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The Process of Creating a Film Production

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  • 0:03 Shoot First, Ask…
  • 1:18 Pitching the Script
  • 2:38 Ready for My Close-Up
  • 3:55 Lights, Camera, Action!
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

In this lesson, you can learn about the process of filmmaking from script to screen. See what each player contributes to the film, including the screenwriter, casting director, actors, and of course the director.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

There are a lot of sayings in the film business, but none are more misleading than 'shoot first, ask questions later.' In truth, every tiny detail in films are carefully planned and executed. When films are shot haphazardly, as the saying goes, it leads to what are known as continuity errors. In the finished film, it would look like the protagonist's glass of water is full one minute and empty the next. Continuity errors breaks the illusion that the film was shot in a continuous moment.

In this lesson, we take a bird's-eye view of the filmmaking process from conception to completion, focusing on the roles of the screenwriter, director, and lead actors. While these players provide key roles in the filmmaking process, it's not a three-person team. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and in the end, no single person places his or her sole mark on the film. In the 1960s, it was common to hear directors raised to the level of auteur, French for author. Critics would glorify the master filmmakers like Hitchcock and Welles. Maybe it was true back then, but today every single person on the film set contributes to its unique character. If you want be the author, you might be better suited as a novelist.

Pitching the Script

They say you should write about what you know. Maybe that's why there are so many movies about filmmaking and Hollywood. And there are even more movies about writers, struggling screenwriters, novelists, and playwrights. Struck with writers block, it's not uncommon for a screenwriter to turn to his or her surroundings for inspiration, and this leads to the many films set in Hollywood. Some of these films are even thinly veiled attempts at dramatizing the wayward lives of Hollywood screenwriters. Films such as Adaptation (2002), Barton Fink (1991), Trumbo (2015), Sunset Boulevard (1950), The Muse (1999), The Player (1992) chronicle the process of filmmaking in general and screenwriting in particular, and for that purpose are instructive in showing how films get made.

In order to sell your script, you need to get a film production company interested in making it into a movie. This starts with the pitch, a short (under 5 minute) introduction to the concept of your film. Simplify the plot of a two-hour movie by appealing to recognizable genres. Keeping it action-oriented will give the sense that the story moves along and its characters develop. Even though movie mashups are cliché, drawing on established, successful movies will help show that your movie idea has potential.

Ready for My Close-Up

According to CNN, actors have one of the highest unemployment rates. Since the film business is all about who you know, the writer, producer, or director may already have actors in mind to play the parts. If they don't, the audition process gives actors and directors a chance to meet. The casting director organizes this process, working closely with talent agents to help put the right actors in the right roles and paired with a director who knows how to manage their talents.

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