The filmmaking process is an extremely important, long, and complicated process. It usually takes between several months and several years. A film always starts with an original story idea, then a screenplay gets written, and then they shoot it. After that they edit the film and direct it. Then they distribute the film to its intended audience. There are also many people involved in the filmmaking process, from the directors to the cast, to the stage crew. The first step is coming up with the concept of the film, which is the idea. It could be an original story, or a remake. It could be part of a series.
It could also come from a book or a play. Then they have to make an outline which describes the dramatic structure in each scene, called a step outline. This tells who will be where, what’s going to be said, and pretty much everything that happens in the film. They also set up all the scenes in the correct order. Then they make a twenty five to thirty five page paper describing the characters of the story and the mood. This is called a treatment. It contains stage direction and a little dialogue. It also has pictures so they have something to look at showing what the movies are going to do.
This is the first step of the filmmaking process and really helps when it comes time to develop the screenplay. After this they start the screenplay. Writing the screenplay can take several months. They usually have to rewrite to improve things the dialogue, dramatization, characthers, structure, style, and to make it more clear. They develop screenplays in which the investers and other interested parties assess a process called script coverage. They have a film distributor look at it, and depending on how promising it looks, they guess how much financial help the film needs and how much it will get.
Then they figure out the genre of the film, the target audience, success of films that were similar, and the success of the actors, actresses, and directors in previous films. These factors show how much the film will appeal to the target audience. Then they come together and form a film pitch. If the film pitch goes through and is successful, then they have financial backing to make the film. Then they make up contracts for everyone involved. At this time, only the second step, they’ve already developed their marketing strategy, which is how they advertise the film.
They also have their target audience. Next is pre-production. During this stage every part of the filmmaking process is designed and planned out. The production is also storyboarded, in which the visual helps the concept artist and the illustrators. Then they have to make up a production budget. This is how much they plan on spending, and it includes insurance in case there is an accident. Then they start hiring their crew. The amount of people varies. If it is an important movie, like a Harry Potter movie, it would have over one hundred people.
If it was a smaller film it could include just eight or nine people. The first member of the crew is the director. The director is responsible for all the creative decisions and story telling, as well as the acting. The director yells out action and cut. After the director there is an assistant director, who manages the logistics of the film, including the shooting schedule. There is also a casting director who auditions actors for the characters, deciding who embodies which character best. The photography director supervises the photography during the film.
The audiography director makes sure all the sound in the film is correct. The location manager takes care of where the film is located. Although most parts are shot in a studio, there are some things that need to be shot off location. There is also a composer who decides when music should play, how loudly, and what to play. The production designer takes care of the visual conception of the film while the art director manages the building of the set and props. The costume designer creates the clothing for the actors and actresses, and usually ends up having to work closely with them.
There is also a hair and makeup designer, who styles each of the actors, making sure they look the same each time. There is also a choreagorapher. As is usual for a choreagorapher they create dances and fight scenes, as well as regular movements. After all of these people are hired they are ready for production. The next part is production. Production is the most grueling part of filmmaking. The cast and crew can frequently spend 12 or more hours on the set, filming only three or four pages of script, often in very uncomfortable ocations.
This goes on for days, weeks, months with the same schedule day after day, review dailies (the footage shot yesterday), shoot today’s footage, prepare for tomorrow’s filming. For many people though, this is the most exhilarating part of production and this is indeed where “the magic happens. ” Yet to some people it sometimes seems strange that a movie that will eventually only occupy two hours onscreen could take months to film. However, it does, and here’s just a few of the reason why. The first reason is lighting.
One of the single most important elements to a film’s visual appearance is lighting. However perfect lighting does not exist and takes time to create. Lighting must be made consistent (or inconsistent depending) and mood-enhancing, yet remain unobtrusive. It takes a great deal of planning and then man-hours by electricians and their assistants to create a light set-up for even a small set. The next reason is location. Sometimes it is possible to film an entire movie on a sound stage, however, more than likely it requires some traveling.
Since science has yet to create a teleportation device and all the magicians who know how to do it won’t reveal their secrets unless televised on broadcast television, it can take huge amounts of time to transport the cast and crew to even one location per day. There are probably close to 100 people involved in a major film, excluding crowd scene extras and so on, as well as literally tons of equipment to go along with them. Another reason is weather. Mother Nature doesn’t really care about Hollywood and can quite frequently hamper production.
