Filmmaking (or, in an academic context, film production) is the process of making a film, generally in the sense of films intended for extensive theatrical exhibition. Filmmaking involves a number of discrete stages including an initial story, idea, or commission, through screenwriting, casting, shooting, sound recording and reproduction, editing, and screening the finished product before an audience that may result in a film release and exhibition. Filmmaking takes place in many places around the world in a range of economic, social, and political contexts, and using a variety of technologies and cinematic techniques. Typically, it involves a large number of people, and can take from a few months to several years to complete.
Film production consists of five major stages:
In this stage, the project producer selects a story, which may come from a book, play, another film, true story, video game, comic book, graphic novel, or an original idea, etc. After identifying a theme or underlying message, the producer works with writers to prepare a synopsis. Next they produce a step outline, which breaks the story down into one-paragraph scenes that concentrate on dramatic structure. Then, they prepare a treatment, a 25-to-30-page description of the story, its mood, and characters. This usually has little dialogue and stage direction, but often contains drawings that help visualize key points. Another way is to produce a scriptment once a synopsis is produced.
Next, a screenwriter writes a screenplay over a period of several months. The screenwriter may rewrite it several times to improve dramatization, clarity, structure, characters, dialogue, and overall style. However, producers often skip the previous steps and develop submitted screenplays which investors, studios, and other interested parties assess through a process called script coverage. A film distributor may be contacted at an early stage to assess the likely market and potential financial success of the film. Hollywood distributors adopt a hard-headed no approach and consider factors such as the film genre, the target audience and assumed audience, the historical success of similar films, the actors who might appear in the film, and potential directors. All these factors imply a certain appeal of the film to a possible audience. Not all films make a profit from the theatrical release alone, so film companies take DVD sales and worldwide distribution rights into account.
The producer and screenwriter prepare a film pitch, or treatment, and present it to potential financiers. They will also pitch the film to actors and directors (especially so-called bankable stars) in order to "attach" them to the project (that is, obtain a binding promise to work on the film if financing is ever secured). Many projects fail to move beyond this stage and enter so-called development hell. If a pitch succeeds, a film receives a "green light", meaning someone offers financial backing: typically a major film studio, film council, or independent investor. The parties involved negotiate a deal and sign contracts.
Once all parties have met and the deal has been set, the film may proceed into the pre-production period. By this stage, the film should have a clearly defined marketing strategy and target audience.
Development of animated films differs slightly in that it is the director who develops and pitches a story to an executive producer on the basis of rough storyboards, and it is rare for a full-length screenplay to already exist at that point in time. If the film is green-lighted for further development and pre-production, then a screenwriter is later brought in to prepare the screenplay.
Analogous to most any business venture, financing of a film project deals with the study of filmmaking as the management and procurement of investments. It includes the dynamics of assets that are required to fund the filmmaking and liabilities incurred during the filmmaking over the time period from early development through the management of profits and losses after distribution under conditions of different degrees of uncertainty and risk. The practical aspects of filmmaking finance can also be defined as the science of the money management of all phases involved in filmmaking. Film finance aims to price assets based on their risk level and their expected rate of return based upon anticipated profits and protection against losses.
In pre-production, every step of actually creating the film is carefully designed and planned. The production company is created and a production office established. The film is pre-visualized by the director, and may be storyboarded with the help of illustrators and concept artists. A production budget is drawn up to plan expenditures for the film. For major productions, insurance is procured to protect against accidents.
The nature of the film, and the budget, determine the size and type of crew used during filmmaking. Many Hollywood blockbusters employ a cast and crew of hundreds, while a low-budget, independent film may be made by a skeleton crew of eight or nine (or fewer). These are typical crew positions:
In production, the film is created and shot. More crew will be recruited at this stage, such as the property master, script supervisor, assistant directors, stills photographer, picture editor, and sound editors. These are just the most common roles in filmmaking; the production office will be free to create any unique blend of roles to suit the various responsibilities possible during the production of a film.
A typical day's shooting begins with the crew arriving on the set/location by their call time. Actors usually have their own separate call times. Since set construction, dressing and lighting can take many hours or even days, they are often set up in advance.
The grip, electric and production design crews are typically a step ahead of the camera and sound departments: for efficiency's sake, while a scene is being filmed, they are already preparing the next one.
