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Most everyone loves to curl up in a comfy cinema chair to watch a new release, armed with a massive bucket of popcorn and a pile of tasty treats. Of course, the finished product we see on the film screen takes months to come together. If you’ve ever wondered about how filmmakers go about making a movie, you’ll love this crash course on the magic of Hollywood.
The very first commercial films were developed in the late 1800s. Filmmaking technology was extremely rudimentary in those early days of the industry. Consequently, the earliest films were rather short and didn’t include any sound.
Fast forward to the 21st century, where moviegoers are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to truly stellar cinema. From the breathtaking special effects found in science fiction films to the beautiful scores that accompany many animated features, modern movies have something to offer for every fan.
If you pay attention at the end of a movie, you’ll see the list of credits fly by; the hundreds of names in the credits include all of the individuals who worked on the project. From the moment the screenwriter conceptualizes the movie until it plays in movie theatres across the planet, plenty of hard work goes into making a movie.
Let’s explore this fascinating process together!
Developing a Film’s Plot
All great movies start with one thing in common: a fantastic plot.
The plot is the storyline of a film. It includes different characters and the conflicts they face from the movie starts until it ends. There are many different factors that go into developing a plot for a film, but most all start with a screenplay. Writers work tirelessly to turn an idea into a full-fledged movie.
Of course, a brilliant idea can come from just about anywhere. Some movie studios employ creative teams that generate ideas for new films, while other screenwriters work independently and sell their work to others.
Regardless of how an idea comes to be, the screenwriters are responsible for creating the storyline and the script for the movie. The script may undergo several different revisions and changes before it’s ready for the actors to begin working on. In fact, this process can take several years to complete!
In animation, an additional step known as storyboarding takes place. Think of storyboarding like a hand-drawn map for where a movie is going to end up. On a large commercial film, multiple storyboard artists work together to bring the entire project’s blueprint to life. The finished work is then pitched to the director overseeing the project, who approves the individual scenes of the film and makes suggestions to improve the artist’s work.
It’s a long, complicated journey, no question about it. Nevertheless, the end results storyboarding generate when making a movie are well-worth the effort.
If you’re interested in learning more about the storyboarding process, check out this fascinating documentary short on storyboarding, created by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Casting Actors when Making a Movie
Actors bring the work of a movie’s creative team to life. Finding the best actor for a film is a very challenging process. A well-rounded movie character should seem like a real person. This means they have a unique background, wants and desires, and personal struggles.
Many times, a screenwriter has an idea of which actor they would like to see play a particular character. Scripts for upcoming movies are often given to famous actors to consider. In other cases, studios hold auditions to find the right match, and interested artists must read lines from the film for the director.
Of course, the actors don’t merely perform on camera. In modern Hollywood, the actors in a film represent the finished work extensively leading up to its release. Directors know this, and as such, often make casting decisions based on an actor’s likeability and appeal to a wide audience.
For example, some moviegoers automatically see a film if their favourite actors appear in it. If a movie star is plagued with scandals and bad press, directors may choose to pass over the person for another actor.
Hollywood has a reputation for being very difficult on new actors. Many people dream of starring in movies, so they move to Southern California to pursue this goal. With so many people competing for the same roles in movies, however, it can be very difficult to land a part.
Editing a Film Together
Making a movie often stretches across several months and this includes the filming process. Most films only last 90 minutes to two hours or so, but getting all of those scenes on film takes countless hours of hard work.
Editors play a vital role in the filmmaking process. These artists take a look at all of the footage once it’s in the can. Then, the team decides which scenes to cut from the movie. This process ensures the final movie is easy to follow and every scene contributes to the overall product in a meaningful way.
Award ceremonies like the Oscars award editors in the industry for this work for this very reason. The best editors spend years honing their craft. It doesn’t necessarily sound too difficult, but editing a film is truly an art. Slopping editing often derails an entire film, turning a would-be blockbuster into a flop. But how do editors choose what to keep in the movie and what to cut?
In this interesting documentary with film editors, you learn more about what the editing team looks for when putting all of the elements of the movie together. As the narrator in the clip explains that he cuts on instinct, like a lot of editors. The goal is to ensure the emotions and actions of the characters translate through the camera lens.
Completing a Film’s Post-Production
Editing actually falls under the umbrella of post-production, meaning it happens after the shooting of the film wraps. Editing is only the first step in the process, however. In addition to choosing which elements end up in the final product, the post-production team also must handle a number of other responsibilities. These include the following tasks:
- Sound mixing
- Inserting transition effects
- Dubbing and subtitling for foreign releases
- Negotiating with film distributors
In fact, this is only a short sample of the many steps that must take place before a movie hits the cinema. Post-production alone also takes several months and involves hundreds of different people. When you finally see a movie on the screen, the footage itself may date back a few years; the timeline depends on a number of different factors, all of which impact how long it takes the movie to be released.
Promoting the New Movie
Finally, the movie is ready for audiences to enjoy! But making a movie doesn’t stop with the filming and post-production process. Instead, actors must work to promote it, performing interviews like the one linked above and attending premieres across the world. All of these elements contribute to the eventual success of the film.
Movie studios also generate trailers, which provide audiences with a sneak peak of what is to come in the movie. Creating this trailer often occurs during the post-production staff. The editors try to pick the most interesting scenes from the movie and give a brief synopsis of the final product. Of course, it’s important to find the right balance in this process, too.
Good trailers give just enough away to make moviegoers want to see the film, without ruining the movie by providing too much information about what happens. The trailers appear in cinemas as “previews” before other movies. Most studios start advertising for the new film’s release several months in advance, building up anticipation and creating buzz among critics.
You Watch the Movie
After all of that hard work, you can finally go to the cinema and purchase a ticket for the film! If a movie is particularly popular, it will stay in the cinemas for several weeks, giving fans a chance to watch the finished product. Once ticket sales start to slow, the cinema no longer shows the film, but instead replaces it with a newer release. Some studios also show films at different times across the world, so it may take up to a year for the worldwide release to occur.
Finally, a few months after it leaves theatres, the movie is released on DVD and digital home release. This allows movie lovers to watch their favourite films over and over again from the comfort of their home sofas. Phew, who knew making a movie was such a challenge?
Are you fascinated by the moviemaking process? Check out more documentaries on how modern movies are made in the Woodpecker app!