Process of filmmaking – in 4 simple steps.
There are four main stages of Filmmaking:
Development is where the creative juices start flowing, the story takes shape and begins to mold together. A Producer will use every resource they can grab onto until they find a story worth pursuing. Many great sources for optioning material include local and national newspapers, blogs, books and plays. Of course you can always option an original screenplay or commission a screen writer to create a script from the book or print media you have attained the rights to. After the producer has a script, the next step is to receive script coverage or notes.
Some scripts will need multiple coverages until the producers are satisfied and ready to send Letters of Intent to agencies and managers. Finding the right director for your project is key, and it may even be you. We recommend bringing in a line producer to breakdown your script and create an estimated budget before talking to investors.
There are many ways to finance a film for an independent producer, none of them are easy.
This will require a major hustle and diligent work. After you have secured financing for your feature, whether through independent financiers, crowd sourcing (kickstarter, indigogo), or a studio deal, your film has been given the green light and you can move to the next stage, preproduction.
We do not claim to have created the 7 P’s of Production, but we do follow it.
Piss Poor Preproduction Produces Piss Poor Production, the latter being undesirable and very avoidable.
During Preproduction key members are brought onto your team, most significant is the Director (if you have not done so already), the Cinematographer, and the Line Producer.
The Director is going to create his/her own vision for the script and every department brought on after this will revolve around the directors ideas.
The line producer is responsible for all the physical nuts and bolts of the production, negotiating deals for all crew and to make sure the film does not go over budget. Depending on the size of your production a Unit Production Manager (UPM) may be brought on or the Line Producer may act as UPM during the shoot which is not uncommon.
Next up is bringing on a Director of Photography (DP) that is going to work with your director and carry out their vision for the film. The director may have a DP in mind that they would like to work with on the film. The DP is going to stylize the film based on the shot list and storyboard they have created with the director during preproduction. For a director, it is of the utmost importance to create and master the shot list, so the filming process will be as smooth as possible.
Other key crew members that need to be brought on during preproduction are the Production Designer, Costume Designer, Location Manager, and the Casting Director. Depending on the size of the project, Preproduction can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months, and even longer conditional to how much work needs to be done.
The Production Designer creates a visual look for the film and is in charge of the art department (Art Director, Set Designer/dresser, Propmaster etc). Think, if you are filming a period piece, the PD is responsible for making sure everything that will be seen on camera besides the cast matches that period.
The Costume Designers role is to find and create wardrobe for the entire cast and make sure they are in the correct outfit for every scene.
When searching for filming locations with your director, it’s great to bring your Production Designer and Cinematographer with you as well. They will be able to provide an invaluable look at each possible location which will be very helpful when making the final location decision. The Location Manager will work with you to find the best locations to show you and your team. They will be in charge of securing all permits needed to film at each location and will act as a liaison with the production and will deal with property owners, building managers, the public and neighboring businesses depending on where the filming will take place.
Furthermore, it is the Location Manager’s duty to make sure the space is safe, cast and crew have an area to park, and there is room for the generators and trailers.
The Casting Director is brought in during preproduction to fill all the roles for the film. They work with the director and producer to create a dream list of potential cast. The Casting Director also submits role breakdowns to different casting services and contacts agencies and management companies to arrange auditions. They may even negotiate actor contracts.
Principal Photography (shooting)
After you have finalized your script, fully casted your film, booked all of your equipment, locked all your locations, hired the remaining crew, completed you story board and mastered your shot list, you should now be feeling pretty good because you are ready for Principle Photography.
During Preproduction you will also bring on your First Assistant Director or 1st AD, who will work with the Director and Line Producer and create a shooting schedule. Making sure each department has adequate prep time is the best way to ensure that your set will run smoothly and you won’t end up running around panicking.
During Production, the 1st AD will run the set and make sure everything is happening in a timely manner. The 1st AD is responsible for onset safety and making sure each department is working while monitoring how much time is needed for each respective department.
Being a 1st AD means thinking on your feet and being able to solve a problem. Depending on the size of the film, the 1st AD may have an army PA’s. The PA Nation (production assistants) works directly underneath the AD unless they have been assigned to a specific department.
The 2nd Assistant Director works directly with the 1st AD and is responsible for preparing the daily call sheets and making sure the talent reports to set. This means making sure the talent has gone through wardrobe and makeup and is camera ready.
The Script supervisor sits right in front of the monitor next to the director and is responsible for tracking the films continuity. The scripty (nickname) follows the script and keeps track of any changes that are made while filming. They also pay close attention to details and monitor the axis and eye lines for each take. Additionally, the Script Supervisor will interact with the Camera and sound department to make sure the slate is correct. At the end of each day production reports and notes for the editor are prepared.
Most independent films shoot 4 to 5 pages a day.
They may even shoot more if the budget is very tight or scenes are moved around. If you do not need to film more than 5 pages a day it is definitely not recommended unless you want to pay for overtime or have the crew upset. Major movies often shoot 2 or 3 pages a day.
The Gaffer, Grip & Electric, 1st assistant camera, 2nd assistant Camera, and Sound Mixer are all necessary members of the team.
The gaffer is in charge of all lighting on the set and works directly with the DP. He or she may even be requested in advance by the DP.
The Key Grip works with the Gaffer and the DP and is in charge of all equipment for lighting and rigging.
Then for grip and electric there are crew members that “Swing” between these departments and are often referred to as best boys.
The 1st AC or assistant camera is in charge of pulling focus. They also build the camera and swap out lenses and accessories needed for different shots.
The 2nd AC marks each take for the slate, keeps batteries ready to go, swaps out memory cards, and work closely with the 1st AC.
The 2nd AC may also work as the onset Digital Imaging Technician or DIT. The DIT loads and stores all your precious footage safely onto separate hard drives. They may also do onset color correction and prepare footage for the director to see at the end of the day (dailies).
The production sound mixer is responsible for recording and capturing all sound. On smaller productions the Sound mixer may even operate the boom microphone and do the mixing simultaneously. Most prefer to have a separate Boom Operator that stays onset so the sound mixer can be completely dedicated to mixing.
After you have completed principal photography you are now in Post Production. Time to bring in you editor,composer, sound designer, music supervisor, VFX artist, and colorist.
Post production can be a long and tedious process.
If you have budgeted your film correctly, you should have enough funds to cover post.
The director will work closely with the editor to choose the takes they like best. A post supervisor may be hired to oversee the post process and make sure everything is happening on time.
The editor will use the notes from the script supervisor to help them navigate through the sea of footage. Hopefully you will not need to schedule re-shoots or replace dialogue. This could potentially become pricey.
After you put together a rough cut, added original score or have attained the rights to use your favorite music, it is time color correct the film. It’s a good idea to test out the film before the picture is locked.
After you (producer) and the director are satisfied, you can promote your movie like hell and submit it to festivals, or if you already have a distribution deal this puts you a step ahead to recouping your finances.
There are many different distribution methods for movies now. An important thing to remember about the production process is that the film is what you set out to make, but the movie is what you produced. Hopefully the project comes out the way you intended, but it most likely will be slightly different either for better or for worse.