While the crew prepare their equipment, the actors do their costumes and attend the hair and make-up departments. The actors rehearse the script and blocking with the director, and the camera and sound crews rehearse with them and make final tweaks. Finally, the action is shot in as many takes as the director wishes. Most American productions follow a specific procedure:
The assistant director (AD) calls "picture is up!" to inform everyone that a take is about to be recorded, and then "quiet, everyone!" Once everyone is ready to shoot, the AD calls "roll sound" (if the take involves sound), and the production sound mixer will start their equipment, record a verbal slate of the take's information, and announce "sound speed", or just "speed", when they are ready. The AD follows with "roll camera", answered by "speed!" by the camera operator once the camera is recording. The clapper, who is already in front of the camera with the clapperboard, calls "marker!" and slaps it shut. If the take involves extras or background action, the AD will cue them ("action background!"), and last is the director, telling the actors "action!". The AD may echo "action" louder on large sets.
A take is over when the director calls "cut!", and camera and sound stop recording. The script supervisor will note any continuity issues and the sound and camera teams log technical notes for the take on their respective report sheets. If the director decides additional takes are required, the whole process repeats. Once satisfied, the crew moves on to the next camera angle or "setup," until the whole scene is "covered." When shooting is finished for the scene, the assistant director declares a "wrap" or "moving on," and the crew will "strike," or dismantle, the set for that scene.
At the end of the day, the director approves the next day's shooting schedule and a daily progress report is sent to the production office. This includes the report sheets from continuity, sound, and camera teams. Call sheets are distributed to the cast and crew to tell them when and where to turn up the next shooting day. Later on, the director, producer, other department heads, and, sometimes, the cast, may gather to watch that day or yesterday's footage, called dailies, and review their work.
With workdays often lasting 14 or 18 hours in remote locations, film production tends to create a team spirit. When the entire film is in the can, or in the completion of the production phase, it is customary for the production office to arrange a wrap party, to thank all the cast and crew for their efforts.
For the production phase on live-action films, synchronizing work schedules of key cast and crew members is very important, since for many scenes, several cast members and most of the crew must be physically present at the same place at the same time (and bankable stars may need to rush from one project to another). Animated films have different workflow at the production phase, in that voice talent can record their takes in the recording studio at different times and may not see one another until the film's premiere, while most physical live-action tasks are either unnecessary or are simulated by various types of animators.
Here the video/film is assembled by the film editor. The shot film material is edited. The production sound (dialogue) is also edited; music tracks and songs are composed and recorded, if a film is sought to have a score; sound effects are designed and recorded. Any computer-graphic visual effects are digitally added by an artist. Finally, all sound elements are mixed into "stems", which are then married to picture, and the film is fully completed ("locked").
This is the final stage, where the film is released to cinemas or, occasionally, directly to consumer media (VHS, VCD, DVD, Blu-ray) or direct download from a digital media provider. The film is duplicated as required (either onto film or hard disk drives) and distributed to cinemas for exhibition (screening). Press kits, posters, and other advertising materials are published, and the film is advertised and promoted. A B-roll clip may be released to the press based on raw footage shot for a "making of" documentary, which may include making-of clips as well as on-set interviews.
Film distributors usually release a film with a launch party, a red-carpet premiere, press releases, interviews with the press, press preview screenings, and film festival screenings. Most films are also promoted with their own special website separate from those of the production company or distributor. For major films, key personnel are often contractually required to participate in promotional tours in which they appear at premieres and festivals, and sit for interviews with many TV, print, and online journalists. The largest productions may require more than one promotional tour, in order to rejuvenate audience demand at each release window.
Since the advent of home video in the early 1980s, most major films have followed a pattern of having several distinct release windows. A film may first be released to a few select cinemas, or if it tests well enough, may go directly into wide release. Next, it is released, normally at different times several weeks (or months) apart, into different market segments like rental, retail, pay-per-view, in-flight entertainment, cable, satellite, or free-to-air broadcast television. The distribution rights for the film are also usually sold for worldwide distribution. The distributor and the production company share profits and manage losses.
Filmmaking also takes place outside of the mainstream and is commonly called independent filmmaking. Since the introduction of DV technology, the means of production have become more democratized and economically viable. Filmmakers can conceivably shoot and edit a film, create and edit the sound and music, and mix the final cut on a home computer. However, while the means of production may be democratized, financing, traditional distribution, and marketing remain difficult to accomplish outside the traditional system. In the past, most independent filmmakers have relied on film festivals (such as Sundance, Venice, Cannes and Toronto film festivals) to get their films noticed and sold for distribution and production. However, the Internet has allowed for relatively inexpensive distribution of independent films on websites such as YouTube. As a result, several companies have emerged to assist filmmakers in getting independent movies seen and sold via mainstream internet marketplaces, often adjacent to popular Hollywood titles. With internet movie distribution, independent filmmakers who choose to forgo a traditional distribution deal now have the ability to reach global audiences.
