How Much It Costs to Make a BBC Documentary.

How Much It Costs to Make a BBC Documentary.

Table of Contents

The cost of making a BBC documentary can vary depending on the scope and scale of the project. The cost can be anywhere from £10,000 to £1,000,000.

Here are some standard ranges for crew:

  • Camera Operators: 400-650/day
  • DP: 650-800/day
  • Sound: 400-650/day
  • Editors: 1750-4250/week
  • Story Producers: 1650 – 3K/week

Types Of Documentaries Commissioned By BBC

Documentaries are often commissioned by the BBC to fulfill specific roles in their programming, and each of these documentaries can be made at a different cost.

The following list is the most common types of documentaries that are commissioned and the approximate cost to produce them.

Factual Documentaries

The BBC commissions documentary films to provide viewers with information that they can’t get anywhere else. Documentaries can be made about any subject matter and the BBC will often choose a topic that they are interested in covering in detail.

The BBC’s documentary department has been responsible for some of the greatest documentaries ever made, including Gandhi, The Power of Nightmares, and The Blair Years.

They have also produced many popular documentaries that are designed to appeal to a mass audience.

Factual documentaries have a very particular set of requirements that must be met. The BBC documentaries department has an in-house team of writers who work closely with the producers, and it is these people who are responsible for writing the scripts for the films.

The production process.

BBC documentaries are made in much the same way as any other type of documentary.

The actual production process is fairly standard, and the main difference between documentary making and feature film making is in the length of the production schedule, not so much in the production methods themselves.

The first step in the process is to get a good idea for a possible topic or story to cover, and then to pitch the idea to a commissioning editor.

Once an idea has been commissioned, a producer will be assigned to the project.

The producer will help develop the idea by talking with experts and finding people who can act as interviewees for the film.

Crew :

“The crew is the group of people who actually make the program. They are responsible for all the technical aspects of filmmaking.

The crew is made up of many different types of people with different specialisms, such as camera operators, sound engineers, editors, and computer technicians.”

The director of photography (also known as the D.o.P)

Responsible for all aspects of the photography on a shoot. The DoP works with the director to establish the look of the film, and will then oversee all aspects of lighting, camera movement, and composition.

The DoP is also responsible for liaising with the camera crew on set, who are responsible for moving the camera around during filming.


The camera crew consists of a camera operator, focus puller, and cameraman.

The camera operator is responsible for operating the camera during filming, whilst the focus puller operates the lens to keep it in focus, and the cameraman, who is also called an operator, may also operate the camera, but sometimes a separate director of photography will be hired to do this.

The lighting crew:

consists of a gaffer, best boy, and lighting assistants. The gaffer is the head of the lighting crew, and they are responsible for turning the lights on and off.

The Best Boy is the second in charge of the lighting crew, and they are responsible for making sure that everything is plugged incorrectly.


the process of editing the footage and adding any special effects that may be needed. This can go on for days, weeks, or even months if a film is big-budget.

Once all of the post-production is finished, the movie is screened for an audience. This does not always happen, but it is common for people who work on the movie to go see it.

Sometimes, a boom operator may be used on a film set. They are responsible for recording sound when the camera is too far away from the actors. . .

The sound crew:

Consists of a boom operator, and sound assistants. The boom operator is the head of the sound crew, and they are responsible for setting up microphones and recording the actors during filming.

The sound assistants are responsible for making sure that the microphones work correctly, and they also make sure that the boom operator is able to hear what is being said by the actors.

Marketing and distribution :

Responsible for getting the movie into theatres, and they also help promote it.

During production, they will make a trailer that is used to advertise the film to the general public.

They are also responsible for making sure that the movie is distributed to different countries around the world.

How To: Sell your documentary idea with these simple tips

There are a few things to consider before you begin your documentary journey.

  • What is your topic?
  • Who is your audience?
  • How do you plan to make money from the documentary?

Tips for pitching your documentary ideas to producers

What should your pitch include?

In order to make a documentary for the BBC, you need to have a great pitch. This pitch is your first chance to make a great impression on the BBC, so it is important to make sure that you are ready.

Here are a few things to think of when you are creating your pitch: your pitch should include your idea, the motivation behind it, and how you plan to execute it.

You should also include any relevant experience that you have in film and tell the BBC why they should invest in your documentary.

Who are the key players?

When pitching your documentary idea to the BBC, it is crucial to know who you are pitching to.

