The Film Production Process: The 5 Stages of Film Production
- Learn what are the 5 stages of film production.
- Learn the steps in the filmmaking process.
The 5 Stages of the Filmmaking Process
The film production process encompasses everything that goes into making a film or video. These steps range from the conceptualization of an idea to its final release and distribution. Film production is generally broken down into five stages:
- Concept Development
Stage 1: Concept Development
Before a film can get started, it needs to go through the “development” stage. This phase includes the idea, the script, casting actors, and setting locations. The development phase is also where you will look obtain funding for your film and set a budget.
Considering a budget and financial preparation for fees in equipment, food services, festival entries, and more might need to be discussed by a single or group of teams. This could also be on top of how one might compensate crew members that might be union or non-union talent. Once that stage is handled, it might be best to get to a drawing board to plan further.
Begin by outlining a beginning, middle, and ending with specific plot points and events. For certain filmmakers, it may be easier to start from an ending and work your way back to a starting point to develop your story and vision. It is from here that most films take shape.
Stage 2: Pre-Production
Pre-production is arguably the most important stage of the film production process, because it's where the foundation for a successful shoot are laid. The more details you figure out at this stage, the more time and money you will save during the production stage. Pre-production involves everything that happens before the film production stage starts. This includes establishing schedules, finalizing production documents, and assembling film crew.
Key pre-production documents to have completed are; a script, storyboards, shot lists, equipment lists, production insurance, shooting schedules and film permits to map out your shoot, cast and crew scheduling, and locking in locations.
Assemble your film cast and crew — aside from your on-screen actors, the main film production roles you want to fill are; a producer, assistant director, director of photography, gaffer, sound mixer / operator, and hair & makeup (HMU).
Main Pre-Production items include:
- Finalize the Script
- Securing the Budget
- Hire Key Cast & Film Crew
- Create the Storyboard & Shot Lists
- Wardrobes & Props
- Production Insurance
- Obtain Film Permits
- Scout & Secure Filming Locations
- Shooting Schedules
Stage 3: Production
When the film crew arrives at the set, this is considered production. Production is typically the longest and most expensive stage of film production. It's where all of your planning culminates in a single moment, and it comes to life on camera. The shooting of a film can often be broken down into two different stages: principal photography and the "pick up shots" of the second unit. If you are working on a smaller film production, you will most likely not have a need or budget for a second unit.
Capturing your principal photography will be the heart of your project. During principal photography, the director and producer oversee the entire film production process - making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible on set. The cinematographer assists with lighting and also operates the camera during filming.
Once the main elements of the story are filmed, the director will turn over other shot duties to the second unit director (if they're present). The second unit director oversees all other shots that do not involve any of the major actors or characters. Shots involving stunt doubles, certain special effects and additional dialogue recording usually fall under the second unit director's supervision.
Stage 4: Post-Production
After shooting has wrapped, production moves into the post-production stage. The post-production stage involves editing and composing the raw film footage captured during principal photography to bring the film and story to life on the computer.
This includes editing, sound design, visual effects / special effects, color correction, titles / graphics, and the musical score.
Main Post-Production sub-stages include:
- Visual Effects / VFX
- Music Scoring
- Sound Design / Foley (adding background noises)
- Color Correction (adjusting scene hues to achieve a desired look)
- Titles / Credit Scenes
- Audio Mix & Master
Stage 5: Distribution
Now, that your film is "in the can" - the final stage of the filmmaking process is distribution. In the final stage of film production you'll explore digital and non-digital platforms for distribution strategies, and decide what works best for your film.
Distribution is where a film's marketing campaign takes place, which can include everything from securing a release date and a marketing budget to creating the poster artwork and choosing a trailer. It's wise to take the time to research where your audience(s) can be located. For example, would they happen to expect your type of work at a Sundance, SXSW, or a Toronto International Film Festival? Or is it most practical for web distribution? The choice is yours.
Main Film Distribution items to consider are:
- Film Release / Marketing Strategy
- Poster Artwork
- Advertising (Billboards, TV commercials etc.)
- Public Appearances (Film festivals, red carpets etc.)
- Web Distribution (Youtube Channels, Vimeo, Social Media, etc.)
- Home Media Format(s) (DVD & Blu-ray etc.)
We hope you’ve found this article on the Filmmaking Process to be useful and practical. For more valuable info, tools, and resources for film directors, videographers, photographers, motion designers, video editors, and creatives - check out the Ultimate List of Filmmaker Resources, Glossary of Essential Film Terms, or all blog posts.
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- Filmmaking via Wiki
- What Are The Phases of Film Production by IPR
- The Beginner's Guide To The Filmmaking Process by The New York Film Academy
- The Filmmaking Process Step by Step - by Learn About Film
- 5 Stages of Indie Film Production: What You Need To Know by Indie Film Hustle
- How To Produce a Movie: The Pre-Production Process Explained by Studio Binder