The 7 Stages of Filmmaking: The Pre-production Phase
You don’t build a house without blueprints, so why would you start a project without a plan?
The rules are no different for filmmaking. It takes a lot more than imagination and creative vision to make a film idea a reality. No one wants their big idea to fail. Successful producers know to trust the process and follow these tried and true stages of filmmaking:
In this blog series, we are breaking the different steps in the filmmaking process. If you missed our first deep dive into the development phase, you can get caught up here. From idea to getting the green light for production — we’re covering it all and this blog details the second phase in the filmmaking process: Pre-Production.
Failing to Prepare, is Preparing to Fail
Many would arguably consider pre-production the most important step in the process, as it entails creating a plan and can be the factor that makes or breaks the success of the film.
Pre-production involves organizing every aspect of the film before the cameras start rolling — from casting to the crew that will work to bring it all to life. The process involved in pre-production can be broken down into seven components:
- Script breakdown
In the first step — the script breakdown — the Assistant Director (AD) comes in after the script is finalized and grooms through it with a fine tooth comb. The AD maps out and outlines any and everything that is important from a logistical standpoint. This can Include locations, scene itineraries, characters, props and materials needed for stunts, special effects, costumes, music and anything else needed to complete the creation of the film.
The more detailed the plan and the more prepared you are, the less likely surprises and setbacks will occur. Less setbacks means saved budget, which is the second step in the pre-production process!
Stick to the Budget
Financials play a critical role in the development of a film, as finance have the potential to become a major obstacle within the film industry in general.
A savvy, strong budget is mandatory. A producer has to be realistic when determining how they can achieve the vision of the film within the limitations of the proposed budget. No matter the number, one can only do the best with what they have, and allocating funds appropriately is vital. However, this can often be easier said than done, and a lot of research goes into preparing, planning and executing the budget.
The more detailed the plan, the more accurate the budget and the more likely everyone involved can stick to it.
When the money’s gone the money is gone. Time is sort of the budget’s co-star. It’s a resource that absolutely cannot be overlooked and brings us to the schedule. After all, time is money.
A schedule is created for a reason: the sole purpose is to maximize the budget and other resources being used in filming.
Creating an effective schedule helps determine when to shoot what scenes and creates an effective timeline for the cast and crew.
Keep in mind, not all films are shot in a studio. Therefore, creating a schedule accounts for other elements including weather, daylight hours, and terrain. The key to planning, scheduling, and budgeting is doing so in a manner that awards the most bang for your buck, and hiring the right people at the right time can help you achieve this.
Every good CEO has a strong team behind them, and every producer has a core crew to help delegate and finesse the filmmaking process. Some of these core crew members are:
- Assistant Director
- Director of photography
- Production manager,
- Costume designer, and
- Casting director.
Think of these core crew members as captains that each oversee a team. As the pre-production process moves forward, these teams expand and fill out the roster. Each team has to work with the line producer to account for the required resources. Yes, you read it right — more planning is involved!
The Man (or Woman!) With a Plan
Each one of those core crew members mentioned above serve as department heads, planning out every detail regarding their scope of work — from location scouting and acquiring necessary permits to mapping out the shot list and storyboard. While on paper this may sound simple, there’s an intricate art involved in curating the perfect scenes.
For example, the shot list is a detailed list of every shot that is to be taken in the film process.
A storyboard is the visual blueprint for the sequence of the shots. Like its name, it tells the story in images, generally drawn or computer generated) or written captions for each shot.
During this phase, the production manager gets the opportunity to earn their keep and distinguish the importance of their role within the team. This entails double checking needs versus resources on hand.
The budget is checked and revised (if needed). They will ensure everything fits within its boundaries.
Rewrites, prop changes, mood notes and sequence changes could be needed.
When it comes to scouting talent for a film project, casting the right actor/actress is almost as important as the story line.
Think about your favorite Batman. Most people picture a different actor. Their favorite Batman film depends on the era and the actor that played him.
Casting directors must carefully select the right person for the right roles according to the script and the director’s breakdown.
Not to be forgotten is the budget that plays into this factor. Not every actor or actress is within the budget of the film. If you’re making an indie film, Robert Patterson may not be the Batman for you. Once the cast is locked down, it’s time to memorize those lines!
Finally, the last step before we hear that first “Action!” is rehearsal.
Rehearsal is about much more than ensuring everyone knows the lines. It’s about knowing the emotion and sentiment beyond those lines.
Actors don’t just read lines, they’re entrusted (and hired) to create experiences, emotions, and dramatization with antics and body language. This is also the final opportunity to double check the budget before the next steps.
When every box is checked, call sheets are sent out and the schedules and details for every member of the cast and crew outlining each day of production during filmmaking are distributed.
An effective and well executed pre-production plan saves time and money and brings a film’s vision as seamlessly as possible.
Creating a plan and sticking to the budget will help ensure that the most valuable resources — time and money — are not wasted.
A detailed schedule is essential to creating a trouble-free production process and ensures time is utilized efficiently.
Becoming more interested in the process and want to learn more about film production? Subscribe to our blog and check out next week’s post detailing the production phase of movie and film creation.
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