The person that you will be pitching to, the commissioning editor, or producer, is a key player in the process of making your documentary for the BBC.

How to Budget for a Documentary: Tips from the Pros.

Documentaries can be an incredibly powerful way to share a story, but they can also be expensive to make. Budgeting for a documentary is essential to ensuring that the project is completed successfully and on time.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when budgeting for a documentary.

Some of the most important factors include

  • The length of the documentary,
  • The crew size.
  • The location of filming.

Get your documentary funded with a solid budget plan and you’ll be well on your way to making a great documentary for the BBC.

Get Your Documentary Funded: How to Ask for Money.

If you want to make a documentary for the BBC, you’re going to need funding. A budget plan is going to be the most important tool you have when trying to get funding for your project.

1. Research funding sources.

The first thing that you’re going to want to do is research funding sources. There are a number of different factors that you’re going to want to consider when doing this.

For example, you will want to make sure that the funding source is reputable.

You will also want to look for funding sources that have a history of successfully funding documentaries like yours.

2. Make a budget plan.

The second thing that you’re going to want to do is create a budget plan. This will tell the funding source exactly how much money you need, and for what reasons.

3. Apply for the funding

The third thing that you’re going to want to do is apply for the funding. This can be done in a number of different ways, including submitting an application or completing a grant inquiry form.

4. Negotiate the terms

The fourth thing that you’re going to want to do is negotiate the terms of the funding.

You may be required to submit reports on your progress, or you may have to agree not to use certain people in your film.

5. Use the funds wisely

The fifth thing that you’re going to want to do is use the funds wisely.

This means spending the money in a way that makes sense for your film project but also in a way that doesn’t hurt your pocketbook.

How much does it cost to make a documentary series?

The cost of making a documentary series can vary greatly depending on the scope and scope. For example, a series that only features one person can be much cheaper to produce than a series with multiple subjects or locations. Additionally, the type of camera and equipment used can also affect the price tag.

Production: This includes everything from hiring crew and equipment, to travel and post-production.

Production can be a daunting task for any filmmaker. From hiring crew and equipment to travel and post-production, there is a lot to take care of. Here are six tips for making production go smoother:

1) Make sure you have a solid plan.

Have everything you need to be written down so there are no surprises. This will save time and prevent frustrating delays.

2) Hire the right people.

Don’t waste your time or money on a crew that isn’t qualified or won’t meet your expectations. Get people who are experienced and committed to your project.

3) Stay organized.

Keep track of what’s happening on set by using a timeline or photojournalism approach. This will help keep everyone on track and avoid confusion.

4) Be prepared for unexpected problems.

No matter how much planning you do it’s impossible to predict every problem that will come up. Make sure you have a contingency plan for everything.

5) Hire the right equipment and insurance.

Use the right gear for your project. Invest in the best insurance you can afford.

6) Plan for post-production.

The last thing you want to do is be stuck in post-production because of equipment issues or problems on set. Plan ahead and make sure everything is in order before entering the post.

Marketing: The costs of marketing a documentary series can be high, but are essential for attracting an audience.

The costs associated with marketing a documentary series can be high but are essential for attracting an audience. The most important factor in determining whether a documentary series will be successful is the quality of its content.

In order to ensure that the series is well-received, filmmakers must devote time and resources to marketing it correctly.

This includes developing a strategy for reaching potential viewers, as well as setting realistic expectations for how much money they will need to invest.

Overall, it is worth it to invest in marketing a documentary series if the content is good enough to warrant it.

Distribution: Once the series is finished, it must be distributed to broadcasters or streaming platforms.

Series creators often have a hard time figuring out how to distribute their work once it’s finished. Distribution can be a difficult process, but it’s important for series creators to figure out an approach that will work best for their projects.

There are many different ways to distribute a series, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. One option is to sell DVDs or Blu-rays of the series, which can be an effective way to reach a wide audience.

However, this approach can be expensive and require a lot of coordination between the series creator and distributors. Another option is to distribute the series through streaming platforms like Netflix or Hulu.

This method is convenient for viewers because they can watch the series without having to wait for a DVD or Blu-ray to arrive in the mail.

Financing: Funding a documentary series can be difficult, but there are a number of options available.

If you’re thinking of financing a documentary series, there are a number of options available to you. You can look into crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, or find private investors. Another option is to find grants from foundations or other organizations.

Finally, you could look into selling advertising spots or licensing your series to networks. It can be difficult to finance a documentary series, but there are a number of ways to get started.

