One of the first things independent filmmakers look for when budgeting their projects is free film budgeting software.
Getting the numbers right and in the proper format can make life easier for the filmmaker when putting a price on any film or video project. It’s especially important when you prepare a film business plan.
But the tight fists and closed lips of the film industry is especially true when it comes to making budgets. It is nearly impossible to find programs that are comprehensive and free.
So, let’s take a look at film budgeting software that is standard and at some alternative templates that are affordable or even free.
1. MOVIE MAGIC BUDGETING
Make a little magic
Movie Magic Budgeting is the first of its’ kind film budgeting software.
It has been an industry standard for twenty years now. Movie Magic has the features that many film producers wanted in a budgeting software when first introduced.
The fact that it became the industry standard meant that you could share it with other producers, production companies and studios alike. They have free training classes for the software open to anyone.Organization and clarity are what are most essential in your or preliminary budget and you will find it in a template that is much more user friendly than any software that we’ve come across.
Today, it is still used for the majority of film budgets in Hollywood.
However there are few downsides to being the first out of the gate.
The fact is, Movie Magic Budgeting is not particularly user-friendly.
The staple showbiz budgeting suite also requires the Java to use, and no, we don’t mean coffee.
Furthermore, Movie Magic Budgeting requires 1 GHz processor or Windows 8 or higher with 1 GB of RAM and 200MB of hard disk space.
Movie Magic Budgeting has bugs in the program which are accepted as par for the course. In other words, it will crash. So if you use Movie Magic Budgeting, save your work every chance you get.
Also, Movie Magic Budgeting is difficult to read on certain high-resolution monitors. But, the makers of the software listen to their clients and there have been six updates to Movie Magic Budgeting in its’ twenty-year history.
Movie Magic Budgeting has really great features with functionality such as automatically adding fringes and allowing the user to apply for Tax Credits.
And again, it is the industry standard.
You never have to worry about compatibility issues when sending your budgets to producers or submitting for film grants.
How much is Movie Magic Budgeting?
Well, that’s one drawback. This popular film budget software is $479.
Not exactly independent filmmaker-friendly.
If you are looking for a no cost alternative, that is not based in the cloud, StudioBinder offers a free budget template that works as well as the top budget software.
In the template, you already have many of the features you would find in film budgeting software, but at no cost.
You can start organizing your development and pre-production in a flash with the easy to use template that will generate a top sheet you can use to raise funds for your film.Organization and clarity are what are most essential in your business plan or preliminary budget and you will find it in a template that is much more user friendly than any software that we’ve come across.
2. SHOWBIZ BUDGETING
Compare this old school work horse
This workhorse from MediaServices is the Movie Magic Budgeting of the commercial world.
In fact, Showbiz Budgeting offer updates that are more consistent with industry trends.
Showbiz Budgeting is more user friendly than the two as it allows film budget actualization, which is a big plus.
It also tracks your purchase orders, payroll and petty cash. All very useful things when budgeting any project.
The production reports created in Showbiz Budgeting 9 are especially useful if answering to a production entity. They are simple and concise and easy to share.
Speaking of sharing, you can also share an install, which is huge if you’re collaborating on your film budget with other producers.
Showbiz Budgeting also works in any of the entertainment fields but there is a premium cost.
Go cloud based
Celtx is an all-in-one production software suite that made a name for itself as a free alternative to the screenwriting software Final Draft.
It was considered one of the best filmmaking software when it launched for the desktop years ago. The word “free” was definitely a benefit.
The script writing feature quickly gave way to a production all-in-one. It includes budgeting features that are used by filmmakers looking for a bargain that Movie Magic or Showbiz budgeting could or would never offer.
Within a short while, Celtx moved from open, non-proprietary desktop software to cloud-based. Today, it is solely cloud-based and has added several features to its software suite.
The features Include tools for film budgeting.
Celtx is as close to free budget software as you are likely to get so if you are in need of a software for budgeting that won’t add to the budget, by all means this is a better choice than some of the larger more well-known competitors.
There is no longer a desktop app which means you need an internet connection to work.
The film budget features are a bit clunky and odd, even if you’re only creating a top sheet. For instance, if there are any characters that are erroneously placed, be prepared to deal with it in your budget even if it’s been corrected.
DID YOU KNOW?
Celtx, an acronym for Crew, Equipment, Location, Talent and XML, also has a “Studio” suite which includes budgeting functionality.
Also, it is better suited for individuals than professional organizations in that what you share, by cloud or PDF, is not necessarily in an industry friendly format.
A big bonus here is that you can nab the Celtx Production Suite for $29.99/mo.
4. GORILLA BUDGETING SOFTWARE
Welcome to the jungle
It is a comprehensive film budgeting suite that is more user friendly than the industry standard Movie Magic Budgeting with nearly identical results.
The film budgeting software comes with a host of great features such as schedule importation and global rates.
It also presents a very clean layout and integrates with Jungle’s other production solutions.
The Gorilla film budget planning breakdown is easy to read and understand. Even for a novice.
Gorilla 6 is a good film budgeting software to get your feet wet.
Sure, it’s not cheap. But $249 isn’t bad. A 10-Day trial not enough for you? Try a free 15-day trial of Gorilla Budgeting from Jungle Software.
The union rate-book is a great add-on at $50.
We know, you want to get closer to free budget software. You don’t want to spend more. But the extra money will be well spent.
Here's a glimpse into what the interface looks like:
5. FARMER’S WIFE
Take budgeting in a different direction
FarmersWife isn’t free budgeting software. In fact, it isn’t budgeting software at all, it is more project management software. But its’ usability and cross-functionality earned it a place on this list.
It takes a few tweaks, but FarmersWife can work beautifully for a one-off indie project.Sadly, FarmersWife aren’t great for sharing files as they don’t rely on industry standard film budget templates or formatting.
What about pricing?
FarmersWife doesn’t reveal their rates online (gulp). Though they offer a subscription and one-off option for different needs.
It’s a shame really as it really is a very good project management application but not so much for an industry that relies on consistency.
The budgets and finance management aspect would be a great addition to this list if only it could form a budget that is more similar to the industry standard.
There is no price on the website which usually means it cost a lot more than a independent filmmaker can afford.
6. Free film budgeting templates
Some honorable mentions
Again, the problem of finding free film budget software is that there isn’t any. The savvy independent filmmaker should instead look for free or extremely low-cost alternatives that work just as well.
StudioBinder provides a free film budget template designed for Google Sheets. It includes standard budget tabs for Above-the-Line, Production, Post-Production, and Miscellaneous. All of your sums will automatically total on a Top Sheet for a quick, printable glance.
And since it’s made in Google Sheets, the budgets are easy to share and collaborate.
Working off a sample budget template can help beginning filmmakers understand how to craft film and video budgets. And knowing where your money is going means it won’t be wasted.
Speaking of which, also grab StudioBinder’s free cashflow & PO log template to track those nasty expenses as you go.
A good budget template is practical and saves time.
...so creating a budget doesn’t have to become a part of the budget.
BoilerPlate is a paid film budget template. It automatically calculates changes to your budget, generates both reports and lists, and streamlines a lot of other tedious budgeting tasks.
Of course, it also reduces the features that most film budget software suites include. Meaning it will never offer the functionality of something like Movie Magic Budgeting or Gorilla.
That said, if you only need the basics, you can download BoilerPlate for only $49.
The Essential Guide for Crafting Film Budgets
Ready to create your own budget? Check out our guide on crafting a film budget breakdown the right way.
That means industry standard formatting and a budget that covers everything you need to make your dream project a reality.
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