An animator is an artist who creates multiple images, known as frames, which give an illusion of movement called animation when displayed in rapid sequence. Animators can work in a variety of fields including film, television, and video games. Animation is closely related to filmmaking and like filmmaking is extremely labor-intensive, which means that most significant works require the collaboration of several animators. The methods of creating the images or frames for an animation piece depend on the animators' artistic styles and their field.
Other artists who contribute to animated cartoons, but who are not animators, include layout artists (who design the backgrounds, lighting, and camera angles), storyboard artists (who draw panels of the action from the script), and background artists (who paint the "scenery"). Animated films share some film crew positions with regular live action films, such as director, producer, sound engineer, and editor, but differ radically in that for most of the history of animation, they did not need most of the crew positions seen on a physical set.
In hand-drawn Japanese animation productions, such as in Hayao Miyazaki's films, the key animator handles both layout and key animation. Some animators in Japan such as Mitsuo Iso take full responsibility for their scenes, making them become more than just the key animator.Cinematographer
A cinematographer or director of photography (sometimes shortened to DP or DOP) is the chief over the camera and light crews working on a film, television production or other live action piece and is responsible for making artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The study and practice of this field is referred to as cinematography.
The cinematographer selects the camera, film stock, lenses, filters, etc., to realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary; in some instances the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence; in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify exact camera placement and lens selection. Such a level of involvement is not common once the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other; the director will typically convey to the cinematographer what is wanted from a scene visually, and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.
Several American cinematographers have become directors, including Reed Morano, ASC who lensed Frozen River and Beyonce's Lemonade before winning an Emmy for directing The Handmaid's Tale. Barry Sonnenfeld, originally the Coen brothers' DP; Jan de Bont, cinematographer on films as Die Hard and Basic Instinct, directed Speed and Twister. Ellen Kuras, ASC photographed Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind as well as a number of Spike Lee films such as Summer of Sam and He Got Game before directing episodes of Legion and Ozark. In 2014, Wally Pfister, cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's three Batman films, made his directorial debut with Transcendence; whilst British cinematographers Jack Cardiff and Freddie Francis regularly moved between the two positions.Dogme 95
Dogme 95 was a filmmaking movement started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, who created the "Dogme 95 Manifesto" and the "Vows of Chastity" (Danish: kyskhedsløfter). These were rules to create filmmaking based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. It was an attempt to take back power for the director as artist, as opposed to the studio. They were later joined by fellow Danish directors Kristian Levring and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, forming the Dogme 95 Collective or the Dogme Brethren. Dogme (pronounced [ˈdɒwmə]) is the Danish word for dogma.Executive producer
Executive producer (EP) is one of the top positions in the making of a commercial entertainment product. Depending on the medium, the executive producer may be concerned with management accounting or associated with legal issues (like copyrights or royalties). In films, the executive producer generally contributes to the film's budget and usually does not work on set, in contrast to most other producers.Experimental film
Experimental film, experimental cinema or avant-garde cinema is a mode of filmmaking that rigorously re-evaluates cinematic conventions and explores non-narrative forms and alternatives to traditional narratives or methods of working. Many experimental films, particularly early ones, relate to arts in other disciplines: painting, dance, literature and poetry, or arise from research and development of new technical resources.While some experimental films have been distributed through mainstream channels or even made within commercial studios, the vast majority have been produced on very low budgets with a minimal crew or a single person and are either self-financed or supported through small grants.Experimental filmmakers generally begin as amateurs, and some used experimental films as a springboard into commercial film making or transitioned into academic positions. The aim of experimental filmmaking is usually to render the personal vision of an artist, or to promote interest in new technology rather than to entertain or to generate revenue, as is the case with commercial films.Film director
A film director is a person who directs the making of a film. A film director controls a film's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the screenplay (or script) while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfilment of that vision. The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and the creative aspects of filmmaking. Under European Union law, the director is viewed as the author of the film.The film director gives direction to the cast and crew and creates an overall vision through which a film eventually becomes realized, or noticed. Directors need to be able to mediate differences in creative visions and stay within the boundaries of the film's budget.