How do I submit a documentary to the BBC?

BBC Docs is the name given to the BBC’s documentary division. To submit a documentary to them, you first need to create a account. Once you have created an account, you can then begin to submit your documentaries.

The first step is to find a distribution partner. This can be done by searching for ‘distribution partners’ on the BBC Docs website or by contacting their sales team directly.

Once you have found a distribution partner, you need to complete a submission form. The submission form will require information such as the title of the documentary, its length, and its director(s). Additionally, it will ask for contact information for the director and producer as well as copyright clearance footage.

Once all of this information has been collected, it is time to upload your documentary onto the BBC Docs website.

What are the submission guidelines? – BBC Documentary.

The BBC Documentary Guidelines state that documentaries should be “of interest to the general public and not just specialists in a particular field.” They must also be “well-made, intelligent and entertaining,” with an “original voice and point of view.”

The BBC Documentary Guidelines also state that “documents are not expected to be ‘entertaining’ or ‘enticing’ in the sense of being a ‘selling point ‘ to potential viewers, but should have a strong dramatic and/or narrative drive.

Things to be included in a BBC Documentary.

What to include in a BBC documentary.

If you are making a BBC documentary, there are a few essential things to include in order to make it as comprehensive and accurate as possible. Below is a list of items that should be included in any BBC documentary:

1. Background information on the subject or topic being covered

2. Information about the filmmakers and their backgrounds

3. The production process from start to finish (including filming locations and any challenges encountered)

4. Analysis of the footage gathered during the shooting

5. An overview of the finished product, including any interviews conducted, graphics and images used, etc.

The producer’s point of view.

Looking at the world from a producer’s point of view is different from looking at it from a consumer’s or even enthusiast’s perspective. Producers are the individuals and companies that create something new, whether it be an article of clothing, a song, or a product.

They are in charge of making sure everything goes according to plan and meets their own expectations. Producing can be difficult and tedious work, but it is also incredibly rewarding when everything comes together correctly.

The researcher’s point of view.

The researcher’s point of view is essential to any academic paper. It allows the reader to understand where the author is coming from and what their motivations might be. It can also help contextualize the data collected.

The editor’s point of view.

In an age where it seems like everyone has a blog or a column, it can be hard to stand out. But for the editors of publications such as magazines and newspapers, their voice is vital in shaping public opinion.

Editors use their point of view to shape the content they publish. This perspective might be shaped by personal experience, what they’ve read, or the opinions of others they trust.

In some cases, an editor might have official positions that give them a vested interest in certain outcomes.

But whatever the case may be, editors always strive to produce content that is interesting and informative.

In addition to guiding readers through stories, editors help shape the overall tone and feel of a publication. They are responsible for making sure that every article feels cohesive and supports the overarching goal of the publication—whether that’s informing or entertaining readers.

The broadcaster’s point of view.

Why is it important to have a broadcaster’s point of view in journalism in regard to documentaries?

Broadcasters provide information that can be seen and heard by a large number of people. By providing their perspective on events, broadcasters are able to provide more impartial information to their viewers or listeners.

This allows for more accurate reporting, as well as an increased understanding of events. Broadcasters also play an important role in shaping public opinion, which can have dramatic consequences.

The audience’s point of view.

As bloggers and content creators, we often assume that our audience is exclusively comprised of people who are interested in what we have to say.

However, this is not always the case. In fact, many people who visit websites or read articles do so for a different reason entirely.

They may be looking for information about a topic that interests them, or they may be seeking validation from others. It’s important to remember that not everyone wants to hear what you have to say.

Sometimes it’s helpful to step back and consider how your audience sees things – from their perspective, at least.

What to consider when creating a BBC documentary.

When creating a BBC documentary, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, the story you want to tell should be at the forefront of your mind. What is this documentary about? Why is it important?

What makes it different from other documentaries on the same subject? Once you have a clear idea of what you want your documentary to be, it’s time to figure out how to tell that story.

One way to do this is through interviews. You may also want to use footage that captures the natural environment in which your story takes place.

And finally, don’t forget about graphics and sound! Music can help set the tone for a documentary and sound effects can add realism.

By taking these into account when creating your BBC documentary, you’ll create something unique and interesting that viewers will love watching.

What are the factors that contribute to the cost of making a BBC documentary?

