The great movies are not made without great efforts. The general audience wouldn’t go beyond the remunerations, budgets and collections to look into the efforts of the filmmakers and the technology required to make films. Whether you’re an aspiring filmmaker or just want to understand the process of filmmaking, the following guide provides an insight on filmmaking process.
Filmmaking for beginners
This is the first step in filmmaking and most films start with a script. There may be some exceptions where a team of producers, director and actors want to make a film and search for a script that suits their budget and other requirements. The final screenplay should be professionally written and well formatted for any studio or agent to even read it. Several industry standard software have in-built features to take care of formatting.
Every movie starts with an idea which could be original or inspired from somewhere. The plot, characters, conflict etc strengthen the idea and develop it into a story.
The basic plot is developed from the idea or theme. The single most important factor of plot is conflict. The plot structure could follow traditional 3-act structure, hero’s journey, organic development or modern methods. The plot doesn’t change much over the course of filmmaking.
The script is the end product of the writing process. The entire team depends on the script to understand their role in the film. The costume designers, art directors and production managers study the script thoroughly to start working on the project. The script may change several times over the course of filming as producers, director or actors could improvise or suggest changes to the script.
The development is the process of extracting information from the script and estimating financial and technical requirements. It is highly important for the shooting/pre-production. Generally, the production team takes care of majority of the development work but the director is involved in almost all steps.
It is carried out by first Assistant director or production manager. It is a tedious work and requires hours of careful breakdown. A small mistake during the breakdown could leave a dent in the budget or delay the project. The breakdown involves extracting the location, casting, art design, costumes, makeup requirements from each scene. After this stage, the information is transferred to relevant departments who prepare accordingly for the shooting.
The budgeting is the process of estimating budget requirements for the whole projects based on the monetary value of props, locations, casting, costumes, remunerations, equipment rentals, post-production, marketing etc. The experience of entire process of filmmaking is necessary to even start budgeting. The line producer or production manager is responsible for it and this is refined several times before getting approved.
The scheduling is the process of preparing pre-production, production and post-production schedule based on the script breakdown. The availability of locations, call sheets of actors, props, technicians etc. The foreign schedules require additional requirements like passports, visa, boarding and lodging etc which should be taken into consideration. It is generally done by first Assistant director and should match with budgeting.
The production company should be registered and the intellectual property rights should be taken into consideration for protecting title, script, logos, designs, posters etc. The laws vary from country to country but the requirements are almost similar. The accounts should be maintained properly from Day 1 to avoid any problems. Everyone involved in the project should have life insurance.
The pre-production requirements vary depending on the scale and budget of the movie. The filmmaking involves many people and requires a lot of permissions, so careful planning is required to avoid delays and problems. There are many movies which were stopped at some stage or didn’t get theatrical release because of avoiding pre-production or underestimating budget.
The writers or directors may not have knowledge of every subject they deal with. For example, Steven Spielberg made movies based on archaeology, paleontology, aliens, futuristic technologies etc. This requires either immense knowledge of the subjects or blindly faith on the technicians. The directors who depend on technicians without having a vision for the film rarely succeed. So, the research on the subject is necessary to understand and visualize the story. It also helps to incorporate minor details in films which helps the audience engage in the movie. The research also helps in preparing the props, costumes, lighting etc.
It is the process of depicting the shots through hand drawn images for all the crew involved to understand the requirements. Sometimes it helps the directors to change some shots before going for the shooting. In Hollywood studios, there are dedicated storyboard artists who work for several weeks or even months to draw storyboards. Almost all action scenes are filmed after storyboarding to avoid overbudget. The high budget movies are going for previsualization instead which is animated video based on information provided. This step is repeated several times by providing updated information and changing the requirements.
The location scouting is a tedious job involving lot of time and efforts. Sometimes there may be too many options and sometimes there may be none. The director has to take right decisions in right time and choose the relevant locations. In case if the locations do not suit the needs, then the ideal choice is to construct the sets. It is to remembered while choosing the locations that narrow spaces may accommodate actors but lights, camera and crew wouldn’t fit in. The photographs taken from various locations help while taking a final decision.