There are many pathways to becoming a film director. Some film directors started as screenwriters, cinematographers, producers, film editors or actors. Other film directors have attended a film school. Directors use different approaches. Some outline a general plotline and let the actors improvise dialogue, while others control every aspect, and demand that the actors and crew follow instructions precisely. Some directors also write their own screenplays or collaborate on screenplays with long-standing writing partners. Some directors edit or appear in their films, or compose the music score for their films.Film editing
Film editing is both a creative and a technical part of the post-production process of filmmaking. The term is derived from the traditional process of working with film which increasingly involves the use of digital technology.
The film editor works with the raw footage, selecting shots and combines them into sequences which create a finished motion picture. Film editing is described as an art or skill, the only art that is unique to cinema, separating filmmaking from other art forms that preceded it, although there are close parallels to the editing process in other art forms such as poetry and novel writing. Film editing is often referred to as the "invisible art" because when it is well-practiced, the viewer can become so engaged that he or she is not aware of the editor's work.
On its most fundamental level, film editing is the art, technique and practice of assembling shots into a coherent sequence. The job of an editor is not simply to mechanically put pieces of a film together, cut off film slates or edit dialogue scenes. A film editor must creatively work with the layers of images, story, dialogue, music, pacing, as well as the actors' performances
effectively "re-imagine" and even rewrite the film to craft a cohesive whole. Editors usually play a dynamic role in the making of a film. Sometimes, auteurist film directors edit their own films, for example, Akira Kurosawa, Bahram Beyzai and the Coen brothers.
With the advent of digital editing, film editors and their assistants have become responsible for many areas of filmmaking that used to be the responsibility of others. For instance, in past years, picture editors dealt only with just that—picture. Sound, music, and (more recently) visual effects editors dealt with the practicalities of other aspects of the editing process, usually under the direction of the picture editor and director. However, digital systems have increasingly put these responsibilities on the picture editor. It is common, especially on lower budget films, for the editor to sometimes cut in temporary music, mock up visual effects and add temporary sound effects or other sound replacements. These temporary elements are usually replaced with more refined final elements produced by the sound, music and visual effects teams hired to complete the picture.Film producer
A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinating writing, directing, and editing; and arranging financing.During the "discovery stage," the producer finds and selects promising material for development. Then, unless the film is based on an existing script, the producer has to hire a screenwriter and oversee the development of the script. Once a script is completed, the producer will lead a pitch to secure the financial backing (a "green light") to allow production to begin.
The producer also supervises the pre-production, production, and post-production stages of filmmaking. One of the most important tasks is to hire the director and other key crew members. Whereas the director makes the creative decisions during the production, the producer typically manages the logistics and business operations, though some directors also produce their own films. The producer is tasked with making sure the film is delivered on time and within budget, and has the final say on creative decisions. Finally, the producer will oversee the marketing and distribution.
For various reasons, producers cannot always supervise all of the production. In this case, the main producer may hire and delegate work to executive producers, line producers, or unit production managers.Film treatment
A film treatment (or simply treatment) is a piece of prose, typically the step between scene cards (index cards) and the first draft of a screenplay for a motion picture, television program, or radio play. It is generally longer and more detailed than an outline (or one-page synopsis), and it may include details of directorial style that an outline omits. Treatments read like a short story, but are told in the present tense and describe events as they happen. A treatment may also be created in the process of adapting a novel, play, or other pre-existing work into a screenplay.Guerrilla filmmaking
Guerrilla filmmaking refers to a form of independent filmmaking characterized by low budgets, skeleton crews, and simple props using whatever is available. Often scenes are shot quickly in real locations without any warning, and without obtaining filming permits.
Guerrilla filmmaking is usually done by independent filmmakers because they don't have the budget or time to obtain permits, rent out locations, or build expensive sets. Larger and more "mainstream" film studios tend to avoid guerrilla filmmaking tactics because of the risk of being sued, fined or having their reputation damaged due to negative PR publicity.