The main factors that affect the budget of a BBC documentary include:

  • Crew sizes – More camera operators, sound engineers, producers etc. means higher production costs.
  • Talent fees – For presenters, narrators, contributors. Big names demand bigger fees.
  • Shooting days – More shooting days requires more crew, travel, and equipment costs.
  • Travel – If filming in multiple international locations transportation is expensive.
  • Specialist camera equipment – High-end cameras, lenses, drones, camera cars etc.
  • Archive footage licensing – Can be pricey to license footage from news agencies.
  • Clearance fees – For locations, trademarks, music rights.
  • Post-production – Editing, grading, audio post, graphics all take time and resources.
  • Marketing and distribution.

How much does it cost to hire a film crew for a BBC documentary?

The cost of hiring a professional TV documentary film crew varies greatly depending on the size and experience level of the crew. As a rough guide:

  • Camera operator – £300-£600 per 10 hour day
  • Sound recordist – £250-£400 per day
  • Director of Photography – £450-£850 per day
  • Assistant camera – £150-£300 per day
  • Producer – £300-£500 per day
  • Production manager – £250-£400 per day

For a standard 3 person crew of camera/sound/producer for a modest BBC doc, expect £1000-£1500 per day minimum. High end natural history docs can have crews of 10+ people.

What is the average cost of a BBC documentary per minute?

It’s difficult to pin down an exact figure, but industry estimates put the average production costs per minute for a high-end BBC documentary at:

  • £5,000 – £10,000 per minute for a history/science documentary
  • £10,000 – £20,000+ per minute for a high-end nature doc like Planet Earth.

The huge variance depends on filming locations, special equipment, archive licensing, talent, post-production etc. Lower budget BBC docs can be produced for £1,000-£3,000 per minute.

As a rough guide, expect at least £5,000 per minute for a reasonable quality BBC doc, and upwards of £10k per minute for high-end landmark series. But any exact figure will be dependent on the specific production.

Are there any specific examples of expensive BBC documentary series?

Some of the most expensive BBC documentary productions include:

  • Planet Earth II (2016) – £16 million for 6 episodes, around £2.5 million per episode.
  • Blue Planet II (2017) – Over £15 million for 7 episodes, so over £2 million per episode. Shot in ultra high 4K resolution.
  • Frozen Planet (2011) – £16 million budget, around £3 million per episode. Filmed over 3 years with state of the art equipment.
  • Africa (2013) – £16 million budget, around £4 million per episode due to the huge scale needed to cover an entire continent.

These were very high-end natural history series with specially developed camera and drone tech, extensive logistics, and years spent gathering footage around the world.

How much does it cost to hire a director of photography for a BBC documentary?

For a professional, experienced director of photography to shoot a BBC documentary, typical day rates are:

  • £600-£800 per 10 hour day for mid-level DOP
  • £800-£1200 for very experienced, in demand DOP
  • £1000-£1500+ for elite level DOP e.g. for high prestige natural history series

So for a 6 week shoot, a top level DOP could cost upwards of £50,000 in fees. They may also get royalties. Equipment, camera assistants and production costs come on top.

What are the typical rates for editors working on a BBC documentary?

Experienced documentary picture editors usually charge per hour or per day:

  • Junior/mid level BBC doc editor – £250-£350 per day
  • Experienced editor – £350-£500 per day
  • High end editor – £500-£650+ per day

For a 90 minute BBC doc, editing time is roughly 9-12 weeks full time. So edit costs alone could be £15k-£30k or more, depending on experience level of the editor.

Here are some additional details on BBC documentary production costs:

How does the timeline or production schedule impact the cost of a BBC documentary?

The timeline and schedule can greatly affect costs:

  • Tight deadlines mean crew and post-production have to work overtime or double shifts, increasing rates.
  • Fast turnarounds can compromise shooting days and planning, resulting in wastage.
  • Delayed schedules from technical issues, weather etc can extend crew days needed.
  • Ideal schedules allow adequate shooting ratio, prep time and post time without excessive overtime.
  • Series delivered on an annual cycle tend to get cost savings through economies of scale.

Are there any grants or funding options available for BBC documentary filmmakers?

There are some limited funding options:

  • BBC ‘Window of Creative Competition’ – small grants for innovative pitches.
  • Public funding bodies like BFI, Arts Council or Screen Scotland for certain projects.
  • Corporate sponsorship for high profile docs like natural history.
  • Co-production funding from European broadcasters.
  • Product placement in some cases to fund costs.
  • Crowdfunding for certain docs with niche audience support.

