Production Budget Template for a Documentary Special, 2018-19 Edition


By Elizabeth Ventura

My comprehensive Production Budget immediately establishes professional credibility with network production managers. It saves producers time and uncertainty. The customizable Budget includes 35 account categories, plus an Assumptions Template and a Production Schedule Template. The package includes a 2-hour consultation on your unique budget needs. The work is based on my years of experience as a Senior Consultant in Production Management, working on documentary and nonficton budgets for leading US and international networks as well as for private funders and foundation.

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Budget Benchmarks

To find out what it costs to produce a representative hour of Factual television, I rely on my ‘Budget Whisperer’ — the highly-respected senior consultant, Elizabeth Ventura.

Elizabeth has worked for 15+ years as a Production Manager on programs for dozens of US networks.

Documentaries that she budgeted have been approved by:

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

Elizabeth is a highly valued industry expert in budgeting international co-productions. Co-pro partners who have approved her budgets include Channel 4, ARTE and more.

Producers and networks call on her to draft reliable production budgets that meet the industry cost benchmarks for the on-air quality that all the parties involved in a production are agreeing as deliverables.


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

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

Why Publish a Budget Template?

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

It is a tedious, costly 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 saves my clients time and uncertainty. Along with a comprehensive Budget Template, she includes many special features, including an Assumptions Page Template and Schedule Template.

Elizabeth’s budgeting package meets industry standards and provides everything you need to present to funders.


Every experienced network decision-maker, funder and producer ‘knows’ what it costs to deliver a particular genre or category of television programming at a certain quality level.

Examples are:

  • True Crime specials, which are particularly hot right now
  • Primetime History flush with dramatic reenactments
  • Home Makeover series
  • Archive-based clip shows
  • Science specials that are loaded with CGI
  • Fashion/Elimination
  • Shark Week and other Blue Chip Wildlife specials involving complex field capture in distant locations
  • Vet-based Wildlife series with strong talent
  • Character-based Reality series…

All of these genres and categories are benchmarked for their expected total episode cost as well as for each line item cost.


Here’s what you receive via PDF and Excel when you purchase the Elizabeth Ventura / Budget template package:

  • A Customizable Budget Template for a Sample 1-Hour Documentary on EXCEL. Every aspect of the budget template can be customized for your own needs. The sample documentary budget provides you with a rare glimpse at a real documentary budget.
  • A 2-Hour Consultation with Line Producer Elizabeth Ventura –a rare opportunity to discuss your unique production needs, ask questions and get valuable advice.
  • Schedule and Assumptions Templates and a Bonus Cost Reporting Function to accompany your budget– the schedule is an important starting point for budget planning and an assumptions page is critical when presenting your budget to potential funders. The Cost Reporting function helps you to track costs.

2017 consultants 2

  • Schedule Template– An indication of when each phase of production will occur. It includes a look at when key staff come on and off the project.


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

The budget is completely customizable: Add, delete, and change account information.

It provides benchmark rates for production staff, crew, travel, edit equipment, etc…

Prod Schedule Screen Shot 2016-07-26


  • Elizabeth Ventura is a Production and Strategic Partnership Consultant with over 12 years’ experience in various aspects of production, outreach, and fundraising.
  • She has managed multi-million dollar production company operations, served as Production Manager on multiple broadcast series and managed complex outreach events.
  • She is also a skilled specialist in fundraising, developing strategic partnerships, and designing effective outreach campaigns.

Elizabeth is available for a 2+ hour consultation for buyers of the Production Budget template.