Before you rush out and start shooting your movie, there are fundamental phases to your movie making career. Much like a video game, where you have various levels, movie making also has several stages you need to pass in order to advance. Each of these levels are invaluable to the other. No level can be overlooked without undermining your end product.
I know it’s tempting to race out with your buddies and start filming random things. Save that energy for when you have a solid script and production plan. While you work your day job and save that money for your project, spend your spare time watching great films, and reading screenplays. If you’re inclined, try to write a script that is ninety pages or less, and can be filmed with limited actors, locations and crew. Take time to develop a contained movie project that you can shoot on a meager budget. This will be better than any film school and be more beneficial to your movie making career.
Back to the video game example. After you succeed at one stage, you can level up and move onto the other. By doing this, it creates a process that makes your time and money best served. If you skip to subsequent levels, you will shorthand your film’s potential and possibly create a mess for yourself. This is one of the biggest traps first time filmmakers fall into. They try to skip steps and take short cuts. That always comes to haunt you later.
Here are the various levels I am talking about.
Level 1 – Development
This stage is where you come up with the idea, develop a good screenplay, and set up your company for production. This could also include incorporating your production, getting business licenses, opening bank accounts and fundraising.
Level 2 – Preproduction
Preproduction is exactly like it sounds. This is before you go into production. This is the aspect of casting your film, hiring your crew, locking down locations, and making a production plan. This stage could also include attaining filming permits and production insurance.
Level 3 – Production
Production is the part of the experience that you physically go out and make your film. Once this stage kicks off, there is usually no turning back, so it is critical that you make sure that all of your previous stages are checked off first.
Level 4 – Post Production
Think of this stage as the clean up stage. Most people think of post production only in the sense that you are editing your film, mixing sound and creating a movie soundtrack. This is true, but post production could also include settling payments to vendors, returning wardrobe and other things that you used during the production. Most of these aspects are factored into what the industry calls “wrap”, but for the indie filmmaker, once you’re done filming your movie, you need a day off before you can even start thinking about that stuff.
Level 5 – Marketing and Release Prep
Before you can release a film, you should be thinking about marketing. Also note that most distribution companies will not market your film. They may create a poster and trailer, and may do some social media if you’re lucky. You as the filmmaker, will be solely responsible for marketing your film to the masses. This is why you should create a marketing plan that you can use months before you have a scheduled release date.
Level 6 – Distribution
You should be thinking about the distribution level from day one. Knowing who your audience is and what tools you will use to release your film are paramount!
Level 7 – Marketing forever
Many first time filmmakers think they can make a film, release it and never think about it again. This is not the reality for the indie filmmaker, who will undoubtedly need to carry the lifelong burden of keeping your film relevant.
As we close out this post, I want you to stress this point: Filmmaking is a long term game. You have to be prepared to play long term with long term people. This also means you need to situate your movie making career and those around you for the long term. This can be one of the biggest hurdles for people wanting to make movies. But by understanding this, you can prepare yourself for the challenges that lay ahead.
That’s all I have for you on this. I hope it helps. Enjoy your week!