But majority of funding still comes from the commissioning broadcaster like BBC, or the production company’s own budget. Grants don’t fully finance most BBC docs.

How does the reputation and experience of the production team affect the cost of a BBC documentary?

More experienced production teams tend to increase costs:

  • Top producers can command higher salaries and bigger teams.
  • Experienced crews get hired at higher day rates.
  • Top talent and heads of department charge premium fees.

But their expertise can result in cost savings through efficiency, planning and creative solutions. So while their fees are higher, they can sometimes bring budgets down elsewhere through experience.

How does the popularity and demand for a BBC documentary affect its cost?

High public demand increases value:

  • Popular subjects get bigger budgets from the BBC.
  • Production company can monetize through DVD sales, licensing.
  • Secondary broadcaster funding is available.
  • Talent is eager to participate.

This allows bigger crews, extended schedules, more locations – so higher costs. But likelihood of a return on investment is higher.

Are there any cost differences between scripted and unscripted BBC documentaries?

Scripted documentaries generally have higher production costs:

  • Writers need to be hired to script narration and dramatic recreations.
  • Actors need to be cast and paid fees for scripted elements.
  • More shooting days are needed for dramatic scenes.
  • Costume, hair/makeup, and production design are required.
  • Legal clearances for portraying real people/events.

So scripted elements can add 20-30% or more to the production budget compared to a purely unscripted doc.

How does the quality of a BBC documentary impact its cost?

Higher production quality drives costs up:

  • Cinematic 4K or 8K camera equipment is more expensive.
  • Advanced motion control rigs, drones, macro photography are pricier.
  • Shooting on film stock is costlier than digital.
  • High-end graphics, VFX, compositing bump up post costs.
  • Top sound mix and grade in HDR is time-intensive.
  • Original music scores are expensive.
  • Experienced crews get higher rates.

Delivering broadcast quality HD footage with clean audio alone requires significant minimum funding. The sky’s high limit for max quality.

What are the typical distribution costs for a BBC documentary?

Distribution costs include:

  • Encoding and transcoding footage for different formats.
  • Closed captioning and audio description for accessibility.
  • Physical media production – DVDs, Blu-Rays.
  • Marketing assets – trailers, promo packages.
  • Publicity costs – screenings, press materials.
  • Localization – translating and dubbing foreign versions.
  • Online hosting and encoding for streaming platforms.

These costs can range from a few thousand pounds for basic online distribution, up to tens of thousands for a multi-platform home video release with global marketing.

How does the use of archival footage impact the cost of a BBC documentary?

  • Licensing fees for archival footage can be costly – from £500 to £5,000+ per minute depending on the source and richness of the footage.
  • Obscure/rare archive requires extensive research and sourcing which adds staffing costs.
  • Digitization and restoration of old or degraded film/tape adds lab fees.
  • Legal fees for rights clearances, especially for recognizable figures or brands.
  • Re-licensing when a show needs re-airing or distribution years later.
  • Creation of broadcast-quality clips from raw archival footage requires editing time.
  • Technical costs of matching and integrating different formats/resolutions.

So heavy use of archive typically adds substantial costs compared to original footage.

How does the length of a BBC documentary affect its cost?

  • Longer running times allow the subject to be covered in more depth.
  • More shooting days are needed to gather sufficient footage.
  • Post-production is longer for editing down raw footage.
  • Narration and music has to be expanded to cover duration.
  • With a popular subject, longer runtimes can allow for greater revenue opportunities like DVD sales or licensing.
  • For history/science docs, every additional minute adds £5k-£10k typically.
  • High-end series often have episodes over 60+ minutes.

So in general, longer BBC docs require larger budgets to maintain production values. But they can see bigger returns on investment.

How do marketing and promotion costs factor into the overall cost of a BBC documentary?

Typical marketing costs can include:

  • Advertising – TV, print, online, out-of-home
  • Social media and PR campaigns
  • Media hosting and screeners for press previews
  • Festival submission fees for awards/exposure
  • Graphic design for posters, title sequences
  • Website development and maintenance
  • Promotional events and screenings

For a high prestige BBC landmark series, global marketing can cost £500k upwards. Even for modest docs, tens of thousands may be spent on advertising and promotion.

In conclusion:

Now you know the truth Revealed: The Truth About How Much it Costs to Make a BBC Documentary.You Could Read more of our articles on documentary filmmaking to even get more info.

NB: Don’t forget to submit your films and documentaries of all genres and length for participation and recognition.


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