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Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Meet the Budget Whisperer: A Production Budget Template for a Documentary Special, 2016-17 Edition

How do you present a 100% credible production budget to a network or funder?

For my clients’ projects, I work with the Budget Whisperer — the respected senior consultant, Elizabeth Ventura.

Elizabeth has worked for 12+ years as a Production Manager on programs for dozens of US networks. Docs and specials that she budgeted have been approved by:

  • Discovery
  • Nat Geo
  • PBS
  • MTV
  • A+E Networks
  • ESPN, and many more such U.S. industry leaders

Elizabeth is expert in budgeting international co-productions, notably for Channel 4 and ARTE.

Producers, networks — and consultants — call on her to draft reliable production budgets that meet the industry cost benchmarks for the on-air quality agreed to by all the parties involved.

Presentation Test

Elizabeth’s budgets also pass the ‘presentation test’.

  • They are templates that US networks and production companies can read and understand immediately.
  • Network programmers feel comfortable analyzing them, making changes, and attaching her budgets to their contracts.

Why Publish a Budget Template?

I receive a steady stream of requests from producers and funders who require detailed line item budgets for their non-fiction and documentary programs.

  • It is a tedious, costly and time-consuming process to develop a budget that meets the exacting standards of the networks.
  • It can take several weeks to research the data, and then present the findings in an acceptable format.

Elizabeth’s budget package is intended to save my clients time. It eliminates the uncertainty about making an unprofessional pitch about costs.

Elizabeth’s budgeting package meets industry standards and provides everything you need to present to funders. She is my Budget Whisperer!

For more detail about the Contents of the Production Budget Template plus a 2-hour expert Consultation, and how to order, go to our STORE here.


Here’s what you receive via PDF and Excel when you purchase the Budget Template package:

  • A Customizable Budget Template with a Sample 1-Hour Documentary on EXCEL- Provides you with a rare glimpse at a real documentary budget. The template includes a Percent Cost by Category, which provides an overview of how the money is being spent. Funders want most of their money spent ‘on screen’. This gives you a quick assessment of where the money is allocated, allowing you see ‘red flag’ areas and adjust accordingly. The Budget Detail is organized within a fully formatted Chart of Accounts, which is itself very time-consuming to structure. The Budget is fully customizable with additional space provided for new line items and two areas for notes. The Budget Line Item Summary provides a summary of total costs in each account for quick and easy reference. The Formula Check allows you to cross-reference and make sure your formulas remain intact.
  • The Cost Reporting Function provides a mechanism to track spending, helping you to stay on budget.
  • Schedule Template– Establishes when each phase of production will occur. It includes a quick reference to indicate when key staff come on and off the project. The schedule is an important starting point for accurate budget planning.
  • Budget Assumptions Template– Critical to a funder’s understanding of a budget but often not provided. Using this template will show funders that you know what you are doing!
  • PLUS a 2-hour consultation on your unique program budgeting needs.

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There are 35 account categories:

Above-the-Line (6):

  • Development
  • Story/Rights
  • Producers/Directors
  • Talent
  • Casting
  • Travel

Below -the-Line (29):

  • Production Staff
  • Camera Operations
  • Electric Operations
  • Production Sound
  • Makeup & Wardrobe
  • Interviewees/Participants/Experts
  • Props/Supplies
  • Location
  • Memory/Media/Film/Batteries
  • Airfare/Train
  • Hotel
  • Per Diem
  • Transportation
  • Gratuities
  • Hospitality
  • Additional Expenses
  • Post Production Staff
  • Post Production Equipment
  • Final Finishing-Picture
  • Post Production Sound
  • Post Lab/ Media/Duplication/Tape Stock
  • Deliverables
  • Graphics/CGI
  • Rights-Music
  • Rights-Stock
  • Legal
  • Insurance
  • Administrative/Overhead
  • Production Fee

Benchmark Rates

For more detail about the Contents, and to order the Production Budget Template plus a 2-hour expert Consultation, go to our STORE here.


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