Film Production & Distribution

Instructor: Rachel Matz

Rachel teaches acting and voice. She has an MFA in Acting and an MBA in Business Administration.

In this lesson, we explore the film production process from the green-light through production, distribution, and exhibition. In addition, we discuss post-production efficiencies and the movie-going experience.

The Process of Filmmaking

What goes into the making of a movie? How do movies get into the cinemas? How do studios and independent producers choose the films they decide to make? In this lesson, we explore the filmmaking process and the three-component system of film production, including production, distribution, and exhibition.

The Green-Light Process

Before a movie proceeds to production, the film must get the green-light, which means the go-ahead to move forward with a movie project. If you are a screenwriter or film director and have a vision for your final film, you need to make a dynamic pitch, or a 12 to 15 minute verbal presentation of your idea, to a studio or producer that will green-light the screenplay and film.

The pitch is about the final movie, not the final script, and you need to illustrate the final film using tactics such as a one-sheet, poster, sizzle reel, and a comparison to similar successful films. In turn, clients can gather a sense of the cost, scope, and style of the production along with the potential audience before they decide if the film is viable. Then, the client can work with you to finalize a script, interest buyers for distribution, and hold the official meeting with the green light committee to confirm production of the film. Once the film has the official green light, production begins.

The Three Components of Film Production


Production is the process of financing a film, and it is divided into the following parts:

  • Development is putting the elements of the film's production together. The producers analyze the screenplay in order to establish a production schedule and budget. Executive producers and producers raise the money, make sure legalities are settled, and coordinate production elements.
  • Pre-Production is the preparation before the film goes into production. This stage finalizes the financing, production schedule, and screenplay (a locked script). Producers confirm the director, cast, and crew. Production needs are determined, including camera and equipment, locations/sets, sound, costume, make-up, art, and lighting. Produceres establish a shot list and create a storyboard to provide a visual reference to shoot the scenes.
  • Production follows a shooting schedule that is broken down into a series of separate shots. Directors and Directors of Photography must consider the camera work, framing, and consistency of shots. The production elements are part of the filming and include sound and microphones, sets/locations, costumes, and lighting.
  • Post-Production is when the editors cut the film together. They add sound, visual and special effects, voice overs, songs, music scoring, and other details to the film. The mixers layer the sound to the picture and add titles to the final print. The final copy is placed in a distributable format to play in movie theaters, called a DCP or Digital Cinema Package.

In post-production, cloud computing provides filmmakers an affordable way to complete the rendering process of a film, which is putting together all of the movie's elements. Rendering can use vast amounts of computing power, which escalates costs.

Cloud computing services offer the same amount of efficient computing power, because you pay only for what you need without buying permanent equipment. Therefore, smaller budget films can compete with the larger ones because they can create technically complex films with less money. However, security is a concern here because of the public nature of these services.

A Film in Production
A Film in Production


Distribution is the process of placing movies into theaters. The six main distributors are Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, Disney/Buena Vista, and Paramount. The number of film copies and the location of where and when the film will play are decided by the distribution companies. A distribution strategy, including target audiences, release timing, promotional tactics, and marketing, helps to achieve a large box office draw.

Audience reach and box office draw are determined by the distribution. Does the film have a mass appeal? Does the film need reviews in order to gain an audience? A wide release means the film goes to a large number of theaters simultaneously. A platform rollout means a film is released to one or a few theaters in order to build an audience before launching a wider release. Film festivals are also a good way to start a platform rollout.

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