How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, Part 2

cinematic look

Part 2: Budgeting & Creating The Proposal

In this ten part series I am sharing with you how to bring a cinematic look to a small budget commercial. You will get a behind the scenes look at how we at Bleeding Thorn Films make a project happen – warts and all from script to screen. By the end of this series, it is my desire that you will have a better understanding of how to approach your next small budget commercial.

Part 1 covered landing the client and creative ideation, and here in part 02 I’ll be covering budgeting and creating the proposal.


Now that we have spent time getting to know our client, understanding their needs, and developing the approach we are taking for their project, it is time to put the pieces together to create the estimate. This is where all of the work we did during creative ideation pays off, as the information we gleaned has a direct impact on whether we are building a house that will cost $50,000 or $500,000. As the estimate is created, the areas we are taking into account are:

  • Pre-production

This includes the all of the time it takes to properly prepare for a production. The more work we do on the front end, the smoother the production will go and the less likely it will be that we will run into any problems or overages. While it is impossible to foresee and plan for every contigency, through proper preproduction, we can keep these to a minimum, if not avoid them all together.

  • Production

Production includes the time of the skilled craftspeople, and the necessary tools they need to get their job done within the timeframe alotted. Additional costs in this area may include any location fees or specialty rental items needed for a particular project.

  • Post Production

This area of the budget includes the time it takes to edit, create graphics, grade, format, and deliver the final video. If the project calls for licensing music, sound effects, or for hiring a voice over artist, this will add to the cost of the post production budget.

As soon as we begin work on any project, we start tracking every aspect of it. Then, by the end of the project, we have an accurate count of what it actually took for us to complete that project. Having that information, and comparing it against our estimate, allows us to better evaluate our work so that we can provide more accurate esitmates on future projects.

Creating The Proposal

The last step in our initial process is the creation of the video proposal. This is where we take all of our planning, development, and budgeting and merge it into one document that is easy to read and follow by our client. This is crucial to our process as it allows everyone to literally be on the same page. The first page covers details about who we are, what our clients can expect from us, and what our proposed concept is for their video. The second page details out what is covered in the cost of the video, while the third page lays out the specific terms. It is in this thrid page where we detail out the specifics of any overage fees due to scheduling, and how many client revisions are included in the estimate. Once this document is reviewed and signed by all parties, everyone has a clear idea of what is involved. And when the plan changes, the original estimate can be revisited and adjusted accordingly.

While this may be the least glamorous part of bringing a cinematic look to a small budget commercial, it is the bedrock that will support and determine the success of the rest of the production. If we do not have a good foundation to build upon, then the rest of our efforts will be a needless waste of time. And, quite honestly, we are more interested in telling visual stories than we are in spinning our wheels.

Stay tuned for part 3 where I began covering pre-production by showing you how to location scout. And keep an eye on our blog, twitter or Vimeo Channel to follow us on our latest storytelling adventures.

This is part 2 of a 10 part series, click the links below to view the entire series.

Part 1: Landing The Client and Creative Ideation

Part 3: How to Location Scout

Part 4: Story-boarding On A Small Budget

Part 5: How To Create a Lighting Diagram

Part 6: How To Create a Shooting Schedule and Call Sheet

Part 7: How To Conduct A Camera Test

Part 8: How To Build a Rain Bar

Part 9: How To Approach Data Management On A Budget

Part 10: How To Black Out A House On A Budget

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2 Responses to “How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, Part 2”

  1. Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget | Zacuto USA on May 21st, 2013 10:06 am

    […] Part 2, I covered budgeting and creating the proposal. In Part 3 I begin the process of pre-production […]

  2. How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial | wolfcrow on September 5th, 2013 9:57 pm

    […] 1: Landing the Client Part 2: Budgeting Part 3: Location Scouting Part 4: Storyboarding Part 5: Lighting Diagrams Part 6: Creating a […]

About the Author

Born in 1980 in Seattle, Washington, Ryan has had a love and passion for the visual arts since a young child when his grandmother, an avid photographer, took him along on photo expeditions. As he grew up, his parents furthered that passion by enrolling him in various art programs and lessons. While he enjoyed painting and drawing, something was always missing - the ability to capture motion. Once introduced to the art of cinematography in high school he never looked back.Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer Since that time, Ryan has developed this passion and turned it into his career. As an award-winning cinematographer his work has allowed him the opportunity to travel worldwide in the pursuit of telling stories that are visually compelling. Ryan's distinct experience includes feature films, documentaries, commercials, and shooting for Comcast, TLC, Oxygen, and the Discovery Channel. Not only does Ryan seek to deliver cinematic images for his clients, but his commitment, organization, and professionalism means he constantly goes the extra mile to ensure that the results he delivers exceed his clients expectations.


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