It is a common misconception that because of the seamlessness of a film, that to get magic on screen is a one-take process. This is a common mistake; what you see behind the scenes is very different from what is on screen. The pre-production of a film is in a sentence all the work before filming begins. This includes money you need to film, time you need to film, people you need to film and things you need to film. The phase could be divided into four different sections:
- The Schedule
- The Budget
- The People
- The Film Prep
The schedule is dependent on the script. Paula Landry’s book Scheduling and Budgeting your Film describes breaking the script into scenes like a “GPS leading you toward the completed film…it is the foundation of a production” (Landry, pp. 10, 2012). To increase efficiency, once the breakdown is created organize like scenes together based on location, cast, and time of day. This allows for less shooting days.
Sorting out your script and schedule allows you to identify the price of your film. Budgeting is basically allowing money to be “allocated to appropriate expenses” (Landry, 2012). From this budget, you can distribute the money based on above-the-line or below-the-line costs. Director Sidney Lumet of 12 Angry Men, amongst many other films, defines above-the-line costs as property, director, producer, writer, and actor costs in his book Making Movies (Lumet, 1995). The rest is for below-the-line which includes “sets, locations, trucks, studio rental, location and studio crews, catering, legal fees (which are enormous), music, editing, mixing, equipment rental, living expenses, and set dressing (furniture, curtains, plants, etc).” To acquire this funding would be a part of our previous phase, Development.
Having a good team is important for you to get pre-production done efficiently. Because of possible scheduling conflicts, the more the merrier. Following is a list of department heads, each in charge of their own team:
- Casting Director
- Location Manager
- Production Manager
- Director of Photography
- Production designer
- Sound Designer
- Music Composer
The amount of people used in a film does not guarantee success. You may have 20 or 200, but having them rehearsed, scheduled, and insured does play into your film’s success. Behind the scenes involves countless rehearsals, coordination with actors’ schedules and location permits needed before shooting.
The Film Prep
While having talented actors is a necessity in a film, having a skilled and experienced film crew is where the magic happens. Director Sidney Lumet quotes in his book “I once asked Akira Kurosawa why he had chosen to frame a shot in Ran in a particular way. His answer was that if he’d panned the camera one inch to the left, the Sony factory would be sitting there exposed, and if he’d panned an inch to the right, we would see the airport – neither of which belonged in a period movie. Only the person who’s made the movie knows what goes into the decisions that result in any piece of work. They can be anything from budget requirements to divine inspiration. “
Stay tuned for our third phase, production!