The cast & crew are roped into the project considering the budgeting and scheduling. The single most disappointing thing about a movie can be miscasting. Even if everything else is perfect, the miscast could ruin the entire film. So, this should be considered as an important decision for the film.
The theme music and the songs are composed during the pre-production or early stages of production depending on the schedule. The background score is a separate process which is developed over time independent of the production and is handed over to the sound mixer during the post-production.
This is the actual work the filmmakers have prepared for since several weeks, months or even years. The shooting takes a lot of time and rushing into things may spoil the quality. Generally, one minute in the final cut of film requires more than five hours to shoot. The preparation and efforts are only to improve the quality but doesn’t help much in minimizing the shooting time. The permissions are required from authorities for shooting in public places, the data collected from various departments should be managed and the rehearsals help in getting better performances. As many people are involved in shooting, the networking and management skills are important. The single most important thing while shooting is to store and protect the data. In case of digital filmmaking, it is recommended to store data in multiple hard disks to avoid losing entire film.
The post-production is the stage where the outcome of production is processed and edited to make it into the film. The post-production includes multiple processes and are crucial for the quality of the film.
It is a tedious process of choosing the best or final takes of shots and organizing them into a final cut. The editing may involve reordering the scenes to create suspense or to engage audience. The voice and point of view in the script becomes noticeable after editing.
The music director takes care of sound design. Sometimes sound recording is done while shooting the film using equipment like shotgun mike but it’s a tedious process. So, most filmmakers focus on visual aspects of the film and leave sound design for postproduction. The foley is recreating sound effects and using them in film instead of recording everything on sets. The audio in most films would appear like mobile phone clips without foley. There will be a lot of unwanted sounds and there is no scope of controlling the volume of individual sounds. With the help of foley, individual sounds like footsteps, birds flying, wind etc could be composed in the film. There will be more control for the filmmaker. The sound mixing is the process of creating multiple layers with dialogues, foley, sound effects and background score. All sound elements are mixed into stems and finally added to the video to complete the film.
The visual effects in the film need to be planned at the stage of script writing and development. The budgeting, scheduling and production change depending on the visual effects and graphics. Some scenes need to be shot using green screen/blue screen, and some may require motion tracking. Most filmmakers add titles to the visual effects category and take care of it during postproduction.
The colour correction is a process of adjusting the colours to uniformly align with the scene. The scenes are individua shots joined together during editing. In many cases, the shots are filmed with vast time gaps which may result in lighting changes. These things need to be corrected during colour correction to make the scenes uniform. The colour grading is the process of altering and enhancing the colour. It is generally done to create certain emotional response or to bring certain look to the film. The colourist need to decide the colour palette during development stage and the production should be done accordingly.
The data should be stored separately during multiple stages and overwriting is a bad practice. It is recommended to do versioning and keep a backup copy of the film in each version. The final copy should be stored in required format for distribution or to send it to film festivals. The censor certificate is the last stage in the film production. The screening of the film requires censor certificate and without it the theatrical release is not possible.
The distribution and theatrical release of the film requires planning and it depends heavily on promotion. The prints or digital copy, number of theaters, target audience, demand for the film, marginal profits etc are to be considered before distributing the film. Apart from theatrical release, satellite rights, video-on-demand, internet, DVD and Blu-ray are to be planned in advance. The promotion requires a separate campaign and the filmmakers who fail to promote the film rarely succeed in film industry. The marketing budget should be incorporated at budgeting stage. The posters, teasers and trailers are promotional content and their success improves the market of the film.
The independent filmmakers and short filmmakers are preferring relatively inexpensive distribution options like Youtube. The profits through other means will be nowhere close to traditional distribution but it gives an opportunity for them to release the film for global audience.