According to Yukon Film Commission Manager Mark Hill, "Guerrilla filmmaking is driven by passion with whatever means at hand".Independent film
An independent film, independent movie, indie film or indie movie, is a feature film or short film that is produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies. Independent films are sometimes distinguishable by their content and style and the way in which the filmmakers' personal artistic vision is realized. Usually, but not always, independent films are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio films.Generally, the marketing of independent films is characterized by limited release, but can also have major marketing campaigns and a wide release. Independent films are often screened at local, national, or international film festivals before distribution (theatrical or retail release). An independent film production can rival a mainstream film production if it has the necessary funding and distribution.Insert (filmmaking)
In film, an insert is a shot of part of a scene as filmed from a different angle and/or focal length from the master shot. Inserts cover action already covered in the master shot, but emphasize a different aspect of that action due to the different framing. An insert differs from a cutaway as cutaways cover action not covered in the master shot.There are more exact terms to use when the new, inserted shot is another view of actors: close-up, head shot, knee shot, two shot. So the term "insert" is often confined to views of objects—and body parts, other than the head. Often inserts of this sort are done separately from the main action, by a second-unit director using stand-ins.
Inserts and cutaways can both be vexatious for directors, as care must be taken to preserve continuity by keeping the objects in the same relative position as in the main take, and having the lighting be the same.Montage (filmmaking)
Montage () is a technique in film editing in which a series of short shots are edited into a sequence to condense space, time, and information. The term has been used in various contexts. It was introduced to cinema primarily by Sergei Eisenstein, and early Soviet directors used it as a synonym for creative editing. In French the word "montage" applied to cinema simply denotes editing. The term "montage sequence" has been used primarily by British and American studios, and refers to the common technique as outlined in this article.The montage sequence is usually used to suggest the passage of time, rather than to create symbolic meaning as it does in Soviet montage theory.
From the 1930s to the 1950s, montage sequences often combined numerous short shots with special optical effects (fades, dissolves, split screens, double and triple exposures) dance and music. They were usually assembled by someone other than the director or the editor of the movie.No-budget film
A no-budget film is a film made with very little or no money.
Young directors starting out in filmmaking and several older ones commonly use this method because there are few other options available to them at that point. All the actors and technicians are employed in these films without remuneration. These films are largely non-profit. Usually the director works alone on such films, or uses a very small "crew" of volunteers to assist him/her on such projects, where no money or financing is available, not including the cost of equipments and software used in production and post-production.Post-production
Post-production is part of the process of filmmaking, video production, radio production and photography. Post-production includes all stages of production occurring after shooting or recording individual program segments.Traditional (analogue) post-production has mostly been replaced by video editing software that operates on a non-linear editing system (NLE).Pre-production
Pre-production is the process of planning some of the elements involved in a film, play, or other performance. There are three parts in a production: pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-production ends when the planning ends and the content starts being produced.Principal photography
Principal photography is the phase of film production in which the bulk of the movie is filmed, with actors on set and cameras rolling, as distinct from pre-production and post-production.Principal photography is typically the most expensive phase of film production, due to actor, director, and set crew salaries, as well as the costs of certain shots, props, and on-set special effects. Its start generally marks a point of no return for the financiers, because until it is complete, there is unlikely to be enough material filmed to release a final product needed to recoup costs. While it is common for a film to lose its greenlight status during pre-production – for example, because an important cast member drops out or unexpectedly dies, or some kind of scandal engulfs the studio or an actor – it is extremely uncommon for financing to be withdrawn once principal photography has begun.Feature films usually have insurance in place by the time principal photography begins. The death of a bankable star before completing all planned takes, or the loss of sets or footage can render a film impossible to complete as planned. For example, sets are notoriously flammable. Furthermore, professional-quality movie cameras are normally rented as needed, and most camera houses will not allow rentals of their equipment without proof of insurance.Once a film concludes principal photography, it is said to have wrapped, and a wrap party may be organized to celebrate. During post-production, it may become clear that certain shots or sequences are missing or incomplete and are required to complete the film, or that a certain scene is not playing as expected, or even, as seen in the late stages of filming The Hate U Give, that a particular actor's performance or behavior has not turned out as desired, causing him or her to be completely replaced with another. In these circumstances, additional material may have to be shot. If the material has already been shot once, or is substantial, the process is referred to as a re-shoot, but if the material is new and relatively minor, it is often referred to as a pick-up.Production designer
In film and television, a production designer (PD) is the person responsible for the overall visual look of the production. Production designers have a key creative role in the creation of motion pictures and television. Working directly with the director, cinematographer, and producer, they must select the settings and style to visually tell the story. The term production designer was coined by William Cameron Menzies while he was working on the film Gone with the Wind. Previously (and often subsequently) the people with the same responsibilities were called art directors. It is sometimes also described as scenic design or set design.Screenwriter
A screenplay writer (also called screenwriter for short), scriptwriter or scenarist, is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays on which mass media, such as films, television programs and video games, are based.
Film crew (filmmaking)