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How Much Does a Documentary Film Cost?

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Various factors influence the documentary film budget. Total length, filming location, and many other factors come into play which is why, when someone asks, “How much does a documentary film cost,” the best answer we have is, “it depends.” It does depend. It depends on the budget we have to work with. It depends on how long the documentary is intended to be. It depends on a million different factors that are different for each documentary and each client. Follow along as we try to nail down some of the costs associated with a documentary and what you can expect. How Much Does a Documentary Film Cost?

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Average Documentary Film Cost

First, let’s take a look at the average cost of a documentary. You can assume that an average documentary film is about an hour long. The average cost of film production per finished minute is somewhere between $1K and $10K so you can expect a documentary to cost somewhere between $60K and $600K. Now you might be thinking, “well that’s a pretty big range, how can I possibly budget for that?” And you’re right, that range is pretty expansive and difficult to budget for.

Unfortunately, without any other factors being considered, the average documentary film cost will range somewhere between about $60K and upwards of a million dollars or more. A documentary that is aired on public television will generally cost several hundred thousand dollars or upwards of a million. Likewise, a documentary that is to be seen privately may be significantly less.

Factors that Influence Documentary Film Cost

Several factors influence the cost of a documentary film. Knowing these factors can help you as you budget the production. You can learn where certain factors that are less important may be able to be scaled down to save money and those that are more important may be scaled up to ensure quality. The most common factors influencing documentary production costs include:

  • Quality level – a documentary that is produced for TV will certainly cost more than one that is produced for a private website or just for fun. LIkewise, a professional crew can cost upwards of $2500 or more per day whereas a freelance crew may only cost $1500 a day or even less in some cases. Again, the quality will vary between the two just as much as the price varies.
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  • Project Scope – a documentary that is filmed in several locations will cost significantly more than one that is filmed in a single location. The more crew and equipment needs there are, the higher the costs. The larger the project, the more advanced the scope, the higher the budget.
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  • Post Production Editing – another major influencer in documentary cost is post production editing. A documentary that is filmed with little concern for post production will likely result in significantly higher post production costs than one that is post production conscious. Graphics, sound effects, and soundtracks can all add to post production expenses associated with a documentary film.
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  • Distribution – one the documentary film has been produced, the distribution and marketing of the film can significantly add to the bottom line. If you intend to distribute the documentary, prepare to add this cost to your total budget to ensure you can get as many eyes on the content as possible. Distribution marketing costs range significantly and should be discussed with your production crew upfront prior to starting the project.

Beverly Boy Productions can help you hammer down a documentary film budget that works for your project needs. To get an idea of how much your documentary film will cost, give Beverly Boy Productions a call to review the fine details of your project. We can’t wait to help you!