How much does it cost to make a movie? $2,184.00

Alden Olmsted
11 min readDec 10, 2023

Chapter Two of my Indie-Film Journal ‘A Virus Ate My Movie!’


“But,” Dave asks, “movies cost millions of dollars to make?”

“That’s after gross net deduction profit percentage deferment ten percent of the nut,” says Robert K. Bowfinger, aka Steve Martin. “Cash, every movie cost $2,184.”

If you haven’t seen Bowfinger (1999), I’d be totally ok with your putting this book down right now and going to watch it. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t have to be.

Steve Martin has nailed so many different aspects of the entertainment world that the truths in Bowfinger — especially as they relate to a low budget film — I’d put up there with Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Shuffle, Swimming With Sharks, and the crazy doc EVERYONE should watch: Overnight.

Your movie costs what you have.

The sooner you accept that the sooner you’ll start shooting. Studios have limits, why shouldn’t you?

Oh, but if you only had $20-million you’d be set. Oh really? You’d like to have to explain every shot and second of your shooting to a board or to a producer or to a group of investors? What about when two or three of your $20 million is spent on one A-list star who hasn’t had a hit since before the writer’s strike? The star who’s bitching right now in the trailer because the craft services aren’t 100% vegan? (Apologies for outing Woody Harrelson but dude — c’mon).

Or when traffic jams or permits or talent issues necessitate a reshoot and it bleeds, time-wise, into your next project? Or worst of all, you shoot your $20 million film, under budget and everyone’s happy and you host an early screening and the word is it’s not good.

The first plot point turn isn’t clear.

Nobody cares about your hero.

How’s that $20 million looking now?

And you will want to shoot more. Whether it’s your money or theirs, you will ALWAYS want to shoot more. How many endings is Bladerunner up to? Five? Six?

I was a dishwasher, and I made a movie. Ergo, you can make a movie.



Alden Olmsted

I was born in a small town in Northern California just another latch-key kid obsessed with BMX and Tom Petty. Now I make films and travel and write when I can.