Basics Of Filmmaking Guide (Including Process And Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Filmmaking can be an exciting and rewarding career if you are interested in media or drama. Filmmakers can work in many genres, including documentaries and feature films. If you are considering a career in filmmaking, you may want to know more about the process of making a film. In this article, we discuss the basics of filmmaking, outline the process from pre-production to distribution and offer tips for successful filming.

Basics of filmmaking

Solid knowledge of the basics of filmmaking can help you prepare if you are planning a shoot for the first time. Most film projects progress through a common set of stages that function as a guide for how to make a film. Every type of film, whether it is a naturalistic documentary, a series of interviews or a highly scripted and stylised drama, requires comprehensive and thoughtful planning to ensure a trouble-free shoot. Since many people work on different parts of the film, it is very important to coordinate the production in advance.

Related: What Is A Film Director? (Duties And Qualification)

Filmmaking process

The key idea or concept is the beginning of every filmmaking project. The clearer and more focused your idea is, the more likely that you can execute it successfully. Even though it can be tempting to include every exciting idea you have, a successful production recognises limits and adheres to them to ensure coherence. Since films have so many components, participants involved, time constraints and logistical challenges relating to sets and locations, starting with an idea that is not overly complex can give you a greater chance of successfully executing it.

Related: What Does An Assistant Director Do? (Duties And Skills)

Steps in pre-production

Pre-production for films represents all the planning and sourcing that you perform prior to the actual shooting of footage. A meticulously planned pre-production phase can help you anticipate challenges, create solutions and minimise disruptions and expense. Here are some tasks you may perform in the pre-production phase:

Script

You can begin writing the script after solidifying your concept for the film. The level of detail in the script can vary depending on the project. For example, you may choose to prepare very little dialogue in advance if you are filming a series of interviews where the participants engage in spontaneous conversation. In contrast, a historical drama script needs extensive research to be historically accurate, which might require you to write the script out fully in advance.

Storyboards or shot lists

Creating a storyboard is a very common method for planning out how you want the visuals in your film project to match the script. A storyboard is a series of snapshot images sketching out the shots you want to use for each scene. You can choose from a variety of storyboarding software or simply sketch out simple renditions of each scene by hand. You can think about whether you want a close-up or profile shot and visualise the composition of people in the scene.

A shot list is a similar concept where a filmmaker compiles a list of shots that they want to include in the film. This type of planning may be more useful when making a documentary, since this type of film may use more minimal scripting and the people appearing in the film may not be professional actors. A shot list allows you to visualise the individual shots you want to capture so you can be more efficient in arranging the participants on the day of the shoot.

Casting

Casting decisions are another important part of the pre-production phase. While you write the script, you can think about what kinds of actors you need for a dramatic production or who you would like to feature in a documentary. Making these kinds of decisions in advance can allow you some flexibility with last-minute changes.

Scheduling and locations

Film shoots are complex events and comprise many interdependent components. It may require you to search for locations and speak with owners or representatives to gain permission to film at certain locations. Having an organised production schedule ensures that the crew and equipment reach the filming location on time.

Related: Types Of Jobs In Film Industry (Duties And Salary)

Steps in production

Depending on the project, the filming process may include:

Building of sets or location setup

Depending on the nature of your project, you may arrange the set yourself or oversee crew members who work together to build a set. For instance, you may choose a basic interview setup where seated participants have a conversation in a fairly static environment for a documentary. More complex dramatic productions may require the assembly or installation of pre-built sets.

Shooting footage

Making a film can be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking, so it is important to optimise your filming process to maximise your chances of getting good footage while you have all your actors and set pieces in place. If you created a shot list in pre-production, it can be helpful to determine which of those shots you consider essential to the success of the film and which ones you can eliminate in case of time shortages or unforeseen events.

Making these decisions in advance can make you more flexible and able to respond swiftly to disruptions on set without compromising your vision.

Related: How To Become A Casting Director: A Comprehensive Guide

Stages of post-production

Post-production refers to all the changes you make to your film project after the filming of the raw footage is complete. You can use a variety of software and techniques to further refine your film. This can include video editing, colour correcting, colour grading, sound design and sound mixing. You have many opportunities to continue shaping your film through the ordering of scenes, use of background music and other editing techniques.

Related: What Does A Producer Do? (With Average Salary And Skills)

Tips for successful filming

An effective production plan is key to a successful film. In addition to comprehensive and meticulous planning, there are some simple techniques and strategies that you can consider using. Here are some tips that can help you improve the quality of your footage and apply to any type of filmmaking project:

  • Precision: When filming, it is often better to plan your shots beforehand. It can be more efficient to target your filming according to the shots you planned out on your storyboard or shot list.

  • Stability: For steady footage, you may want to use a stabiliser for your camera or mount it securely on a surface. Taking individual and predetermined shots can help with this, as this technique limits spontaneous camera movements.

  • Viewpoint: You can often achieve a more interesting shot if you move closer to the subject. Similarly, moving around the set and looking into the camera from different angles can help you discover unexpected and interesting visual compositions.

  • Zoom: If you want your subject to fill the frame, it is often better to physically move closer or zoom in before you film to avoid zooming in while you are shooting. When you limit camera movement and keep your subject in focus, you can capture expressions and emotions better.

  • Light: Light control is a key part of capturing high-quality footage. Consider what kinds of light sources are available and how you can use them in a way that complements your subject.

  • Sound: It can be helpful to have a plan in place for eliminating unwanted background noise you may encounter while you are filming. If your location makes it impossible to avoid including external noise, you may want to employ techniques like voice-overs, external soundtracks or musical scores at strategic points in the film.

  • Holding the shot: You can consider holding your shots for a few seconds before and after the planned shot. This gives you more material to work with during post-production and you can use this to create interesting edits.


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