Filmmaking process

10 Phases Of The Filmmaking Process: Everything You Need To Know


What would you say if I ask, what is the most important thing in the filmmaking process? Most of the people out there think its story. Nope. It’s Planning! Yes, planning is the most important thing in the filmmaking process. For that matter, planning is the key if you want to achieve anything in any field.

Assume that you have come out of the theatre after watching a good movie. If anyone asks you about the movie, the first thing that comes to your mind could be the characters, visuals, or a particular scene from the story which has impressed you. But, you wouldn’t be thinking of the effort that goes into the making of the movie. It’s an output of the perfect planning, a collaborative process and the ultimate team sport.

Basically, there are three stages of filmmaking: Pre-production, Production and Post-Production. These steps are known for everyone, but let us dig deep into each phase that is involved in the filmmaking process beginning from developing the story to the distribution of your final product. Here, you can not only learn the filmmaking process step by step but also become successful.

Steps involved In Filmmaking process

  1. Story Development
  2. Screenplay
  3. Storyboard
  4. Cast And Crew
  5. Locations
  6. Budget
  7. Photography
  8. Editing
  9. Pickup and Re-shoot
  10. Distribution and Promotions

Step 1: Story Development

If you are sure that you either have a strong point to tell or a strong character, you can proceed with developing your idea. Choose a genre in which you want your movie to be. Selecting a genre helps you to drive the story in the right way. Write down the scenes or points as they come to your mind. Fill the story with emotions and twists to make it interesting. Create memorable characters, imagine their body language, the costumes, and their reaction in different situations. Let the characters speak for themselves and your imagination in the key here.

Have multiple climaxes in your mind and choose the one which moves the audience most. Do rewrite the scenes as many times as you wish before you finalise the script. 

Step 2: Screenplay

Once the story has been finalised, proceed with writing the screenplay. There are multiple types of screenplay depending on the film genre and story. You might want to add or remove scenes while writing a screenplay as it gives a better vision of your story. Keep the movie length in mind, write the dialogues for each character as per their role. The screenplay for feature movies, documentary, or independent film wouldn’t be the same.

There are many screenwriting softwares available in the market and you can refer to this link to find a few and its features.

Step 3: Storyboard

A storyboard is a visual representation of a scene/shot consisting of a sequence of drawings, dialogues, properties required in the frame etc. These drawings help you visualise the video better and can communicate your ideas to your team members easily. If you don’t want to miss out on any small details while shooting, creating a storyboard is very helpful. Its the drawing of your motion picture on a paper/screen with notes including camera angles, lighting, dialogues, props needed in the background etc. However, some filmmakers don’t wish to create storyboards as they think it’s a time consuming process. They just go by the screenplay.

Note: You can refer to my article on how to prepare a storyboard.

Step 4: Cast And Crew

After having a clear idea of your story, you need to look out to actors and technicians to work for you. While writing the characters, you would have imagined someone playing that role. You can reach out to your friends and family to check if anyone is interested or do they know someone who can suit that role.

You can utilise social media and online resources to find the best cast and make a shortlist. Conduct a screen test by making them perform any one of the scenes from your story and see how well they are doing. There are many actors who got trained from filmmaking schools and are eagerly waiting for a chance. You just need to make use of every contact and network you have to get the right ones for your character.

Get the best technicians for your story who have prior experience in similar kinds of movies. They should not only be able to understand your thoughts but also give inputs to improve the scene. Inquire about the equipment they have good hands-on experience and see if that suits you.

Step 5: Locations

Choosing the right locations is one of the difficult tasks in the filmmaking process. You may need either a studio/set, greenscreens, or a real location. Shooting in real locations is very budget friendly. Plan the locations accordingly so that you don’t have to travel much in between the shooting from one location to another. Check the availability of resources at the location such as food, stay, water etc as you might be spending many days at the same location. Scenes shot outdoors look good compared to indoors and don’t make the audience feel bored. Always have a back-up for the location. Plan the shooting hours and make sure that everyone in the team is comfortable with it.

Step 6: Budget

Some stories demand a huge budget and some can be produced without much expenses. So, its very important for the writer/director to have an understanding of the budget from the beginning itself. Selecting the artists, technicians, locations, creating scenes, everything requires a budget. Its also essential to have an estimate of the returns and then plan the budget accordingly if you don’t want the producer of your movie to face losses. Consider the cost of all the equipment required for your shoot like cameras, lights, Tripods etc. The more days of shooting, the more is the budget.

Step 7: Photography

After completing all the arrangements included in the pre-production stage, you can proceed with principal photography. You need to have a shot division for all the scenes and execute it accordingly. This is the most expensive phase. Keep the storyboard and screenplay in hand, ensure that you don’t miss anything. At the end of each day, its a good practice to check how the scenes have come out and whether you have completed all the scenes that are scheduled for that particular day.

Step 8: Editing

This is the first thing that comes in the post production stage. You can start the editing process simultaneously while shooting. The rough editing of the video will help you review the footage. After the shooting process, you will have to proceed with the editing, sound recording and adding special effects, if necessary. The director and the editor need to sit together in this editing process. Director has to ensure that the output is coming as per his vision.Adding the right background music, transitions or special effects will further help the visuals to create more impact on its viewers. End titles, subtitles, title cards etc need to be added in this phase.

There are many video editing softwares available in the market. You can get a professional version to unlock all the features and try atleast rough editing so you can know by yourself how the visuals are coming out.

Some of the popular Video editing Softwares:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Filmora
  • Avid Media Composer
  • Fusion 18 – Blackmagic Design

Step 9: Pickup and Re-shoot

While checking the final version of the story or in the process of editing, you might feel some scenes not up to the mark. You can go ahead with reshoots if necessary. Pickup shots are something which are needed to make the scene look complete. You may have missed them in the main shooting. Examples of pickup shots are showing the college name, newspaper headlines etc.

Step 10: Distribution and Promotions

This is the final phase in the filmmaking process. You will be having a thought about where you want your picture to be premiered. It can be in Theatre, OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix etc, or premiere it on Youtube. Promote the film before its release in all possible ways and leave no stone unturned. Because, you need to make the movie reach the maximum audience. Earlier, the producers used to watch the complete film and decide a price for distribution. Now, it all depends on the response received to the trailer or teaser that you have released.

Make a best deal with the distributor and promote the movie with the right kind of audience for your movie which ensures returns for the investment that has been made in the production.

You can learn filmmaking by attending online courses or joining a filmmaking school. However, the real-time experience which you learn when you get involved in the making process is better than anything.

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