7 Stages Of The Filmmaking Process: A Comprehensive Guide

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

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The film industry has a variety of job roles for creative professionals and technicians. Filmmaking is a complex process that requires the contribution of several talented individuals. Learning about the different stages of filmmaking can help you understand the process better and make an informed career decision as per your interest. In this article, we define the filmmaking process and discuss its seven stages in detail.

What Is The Filmmaking Process?

The filmmaking process is the step-wise approach that movie producers and production houses follow to create a movie. The goal of filmmaking is to communicate a story or message through the visual medium through the most efficient use of resources and time. This process consists of several distinct stages, which include writing, casting, shooting, editing and screening. Filmmaking requirements and stages can vary depending on the objective of the project and the process adopted by the producer or director. This process provides a rough framework for the production team to follow a systematic filmmaking operation.

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

7 Stages Of The Filmmaking Process

The seven stages of the filmmaking process that movie producers and directors follow are:

1. Development

The development stage of a film is when a movie producer takes an abstract idea of a story or concept and starts adding more technical and creative details. This phase of the production process includes building the story's core idea, writing the script's first draft and calculating the project's expected expenditure and logistics. Depending on whether the producer is making an independent film or a big-budget feature film, the development phase can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.

This stage broadly includes the creation of a script with a coherent progression. After approval from all parties involved, the producer work with the creative team and the production crew to create a realistic timeline for the project. It is important to spend adequate time at this stage so that the producer can revise the script, forecast the necessary expenditure and logistics and hire a qualified team. Otherwise, the producer might choose unfit professionals or miscalculate the expected expenditure of the film.

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

2. Pre-production

During the next stage, the director and the production team work together to finalise different aspects of the shoot. The team usually meets at the production office to work on critical pre-production processes such as finding and finalising the shooting location, finishing the script and conducting rehearsals with actors. Contracts related to the music, costumes, make-up, props and set designs get finalised at this stage. Other crucial creative professionals, such as the director of photography, assistant director, stunt director, choreographer and music producers, also get hired at this stage.

Once the entire team is ready, the director conducts rehearsals and workshops to prepare for the principal shooting. Technicians from the lighting, sound and set design departments also work with the director to understand what they are required to accomplish. The director's team creates a storyboard at this stage to visualise each frame of the movie and create a shooting schedule. Before the shooting commences, all professionals involved in the film regularly interact by collaborating and understanding each other's vision and working style.

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

3. Production

Once the schedule, locations, crew and actors are ready, the film's production process begins. Depending on the length of the movie, the production can take place in one continuous schedule or on different schedules at different locations. Additional crew members to perform technical duties, such as managing the logistics and transportation, also get hired during this stage. In most projects, rehearsals may take place to save time, and the crew usually works with little breaks to shoot as many scenes as possible.

During this stage, the production coordinator, assistant director and the director of photography play crucial roles. The continuity coordinator ensures that the visual frames remain continuous, even at different shooting times and locations. The production stage requires significant collaboration and teamwork between different technical, creative and direction team members. Once the director is satisfied with the production preparation, the crew begins to prepare for the actual shooting and photography.

Related: How To Become A Movie Producer (With Skills And Salary)

4. Photography

Film production photography is the phase where the actual shooting of the movie takes place. This can be the most challenging and expensive part of the process, as working in external locations can be unpredictable. Most shooting schedules have fixed days, and time gets allocated judiciously to ensure maximum efficiency. The director is responsible for ensuring that the team receives usable footage and that the shooting gets finished within the stipulated time and budget.

The principal photography stage includes almost the entire crew of the production team directly, barring the editor and music producers. During this stage, the investments made by the producers get utilised in the form of travel, outdoor shooting, hiring production crews, producing props and renting shooting equipment such as lights. The director, director of photography, cameraman, audio technicians and light technicians, play a crucial role in this stage of the process.

Related: Cinematography Vs. Videography: Differences And Salary Info

5. Wrap

The period immediately following the last shot is a 'wrap' in filmmaking. This is when the cameras get turned off, and the actors and crew leave the set. During this period, everything gets taken apart and cleared up. Each piece of equipment gets returned to the suppliers, including the props and technical devices. It is essential to check if all the equipment is working well before returning them to the renters or suppliers.

Most big-budget film projects have a tradition of hosting a ‘wrap party'. At the wrap party, the actors, supporting cast and key crew members like the director, assistant directors, producers, and designers gather to celebrate the completion of the shooting phase of the process. Generally, people who work behind the camera are the only ones involved in the steps after a film wraps. These include editors, film colourists who work on correction and grading, and the sound team. Sometimes, actors may also be a part of the post-wrap section of the film.

6. Post-production

There are two main players in the post-production process: the editor and the music composer. The editor plays the role of an organiser, reviewing the uncut footage to rearrange it into a cohesive film for viewers to watch. Each version of the movie they prepare is a 'cut'. They work with the director to decide which scenes to include in the final cut and in what order they may appear. Depending on the film's release date, the editor may work under a strict deadline.

Other crucial post-production processes include adding visual effects and sound design to the movie. The movie's music composer works with the director to create the theme for the entire film, along with recording songs, if required. Big-budget movies usually have a separate budget for music production and promotion, as the music plays an integral part in setting the tone and promoting the movie. In some cases, the actors may reshoot some scenes of the film or provide additional voice-over for dubbing purposes.

Related: What Does A Music Composer Do? Guide And Career Tips

7. Distribution

In the final stage of the process, producers sell the movie to distributors. Once a distributor purchases the rights to screen a movie, they promote it to get the maximum number of people to view it and recoup their investment. Depending on the budget and reputation of the actors and director, the box office collections can influence the price of resale values, such as the television broadcast rights and the distribution through over-the-the (OTT) platforms.

The actors typically work hard to promote the movie and may host interactions with the press and public before the release of the movie. Production houses use innovative methods to promote their movies, including submitting the movie to film festivals and launching short promotional trailers on leading video platforms and television channels. Depending on the number of theatres where the movie gets released, producers and actors may organise local, national or international events, organise multiple paid and unpaid screenings and invite movie critics to review the film. The final box office collections determine the commercial success or failure of the movie.

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