The present and future of post production business and technology

How much money does it really take to make a documentary?

How much money does it really take to make a documentary?

A good take on budgeting and how the “It takes at least $300,000” rule may not be as rigid now as it once was. Writer Edward J Delaney goes through six fundamental shifts that have changed the equation:

  1. Scarcity is gone (It’s easy to produce with digital tools)
  2. Abundance diminished investment certainty (the irony of democratized production making funding more difficult)
  3. The market has broadened (it’s not just broadcast TV any more)
  4. The economies of scale are diminishing (smaller docs are becoming the norm)
  5. The math is changing (well, that’s the premise of the piece)
  6. It will always be a labor of love (even if Michael Moore is rich).

The argument is logical and reasonable. He concludes:

These days, with competition that simply did not exist 30 years ago, filmmaking  has to be the labor of love that makes you want to do it despite the financial headaches. The trash truck is coming down the street as I write, and those guys are not, I suspect, engaged in a labor of love. But most of us, in whatever profession or pursuit we choose, should be if we can.







3 responses to “How much money does it really take to make a documentary?”

  1. AndrewK

    How much you can make something for and creating a sustainable, viable business model aren’t necessarily the same thing and anyone who wants a career in this industry needs to be more concerned with the latter, IMO.

    The democratization of gear has certainly lowered the cost on that barrier of entry but people (their time and their skills) are still valuable and that value doesn’t decrease just because they are using a $5k camera instead of a $50k camera.

    And careful about categorizing film making as a labor of love lest the IRS come knocking at your door.

    1. The whole IRS thing is really troublesome. Hopefully it will be cleared up on appeal.

  2. Art Bell

    Good points,and Michael Moore is rich because of his book sales, not his movies.