Usually it is no more than a rain storm that stops production for a day or two, or a heat wave that causes shorter work days. But sometimes weather can be extremely costly. Such was the case of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld that saw entire sets destroyed and sunk by sea storms that not only seriously delayed the production, but also pushed the budget sky-high. Previously I mentioned that lighting is one of the most important elements in a movie. In addition to lighting, and of course the actors, cinemotography is the key element in a film’s visual appearance.
Though it takes years of either schooling or job experience to truly learn how to film well, there are a few basic pointers that anyone with a camera and eye towards making something better than a jerky home movie should know (because seriously, those “How to Film” videos they hand out now when you buy a camcorder are really just a twenty minutes session in which they try to sell you all the accessories). After production there is post-production, which is basically editing. Post-Production involves every step after primary filming, editing and corrections, and reshoots.
The process of reshooting is simple enough in concept (though perhaps not in actual process) that we can skip that one which leaves editing and corrections. Editing serves two purposes. First, the logistics of production often make it impossible to film in sequence. And even in the extremely rare case where a story is filmed in order, there are still numerous takes and unnecessary footage between the good shots. Thus, editing serves to eliminate this unwanted footage and to place the events in a coherent order. Second, even simple actions take up a great deal of time on film. For example imagine a sequence of a person getting dressed.
In real life this process takes about five minutes. Five minutes in the course of the human life is insignificant, but five minutes in the course of a two hour movie is a horrendous amount of time to spend on meaningless action. If that same person pulled clothes out of a closet and in the next shot walked into the kitchen, the obvious conclusion the audience will make is said person got dressed. Thus editing can serve to eliminate tedious and unnecessary footage so that the audience may focus on the story. Editing can also serve to create. The human eye, when viewing a scene does not remain stationary.
Watch two people talking, your eye will jump from person to person to watch speech or gauge reaction. You’ll find it extremely difficult to watch both at the same time and you could end up cross-eyed. Editing also serves to mimic this action of selective viewing. When a conversation between two people is put on film, it is filmed (usually) by switching back and forth between the characters to again, watch speech or gauge reaction. The natural switching back and forth is unobtrusive because in reality, you do it all the time. Thus editing serves to place shots into a coherent storyline, eliminate unnecessary footage, and create better flow.
Other examples of techniques in which the editing serves more interesting purposes are parallel editing and montage. Parallel editing is a technique in which two separate scenes are shown to take place at the same time. To do this, the editor cuts the two scenes together switching from one to the other. This is often used in scenes where the character is racing against time, such as the bomb’s clock counting down as the character tries to get out of the building. A montage sequence is another technique in which extremely short shots are edited together in quick succession to create general emotion.
Editing is not the entirety of post-production however. Once the picture is edited into its final narrative form, there are hundreds of tiny elements that need to be tweaked. Occasionally, different light schemes will produce different colors between shots, the differences are always slight, however, they need to be corrected to create continuity between shots. This process is called color-correction. Titles and credits, a key part to any movie, are also designed and added. Also at this stage any computer generated effects are added to footage, though in truth this will happen before the scene is edited.
While these visual components are polished, the audio portions of the film are tweaked elsewhere. Very rarely are the audio components you hear in the theater the sounds recorded during footage. Audio is recorded onto a separate track, which is kept in time with the footage via a sync machine (this is so your movie doesn’t end up looking like a cheap dubbing job). The microphones used to record the actors voices are extremely precise in their range, they pick up sound only from the air immediately in front of the actor.
This keeps the voice quality as high possible. Later on, background is added in when it can be adjusted to suitable levels. So if two characters are walking amidst a midnight orchard replete with singing nightbirds, the dialogue is really the only noise recorded at the time. The other noises, the crickets, nightbirds and the wind, are either recorded at the same location or elsewhere and then added in so that the night wildlife only adds to the mood of the scene, rather than drowning out the speech of the characters.
The final steps are distribution and release. They either sell the movie to a company who will release it in cinemas, or to one who will make it go out on DVD. They create movie trailers, posters, and other things to advertise the upcomoing film. The night the film is realeased it is celebrated with a launch party, and then if it is in cinemas, it will get released on DVD a few months later. In the end the distribution and production companies split the profit. As you can see, filmmaking is a very complicated process.
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