In the world of indie filmmaking, we hear about low-budget films all the time. By necessity, many indie films are low-budget. But what is a low-budget film? Is there a specific monetary value that makes a film low budget? Here, we break down the budget tiers of filmmaking as we see them, from micro-budget to high-budget.
What is a micro-budget film?
At the lowest end of the spectrum, a micro-budget film is a film with a tiny budget, sometimes just a few thousand dollars. An example is David Lynch’s 1977 debut Eraserhead, which was shot for just ten thousand dollars. The 2007 horror film Paranormal Activity was shot for just fifteen thousand dollars. These films, shot on a shoestring budget, went on to become classic (or, in Eraserhead’s case, cult classic) films that grossed far more than anyone would have expected of a micro-budget film. Eraserhead is estimated to have grossed $7 million, whereas Paranormal Activity grossed over $193 million. This goes to show that micro-budget films are worth making; even if you don’t gross millions of dollars at the box office, you can still make something that really resonates with audiences.
What is a low-budget film?
While it’s impossible to give a specific number that all analysts will agree with, common wisdom is that a low-budget film is made for less than five million dollars. This covers a huge range of films, from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was produced for a total of $400,000, to Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which was made for $4.5 million. For many indie filmmakers, the idea that making a film for 5 million dollars is considered a low budget is a wild one, but at the same time, we all know how expensive it can be to produce a movie!
What is a mid-level budget film?
Mid-level budget films are considered the riskiest type to make; you’re sinking in a lot more cash without the guaranteed box office performance of a huge blockbuster. Many people agree that a mid-budget film is produced for between $5 million and $50 million. Mid-budget movies include Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 masterpiece, which was made for just $15.5 million. 2019 also brought us Knives Out, which was produced for $40 million. Its sequel, Glass Onion, was produced for the same price.
What is a high-budget film?
High-budget films are typically made for more than $100 million. When we think of high-budget films, we’re typically thinking of big-name studio blockbusters. For example, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was made for $250 million. Avengers: Infinity War cost a whopping $365 million to make, making it one of the most expensive films of all time. These are, without a doubt, extremely high-budget films.
What do you think of our film budget breakdown? Do you agree with the categories? Let us know! And if you’re working on a budget–we know we are–check out our tips for saving money on set.