So you want to make a movie huh? Movie production can be an incredibly rewarding thing, but how do you start? Well after you have a script and a budget, the next step is pre-production. This post is going to explain the pre-production process in detail and provide you with a pre-production checklist that can get you started off on the right foot.
What is pre-production?
Even for professional filmmakers, it can be tough to come up with all the elements you need to bring together for production. The pre-production process might sound like a bunch work, but when you’re organized, it’s actually quite manageable.
What are all the elements of a production?
Making a movie is just like starting a business. Once you have an idea (your screenplay) then you need funding (your budget), a factory (your location, or studio), and employees (your crew), before you can make a product (your film). If you’re more inclined to business then you are to movies, think of a pre-production checklist as your business plan.
Here is what you will need before you can start filming:
The script is arguably the single most important contributing element to the overall success of the production next to the director. The script is like a production’s roadmap, converting that piece of paper into a living breathing movie is what the film business does.
As a part of your pre-production checklist, you should make sure that you’re locking in your script before you start shooting. Script changes happen, but you want to understand what your production will need so you can plan accordingly.
Securing a budget for a film is probably one of the more difficult aspects of the project, and even if you do get the money, it’s rare that you’ll get what you asked for. Knowing what your budget is during the pre-production phase allows you to plan things accordingly. Nothing is worse than getting a few weeks into production and realizing that you just don’t have the money to accomplish what you set out to do.
Once you know the dollar amount that you’ll be working with, you need to break that down into an actual usable budget. You can get as in-depth as you want here, some people choose to use a budgeting software, but depending on the size of your production and a spreadsheet could work just fine.
Once you understand what kind of movie you’re making and the script is locked in, then you can start to consider who you are going to bring into the production. Your production staff does a lot of the heavy lifting, so you want to make sure that this group of people is secured as soon as possible.
At the end of the day, a film is made by people, and you need to make sure that you pick a good group of people that can get the job done. If you don’t have the budget to get everyone you want, try to fill the gaps with friends and family.
This is a no-brainer, but it deserves to be on the list. Making a film is an art form, and it requires tools. Film equipment can be extremely expensive, so this issue needs to be figured out as soon as possible if you don’t have what you need in-house.
If you can’t afford to buy your own film equipment, then you can always rent it. Basically, every major city will have film equipment rental companies that you can utilize, but there are online options available as well. Sites like kitsplit.com allow you to rent film equipment peer-to-peer which could be a big cost saver for smaller productions.
Location is another element that usually eats up a large portion of the budget. Location scouts are the professionals who find film locations that match a particular script to real-world places. While this job has traditionally taken place in person, a good portion of location scouting activities can now take place remotely.
Finding film locations has never been faster or simpler, that being said you should still devote a good amount of time finding the right locations for your production.
Actors & Talent
Another large part of the budget will go toward paying actors. It will be difficult to say for sure during pre-production how much paying the actors will cost, but you can get a pretty good idea. The main thing you want to focus on at this stage is finding a good casting director, if you don’t already have one.
Casting directors focus on finding and securing the best talent for the job. A film without a good cast is already dead in the water, so this element needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Basically, any time you want to film outside of a studio environment, you’re going to need some type of permit. Film permits are usually obtained through the local film commission and can vary widely in price. Many times, cities will actually have tax breaks and other incentives available for film projects that you can learn about through the film commission as well.
The truth is, if you’re going to make a film above board, then you’re going to need to develop a relationship with the film commission. Not to worry though, the film commission is there to help you get your movie made.
Planning on how everyone, and all the equipment, is going to get to each filming location can be challenging to say the least. You don’t want to start production until you have a clear strategy for overcoming logistical challenges. This could mean hiring a transportation company or renting vehicles.
You will also need to consider lodging and food if you’re going to filming on location. While it’s true that some of these things will come on the fly, as much as you can possibly plan for should be planned for ahead of time.
Making your own pre-production checklist
While it’s true that you can find a million pre-production checklist templates online, none of them are going to fit the unique circumstances of your screenplay and production. Making a customized pre-production checklist is a must if you’re going to be making a film. Sit down and start to think about all these different areas mentioned above and start to list all the items that you need to have in place before you can officially start shooting.
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