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Home » Officer Columns » Update on Low Budget Film Agreements

Update on Low Budget Film Agreements


by Matt Allen, AFM EMSD Theatrical-Film/TV-Film Contracts Administrator

Many of the independent producers who score their films under AFM agreements utilize the low budget scales provided for in the AFM Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement. These affordable scales allow composers to hire more musicians on scoring dates, without breaking the film’s music budget.

There are three low budget categories in the AFM Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement: 1) films whose budget does not exceed $40 million; 2) films whose budget does not exceed $15 million, as long as at least one scoring session employs 15 or more musicians; and 3) films whose budget does not exceed $2 million, as long as at least one scoring session employs seven or more musicians. You may find the minimum musician scales for these low budget film categories on the website. Choose “Electronic Media Services Division” under “Departments” and look for the category “Motion Picture/TV Film,” or you may contact the AFM West Coast Office or your AFM Local, and a representative will be able to provide you with scales.

The process for a signatory film producer to apply for the use of low budget scales for their film project is simple. The producer, or its agent, may contact the AFM West Coast Office and we will provide them with a checklist of basic information we require about the film for the purpose of determining whether or not the film qualifies for any of the three low budget categories. The request for low budget status must be submitted to the AFM at least 96 hours prior to the first scoring date. 

The AFM also offers an Independent Film/Festival Film Agreement for smaller films whose final budget is $2 million or less. It provides affordable tier scales, depending on the number of musicians employed on each session. Similar to the approval process for low budget films being produced under the AFM Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement, the producer or its agent completes a simple checklist of basic information about the film (at least 96 hours prior to the first scoring session), and if the film qualifies, the AFM will prepare the agreement for the specific film project and return it to the producer for signing. The Independent Film/Festival Film Agreement allows for commercial release, as well as soundtrack album release, in connection with the film. 

For more information about the AFM Independent Film/Festival Film Agreement or the low budget approval process, please contact me directly at the AFM West Coast office, or via e-mail at

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