How to Read a Budget

Understanding how to read a film budget will help any clerk stand out.  But unless someone shows you how to do it, it can be difficult to figure out on your own. 

A budget is broken down into three sections: Above The Line (ATL), Below The Line (BTL) and Post Production. Each section will have the following information given, but what does it mean? How does it apply to labor, equipment and items?

Acct#:  Each line item is assigned an account number that is used to track expenses.  There is a specific method to assigning the codes and they should be consistent on a specific project but can change from film to film.  It will depend on how the line producer lays out the budget. 

Example:  Everyone and all costs associated with the Production Staff will start with the code 113. Everyone and costs associated with the Camera Department will start with code 117. And so on…(these codes will change from project to project). 

Within each coding group there will be other consistencies with regards to kit rentals, purchases and fringe expenses. 

Kit rentals for Production Staff are coded to 113-85.
Kit rentals for the Camera Department are coded to 117-85.
Fringes for Production Staff are coded to 113-99.
Fringes for the Camera Department are coded to 117-99.

On labor- The description will include information on how many hours are budgeted for Prep, Shoot &Wrap. If they are budgeted for any 6th days or Holidays.
On purchases- It will give information on what type of purchases should be coded to that line.

Example:  Rentals, purchases or equipment.

Amount:  The amount of time being budgeted for.

Units:  The unit of time being budgeted.  This can be either weeks, days or hours.

X:  The number of crew or items budgeted for that line. 

Example:  There may be more than one person for each position.  Production Assistants, 3rd Electrics or 3rd Grips are common position where multiple persons are budgeted. 

Rate:  The rate that corresponds with the units budgeted.

Example:  Some positions are paid by the week, day or hour. 

Subtotal:  Subtotal for Amount x Units x X x Rate for each description line.

Example of Accounting Clerk’s line in Budget


Please note that budgets will differ from project to project based on how the line producer creates the budget.  If you are given access to the budget, go over it line by line so you understand what is budgeted. 

The budget is a highly confidential document and none of its contents should be shared with any crew members under any circumstances.  If a crew member asks about rates please direct them to the line producer.