The Process of Making a Movie

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Hey moviegoers! Todd Douglas Bailey here. As I am awaiting our filming start date to arrive, I decided to write about the process of creating an indie feature film (at least through my experiences). I do not have a degree of any sorts in filmmaking but I do have a degree in Mass Communcation/Broadcasting. Everything that I know about making a movie is all through trial and error. I have a mass collection of DVDs that I use for research in addition to entertainment. There are certain directors that I tend to study the most. My main influence is definitely M. Night Shyamalan.

I tend to believe that there isn’t “one” specific formula for making a film…as we know, filmmaking is an art form and is forever evolving. The way I make my films may be completely opposite of what is taught in film schools but I find that what I do works for me and my resources. I think of filmmaking in three phases:

PHASE 1
This is where your idea is created. What I like to do is once I have a story to tell, I will outline a plot. I usually do this on a notepad and it isn’t very detailed…just plot points that I want to hit within the story. Once I have a solid plotline, I begin constructing an outline. At the beginning of the outline, I develop my characters. Give them names. Traits. Back-stories. This outline is very detailed. It’s usually about 10-20 pages. Once the outline is complete, I like to walk away from it for about a week or so and then go back to read it over. I’ll find that I’ll add scenes, correct other scenes, and maybe change a character or two when I re-read it. Now I have this huge outline…what do I do with it now? Insert the fun part! This is when I actually begin writing the script. My very first feature script was 60 pages long. The “rule of thumb” is one page of script equals one minute of screen time. So 60 pages would be a 60-minute film. For me, this part can go very quickly or take forever! I use my 10-20 page outline to write the script. Now I have a script…what’s next?

PHASE 2
Now you have a completed script in hand, you love the story, and you’re ready roll! Where do you begin? Phase 2 is what I would call the creation process. This is the phase that you actually shoot and cut your film. I tend to begin this phase with a casting call. A casting call is when you bring in talent to read scenes from your script in order to choose the right actor/actress for specific roles in your movie. This is one of my favorite processes because it’s the first time you get a chance to see your characters come to life. Sometime you may already have a specific person in mind for a certain role, but then you screen test them and find that they fit another character better. This is a very important step. A poorly casted film will never get off the ground. Now you have your cast, now what? This next step, for me, is the most grueling of the entire process of making a movie. This would be the pre-production stage. This is the time to actually produce the film. Sets. Props. Extras. Make-up. Costumes. Locations. Equipment. Rehearsals. Effects tests. Prop tests. Make-up tests. Making schedules. Tired yet? You will be! Cameras. Lights. Actors. Storyboards. Money. Ugh! This step will determine exactly how smoothly your principle photography will go. If you really pay attention to detail in this step, you’ll enjoy smooth and well planned out shoot days. So now you have a screenplay, a cast, a crew, and you have produced like there is no manana…can we finally begin to film live scenes yet!? YES! The next element of Phase 2 is actually filming your movie. Grab your gear, grab your cast, and let the cameras roll! Now the final step in Phase 2 is editing (or cutting) your footage into a watchable (and hopefully entertaining) film. Edit your hearts out! Throw in some awesome music and special effects and watch the magic happen!

PHASE 3
It’s now been months. No, years since the conception of my original idea. I wrote a script based on that idea and produced everything I needed to tell that story. I filmed it and cut it into the most awesomest (if that’s even a real word) movie ever made! Now I have to get people to notice it. In Phase 3, you promote and distribute your film. Promoting is the easy part. Get trailers and behind the scenes featurettes uploaded to youtube and facebook immediately! Try to get onto local TV news stations so you have some material for a press kit. Send screeners to anyone willing to write you a review. Use those reviews (the good ones) to add to your press kit. Take your press kit along with a director bio and start sending your film to every film festival that you can afford to send it to. The film festivals are the roads to distribution. Once your film hits the festival circuit, you just have to sit back and hope that a studio or distribution company thinks that you have created a “marketable” film. If you have, sit back and get ready for a ride!

Ok who’s ready to go make a film?! When you do, remember this: always have fun no matter what! That is truly the secret of moviemaking! So ‘til next time my friends, keep watching the movies!

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9 Responses to “The Process of Making a Movie”

  1. steven jean-jacques Says:

    actually i am making jamaican movie in miami i spent lie 50000 dollars to make it but u can spend less than 4000 dollars without your actors but the problem is they are not gonna do all this work cheap for u but it’s easy to make a movie if u have ur script and accessories

  2. steven jean-jacques Says:

    i mean like not lie in the first sentence

  3. Tesia Says:

    Hey thanks for this post, it was so helpful! BTW I hope that your film worked out well :)

  4. Sophia Says:

    This has helped me understand how to make a movie, but i am still confused on how to get the money if you don’t have the money yourself to back it

  5. tizpro Says:

    Thank you! My film turned out well! You can view it here: http://www.amazon.com/Echo/dp/B006W05CQ4/ref=sr_1_17?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1326814179&sr=1-17

  6. tizpro Says:

    Finding financial backing for your film is very difficult. You have to earn sponsors by selling the idea of your film. I’ve never had any “big” backers. I’ve always financed my film out of my own pocket. I’ve also had support from family. When my films make any money, I use those earnings to make my next film. You can see this film that I was blogging about here: http://www.amazon.com/Echo/dp/B006W05CQ4/ref=sr_1_17?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1326814179&sr=1-17

    Thanks for the reply & keep making movies!

  7. danni Says:

    This has been very helpful for a project I am doing!
    Would someone PLEASE be able to tell me what date this article was published or where to find out! That would be much appreciated! Thank you

  8. danni Says:

    DONT WORRY I SAW IT> IT IS REALLY OBVIOUS hahaha sorry

  9. http://yahoo.com Says:

    “The Process of Making a Movie Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue”
    was in fact a splendid blog, can not help but wait
    to read through a lot more of ur posts. Time to waste several time online lol.
    Thanks -Flora

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