” I believe that filmmaking — as, probably, is everything — is a game you should play with all your cards, and all your dice, and whatever else you’ve got. So, each time I make a movie, I give it everything I have. I think everyone should, and I think everyone should do everything they do that way.”
– Francis Ford Coppola
When it comes to a movie, all you probably have to do as the audience is grab your popcorn, sit back and watch. At the end of the film, you give accolades to the actors, the director and the screenwriter, but, most times, the producer or production company is left out. Series of stages are involved right from the ideation moment until it becomes a masterpiece displayed on the screen. And it is usually the producer who makes things fall in place.
The three main stages of film production include pre-production, production and post-production. We’ll explore these terms one after the other to give you a better understanding of what they are.
The first day on any movie set is not when everything related to shooting the film commences. The first production stage is called pre-production, where all the planning goes down and where imagination begins to find life. Pre-production defines how successful the production process and the overall outcome of the movie will be. It starts once the script is ready and forms the foundation for which all other stages will be built. The steps involved in pre-production are:
- Hiring the crew
Filmmaking is mainly about collaboration. Behind every great movie lies spectacular crew members. While some directors already have crew members they work with from time to time, new crew members might be hired depending on the project. Some of the crew members for any film production include the director, director of photography, gaffer, production designer, location manager, script supervisor, etc.
- Locking the shooting script
The screenwriter never has the final say on a movie script. In some cases, the director, cinematographer, and the camera crew analyse it and add or remove some parts. Sometimes, directors see it fit to handle the final touches on the script themselves. The script is basically the heart of your entire production, and it will help instil a much clearer idea of the amount you’ll need to budget for production. The earlier you lock your script, the earlier you get to strike out other items on the pre-production checklist of your movie
- Finalising the budget
A budget sets the pace for how much will be done, the locations and the cast or crew members you can access. Based on the outcome of the script treatment and subsequent costing, the producer decides if the existing budget is feasible. If going ahead with all the current plans is expedient, the producer can scout for (more) sponsors or partners to beef up the budget.
- Hiring the cast
Your cast can be well-established, upcoming or new actors, depending on how well they fit into the role you have pictured or your budget. At this phase of pre-production, relevant factors are considered while making casting decisions. The producer and director can collaborate with a casting agent to scout for talent and conduct auditions.
- Creating the storyboard and shot list
Storyboards and shot lists are created from the script. They are used to give a clear idea of how your scene will play on screen. It is a visual interpretation of the scenes and acts as a reference for the director and cinematographer during the shoot. Some directors can create it if they know what they want, but most times, a storyboard artist is hired to bring the story to life.
- Location scouting
Be it for commercials, television shows, or movies, everything planned cannot come to life without a location. Location scouting is finding real places to serve as the fictional location to represent what is described in the film’s screenplay. However, not all scenes require existing locations. Some projects require that a set is designed from scratch. A location manager is in charge of searching for interior or exterior locations to serve as the setting for scenes depicted in the script.
Finalising this stage means the cameras are ready to roll. You’ve cast your actors and crew members; permits for locations have been secured; all types of equipment to be used have been hashed out, and you’ve arranged for equipment rentals.
The production stage is usually the most demanding stage. This is where every cast and crew member finally gets into action. All hands are on deck here to ensure a masterpiece is put together. The cameras get rolling, capturing the movement of the actors and other elements of the film. This stage also takes the lion’s share of the film’s budget.
Productions can last for as short as one day; in some cases, they last for years. The movie which holds the record for the most prolonged time frame for production is The Other Side of the Wind. It was in the production stage for 48 years(1970-2018). Some others include BalikBayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux VI, which was in production for 38 years, and Avatar 2, which was in production for 12 years.
Hearing the director say, “It’s a wrap” on a movie set doesn’t mean that the movie is wrapped up. With the end of production begins the journey of post-production. However, an aspect of post-production begins while the shoot is still ongoing; this is the process of the footage being gathered right from the very first day of shooting.
The post-production stage is when the editors work their fingers to the bone. Here, the footage is edited, the sound is mixed, visual effects are implemented, and the soundtrack is infused. This process is as crucial as all others as it determines the final quality of the video. It even determines if you’d ever get to see the movie on screen or not.
Just a wild thought, in case you’re not aware of how crucial post-production is, imagine all clips of a film getting deleted after all the hard work. Tragic, right? Post-production is also where the project is completed and prepared for distribution.
Though some people break down these stages of production to give about five to seven stages, including the initiation stage, the planning stage, the monitoring stage, executing stage and the control and closing stage, pre-production, production, and post-production are the three main stages involved in film production.
Film production is just like hiking; it takes a lot of time, patience and effort. The hours spent planning, shooting and editing are gruelling for everyone involved, but the final product – a great film – compensates for all the hard work.