visible. For instance, the number of people in your group will affect the total amount that you spend on catering. 

When you travel, the cost of your accommodations will be determined in part by the number of people in your party. If you are filming in the city, having a larger crew may require you to hire a larger parking lot or apply for licenses to film on a greater piece of a city roadway. 

Although none of these expenditures are included in the crew salary, it is essential to acknowledge the link between them. When integrating the management of staff and finances, one of the most important aspects to address is the reduction and mitigation of indirect crew expenses. In saying this, once you have established your budget for crew payroll, visit YLO’s page to get assistance with keeping within that budget and potentially saving more than expected.