Many of us love the movies, but do you ever stop to think about what goes into making a great movie? We might have a rough idea that it involves casting, writing a script and heading off on location to shoot for a few days, but there is much more to it than that. In fact, the moviemaking process is long and complicated, and can sometimes take years.
Every movie begins with development, or ‘development hell’ as it is sometimes called. The title is well-deserved. Many potentially successful movies have never emerged from development hell, and it is a process that can take months or even years.
The first step of development is to come up with a script. If you’re a famous moviemaker or are working for a major studio, you’ll find scripts are sent to you for your perusal, but independent or unknown moviemakers either write their own or collaborate with a scriptwriter. A good script on its own can’t save a bad movie, but a bad script will ensure a flop, so this is one of the most important stages of development.
Professional screenwriters take time to work out the skeleton of their screenplay, building usually on a three-act structure, and getting the basics right before they begin working on dialogue. Even when the first draft is complete, there is a lot more work to be done. In fact, most good scripts are re-drafted several times before they are ready.
No matter how brilliant your film script and your vision, before it can get made, you will need to persuade someone else to invest in it. This is often the toughest part of any movie production and requires directors to play the role of salespeople. The models for financing vary widely from movie to movie, but it can be so hard to attract the money needed to realize their vision that many independent directors end up using their own.
With the money in the bank, the creative work can start. Directors will have the final say over all castings but the process of coming up with a shortlist is usually handled by a specialist Casting Director, who knows the industry inside out. As well as finalizing the cast, locations have to be arranged, and this can often involve using a Location Scout, who can handle the negotiations and arrangements required to rent out the various locations.
Once the locations are tied down, the final stage of pre-production is to plan the shooting of the movie. This has to be done in meticulous detail, so that when shooting begins, no time is wasted. The process includes detailing every necessary item, breaking down the script, working out how the movie is going to be shot in conjunction with the cinematographer, line producer and other specialists, and dealing with schedules, costumes and sets.
With all the preparations complete, the production process can begin. This is a major logistical operation that involves travelling to locations, setting up cameras and other equipment, rehearsing, planning shots and amending scripts right up till the last minute. The shooting itself is usually carried out under time pressure, and each scene may take several takes. To avoid wasting time and money, shooting has to be run like a military operation.
In many ways the art of thereally takes place at the post-production stage, which is where technology comes into its own. Here, the film is edited into something that is as close to the original vision as the director is able to achieve. It is also the point at which sound mixing and musical accompaniments are added, and test screenings are given, which enable the director to see how the film plays with real moviegoers or other film industry people.
Many of these processes are made easier through technology, which has the potential to take care of many of the minor administrative issues associated with moviemaking. For example, legally moviemakers need to obtain signed consent from anyone who isn’t part of the cast or one of the extras but appears in the background of a shot. Companies like DocuSign, run by Keith Krach, have come up with e-signature solutions that make this process quick and easy.
So, there you have it. The process of getting a movie from idea to big screen is a long, winding and difficult one. Many movies don’t make it, and many that do make it change radically in the process, so the next time you catch a movie, take a moment to think about all of the work that went into putting it together for your viewing pleasure.