Screen Australia A-Z Budget templates

Screen Australia A-Z Feature Budget

Screen Australia provides a standard spreadsheet template for all their funding applications. This is known as the A-Z Budget and is a long-standing standard in Australian Film & TV production. It is an essential tool if you are going to apply for the Producer Offset. The current A-Z Feature Budget is version 7.7.

Once there is more than one bookkeeper or payroll master the accounts must be kept in a proper system. If you want to import that A-Z Budget chart of accounts into any professional accounts system you are in for hours or days of manual manipulation and pain.

I’ve gone through this too many times so I’ve made a csv file that has account codes and budget categories to match v7.7. This should allow you to easily set up an A-Z Budget chart of accounts in MYOB, Xero, QuickBooks and other accounting packages. Just ask in the comments and I’ll email it to you, remember to tell me what accounting package you are setting up.

STOP PRESS: Xero has a 999-line limit on the import, so you can’t import it the whole Chart of Accounts. I’m working on a fix.

There is a version of the A-Z Budget in Movie Magic Budgeting 7 but it is hopelessly broken and out of date. I have created a working file for MM Budgeting 7 for my clients. Sorry it’s also broken now and I can’t fix it as I no longer have MMB7 to play with. Let me know if you have a license I can use to fix it.

Specific criticisms of theA-Z Budget Spreadsheet follow. Scroll down to the comments if you want to skip the painful details.

The A-Z Budget spreadsheet has a terrible User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). That is not the end of the world as, once you get used to it, you can navigate around the ugly beast. Did I mention the Budget tab defaults to 1558 lines before dealing with 14 separate detail tabs?

This spreadsheet has grown over the years with many owners and target uses. Therefore it is absolutely Byzantine in structure and layout. Budget categories are coded A to Z (hence the name) with some having logical structure e.g. C.1-C.24 under C. PRODUCTION UNIT FEES & SALARIES.

But C.16 VISUAL EFFECTS & ANIMATION does not have the word “Crew” that most of the departments have. That’s the sort of sloppiness that creeps into legacy systems when they get updated. When the A-Z Budget was developed there was no Visual Effects Crew only practical special effects.

Worse is U IMAGE POST-PRODUCTION whose subcategories go from a. to n. with no reference to the U parent, it just suddenly jumps from U on row 1285 to a. on row 1289 all the way to n. on row 1375. It’s easy to get lost. The same thing happens again at V SOUND – POST PRODUCTION, suddenly we have a. to e. disconnected from the parent account.

How about Above-The-Line E(a) PRINCIPAL CAST with subcategories E(a)1 OFFSHORE CAST – Non-resident and E(a)2 AUSTRALIAN CAST – Australian residents. At least you know there is an E category with subcategory (a) and then 2 sub-subcategories.

Below-The-Line we start with C. and D. before returning to E(b) CAST & CASTING made up of subcategories E(b)1 CASTING FEES & EXPENSES to E(b)6 EXTRAS. Why is it E(b)1 when elsewhere it is C.1 or F.2 or U.2 or L. or R. or n. or any other arbitrary format structure?

This is why you can’t just import the unmodified A-Z Budget. Not rational accounting system understands the accounting levels Screen Australia has created for us.

There’s a whole different post coming on accounting for QAPE (Qualifying Australian Production Expenditure) which you require if you will apply for the Producer Offset.