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Lights, Camera… Action!!

Making movies is the Hollywood dream. But what are the steps to get your movie made? Who do you need to hire? How are you able to accomplish this dream, and make it a reality? ​

Lights, Camera... Action!

The most important part of any movie is the screenplay. Even though this is the least expensive part of the entire movie making process if you write it yourself, it bears the most weight on if a movie will be made. It doesn’t matter how outrageous the special effects are, or if the best actors are in the production, if the script is poorly written it will not be made into a movie. A screenplay must follow a very strict format. This has become more of a standard tradition within Hollywood, that if not met, then your screenplay will not even be considered.

Once a screenplay is complete, the next step is to get it to a producer. A producer is responsible for the entire production from start to finish. They are involved in getting a project greenlit, budget, financing, production, marketing and distribution. Their involvement with the preproduction is very important in creating the budget. The schedule of shooting days, the cost of locations and permits, securing equipment, insurance, cast and crew pay, knowing all union rules, all of these are vital for creating a budget for the movie.

It is usually easier to get funding when working with a studio, but if doing an independent film, getting the funding can be a serious challenge. A producer may be with a studio and have the funds to pay for the project themselves or they may have to get investors or do fundraising to make money, especially in the case of independent films.

Once the budget and financing are in place, it is time to get the preproduction going. At this point is when the crew needs to be hired. There are two classifications of crew. The “Above the line”, which is your producers, executives, director and talent. The “Below the line” is all the business team and the rest of the crew. The director is the one that will have the most artistic vision of the project. They will work the closest with the actors, director of photography & editing. The director of photography is usually the most experienced on a set and an asset as they are “responsible for crafting the look, emotion, and movement of the story through lighting and the lens” (Tomaric 294). The production designer is one that needs to be hired very early in the process as they will head up the art department and be in charge of the overall look of the film, including storyboards, location construction, props, hair and makeup and costumes. A line producer will need to be hired, as they oversee all the “below the line” crew and the daily operations on set.

Once these four main department heads are hired, the best way to keep the hiring of crew manageable, is to allow them the ability to hire the rest of their crew that they need. Most crews have a history together and go from project to project to work with each other. If paying for a crew is a struggle, go to film school graduates and offer experience and a listing for their resume in exchange for pay.

The equipment on a production is another important piece. Purchasing all the equipment can be very costly, while renting the equipment and gear can help to keep the cost down. Shooting with a digital camera has brought the cost of making movies down, as shooting on film was very expensive and editing the projects was a very long and tedious task. Along with the camera is also the steadicam, cranes, dolly tracks and even the scene clapper.The lighting is a very important part and can also be rented to save on cost.

Once pre production is complete, then it is time to start production where “every department should be clear on what they need to do each day, what elements and equipment are needed and what each person’s job is”(Tomaric 236). There are two types of production, the first being principal photography, which is shooting the main actors. This is how most of the movie is shot. The second type of production is the Second unit, which is any establishing shots or any shots that do not have a main actor in it.

Remember that during production you need to take care of your cast and crew with catering and craft services. There are strict union standards of how many hours can be worked and how many hours must go by from the end of day until shooting can resume the next day. Know all the union rules and try to always keep your cast and crew happy.

As production comes to an end, it is time to wrap. All rented equipment is returned, all bills are paid. Everything is now focused on post production which usually takes anywhere from two to three times longer than production took, especially if there are a lot of complicated shots and special effects to be done.

Editing can make or break a movie. This is where the story comes together and is one of the most important parts of filmmaking. The director and the editor work together and view shot by shot to tell the story. Post production is also where the sound effects, sound editing, and film score are done. Hiring a composer to create original work for the film helps you to avoid paying rights to use existing music. Finally, the credits are added, giving everyone credit for the hard work they did to complete the movie.

Once the movie is completed, it is time for marketing and distribution. The dream is to have a big Hollywood premier where the film is a success and makes a profit. Other ways to get a film seen is to take it to film festivals, which have both competitive, where they give out prizes, and ones that are not competitive. You can have press screenings and give out a press packet that includes information about the film and swag to help to promote the movie. You can also create a movie trailer or build a website to help create buzz about the movie.

Making a movie is definitely a lot of hard work, but the dream of making a movie can be a reality with the correct process followed of what steps to take, who to hire and how to get your movie made.

Here's a quick recap of the 10 steps to take to have a successful experience:

  1. Screenplay

  2. Producer

  3. Budget

  4. Financing

  5. Crew

  6. Equipment

  7. Talent

  8. Editing

  9. Marketing

  10. Distrubution

Zenobia the Warrior Queen


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