The steps involved in making a film:
There are generally two types of films, Narrative and Documentary. Making either type of film usually employs the four phases of film production summarized below, though some details are unique to each film type and genre.
A book or other story source is adapted, usually by a writer or writer/producer into a screenplay or script or an original screenplay is written or acquired. Once approved to proceed through development by the producer, a director is hired and the script is edited and refined until it is approved as a shooting script. A detailed budget for the remaining phases of production is created during development.
For a documentary, a “scrip” is really an outline, or a series of questions to lead the narrative of the film. Often topics will come up in conversation that were not anticipated and the direction of the narrative will change to incorporate new and more interesting information. A “detailed” budget is also less clear, but as there are less people and equipment involved in documentary production in comparison to feature production, budgets are not beyond control. Faithfully shooting a script when making a documentary or most industrial films is folly, all the information is not known at the start of production (as it is in dramatic film) the “reality” of this type of filmmaking must be taken into account.
The producer(s) and director begin to hire associate producers, a production designer, line producers, casting agent(s), cinematographer (or director of photography) and others on the lead or executive team who acquire all the elements that will appear in front of the camera including locations, sets, props, talent, crew, etc. as well as ancillary support services for the growing army of professionals who will be working on the film. Any locations are scouted and locked down and storyboards and/or previsua lization is created during pre-production to help the director communicate his/her vision to all other parties on how the story is to be executed.
For industrial films, pre-interviews of the principals of the company are needed to understand the company and how the message to customers will be conveyed. Locations still need to be scouted and “B”roll footage needs to be thought of.
Shot by shot, all principal photography (the capturing of images and sound) until every scene from camera positions determined by the director and cinematographer is “in the can.” Elements such as special shots or stills for marketing purposes are usually captured. Any computer-generated images (CGI) or visual effects sequences are also begun during production. Usually the costliest part of filmmaking, the Production phase employs more people on the project than the other phases.
For a feature film or television film, this phase is generally a contiguous production. For documentary or industrial filmmaking, where there is much less control over subjects or locations, production is normally spread out over a longer period of time to accommodate scheduling needs. The number of day of shooting may be fixed, but it will generally be over a longer calendar schedule. Saving days of production for after editing has begun is also a very good strategy for documentary and industrial filmmaking, often there will be ideas that come out of the edit which require additional footage to support. It would be foolish not to reserve some “production” for use during “post-production.”
Under supervision of the director, the captured images and sounds are organized into story sequence by one or more editors, combined with unrefined versions of CGI and visual effects, then refined into a rough cut. From a rough cut screening for the director and all others with approval authority such as the executive producer, decisions are made as to how the final film will be edited. CGI and visual effects are refined and audio effects such as foley and any ADR (or looping) is recorded during post. Pickup shots and insert shots are performed at this phase and sometimes scenes need to be re-shot if problems with the story or with existing shots are discovered during editing.
A final cut or master is the result of the refined rough cut combined with all new elements. The film is then passed through color correction and a musical score is added. After a private screening of the final cut and hopefully approved, the master is considered locked and a “duplicate master” is created then prepared for reproduction/distribution according to the distributor’s specifications, whether for theatrical, or video/DVD release.
This is a basic outline of the steps to create any film, be it a feature, made for TV, or an industrial film. You cannot “save” money by eliminating any of these steps, if you do, you will not have a complete and viewable production, you will have wasted money and time. Budget for the full project and see it completed to a successful end.
Often in industrial filmmaking, it is impossible to anticipate the reaction of the client to the rough cut of the film. Many people are unable to judge their own performance on film and become self conscious of irrelevant things like the tone of their voice, their hair style or how much they weigh. If a client rejects the rough cut because of one of these “issues” which are personal, but not relevant in the eyes of the filmmaker or the viewers, the “budget” is no longer valid. Re-shooting scenes is expensive, eliminating a character is expensive, paying for “retouching” though cheap in still photography, is extremely expensive in cinematography. The money you saved on not getting a haircut or having a make up artist on set will cost you 100x more to “fix in post,” if it’s possible at all.
Clients are often their own worst enemies at this stage of production, everyone has “their” idea of how a film will come out, but “imagining” a film is not the same as making a film. The reality of filmmaking is in the hands of the filmmaker, not the client, and translating an idea to reality is not easy , nor is it going to please everyone. At some point you will have to “let well enough alone” and make sure you are making comments on issues that really matter, like the message of the film, and not how well your tie was tied, or your personal appearance.
Feature films, the cheap ones, cost millions, don’t’ expect the same look (production values) in your industrial film! That is just stupid. A feature film will have anywhere from a dozen to a hundred people on set, if you think you are going to get the same lighting as a feature, you are nuts. The entire budget of your industrial film will not even pay for the rental costs of the camera, much less the cost of producing your film. When I was working in New York City, many years ago, the DAILY cost of producing an average feature film was $100,000 PER DAY. That was only the “below the line” costs, it does not include, actors, director, editing, special effects, script, producers, marketing, advertising, etc, etc. That was just the cost of the equipment and the technicians to operate it, that’s it! Well, it does cover bagels and coffee, but that is what makes production possible in NYC.
Be realistic with your attitude toward your film; when you are spending $10,000 or $20,000 on a film for your company, it’s a lot of money, especially since it’s your money. I’m sure you would rather spend the money on yourself, but that does not MAKE you money, an industrial film has that potential. An industrial film works 24/7-365, and doesn’t take a vacation. Any marketing expense is an investment in your business, otherwise don’t’ do it. If you think you are “wasting” your money on marketing, advertising, then don’t spend the money! It’s your business, not anyone else’s, do as you see fit, but don’t complain that “nobody knows who I am” or “I need more business” Either invest in your business, or your competition will invest in their business and leave you in the dust.