HOW DO I MAKE A MOVIE?
A great question and not an easy task. It takes time, patience, perseverance and a little bit of blind faith. It’s more than just having a script. It’s more than buying a camera, some equipment and pressing record. It’s more than setting up some lights and putting actors on their marks. It’s an emotional roller coaster, an internal battle for the ages.
Having the tools to make a film isn’t even half the battle, it’s maybe a quarter. You have so many elements to navigate through, getting equipment is the easiest part of the process. Once you introduce a slew of people to work with, you have to navigate personalities, schedules and not to mention your own inner demons.
Once you have your script cleaned up and where you want it, you make the decision to make the movie. A great decision no doubt, but one that comes with a lot of work. I always begin with my equipment. I think about the way I want to shoot the film and determine the equipment I might need from there.
There are some basic items you’ll need such a lights but you need to consider your camera movements for each scene. Are you going to shoot everything on a tripod? Handheld? Do you need a gimbal? A dolly? Any aerial shots where you need a drone or helicopter? Do you need to rig the camera to a car?
Once you figure out your equipment, it’s time to break down the script to the basic elements. Figure out how many actors you need, locations, wardrobe and props. Determine a budget based on these elements and start saving(or find the funds). Once you’re ready, it’s time to jump in.
I typically just go on Facebook for my casting. I post to a local actors or film group in my city with the details of the project and characters I’m looking for. Upon posting, you will get a bunch of people interested, requesting an opportunity to audition. You’ll send them sides(a few pages from the script for them to read) and provide them with a deadline. Half of these people will send you an audition and the other half will simply drift away.
Reviewing auditions can be fun but also a daunting task at times. You have to navigate through each, making difficult decisions on why someone is good for a role or simply not the right fit. Once you make your decisions and move one, you’ll wish you were back at the beginning with the easy stuff, because the real work is just about to begin.
The cast is set and it’s time to blindly move forward, having faith that this will all work out in the long run. Oh the stress...it’s a real bitch at times. Early mornings, long nights and little sleep. Welcome to the suck and it starts with scheduling.
Everyone has a life outside of what you’re working on and you simply have to navigate around this. Some people work during the week and others not at all. Some work only on weekends and others have vacations planned. It’s not easy, but you need to find a way to accommodate.
I typically ask each person what is best for them to begin with, weekdays or weekends. It’s a good place to start. From there, I identify the scenes I want to shoot, pick a few dates and send them to the people I need there. Depending on the response I get, I try to schedule accordingly or change the dates as needed. Eventually, everyone will agree upon a date and you have your shooting day scheduled.
The good news is, you have one day down, that’s one less day you have to schedule. The bad news is, you’re going to repeat this process 15-30 times until the film is done. Trust me when I say this, it only gets easier because you become numb to the process. Get your days scheduled with your people and then make sure the location is available.
You can really line up your locations at any point in the process. I typically wait to get them until I have a cast and crew. The reason for this is because the cast is a network for you as a filmmaker. If you need to find a home to shoot in and you can’t find one, ask the cast and crew. They will either have one or know of someone who does. Like I say, film is collaborative and it’s in all aspects.
Once you identify your location, get dates locked down for your cast, it’s good to check if the location is available. Sometimes it’s not which will force you to start this entire process over again. Other times, it works out great! Get it scheduled and get ready to shoot.
PROPS, WARDROBE AND MORE
Now that you know WHAT you're shooting, where and with whom, it’s a good idea to figure out any props needed for the scene(s) and wardrobe for all your players. Get these items lined up and ready so when the day comes you can press record with confidence.
Aside from props and wardrobe, you need to sit down and develop your shot list. Think about each scene, read it, close your eyes, see it and figure out how it looks in your mind. Where will the actors stand? How will they move? When will they move? Where will the camera be? Will the camera move? How will you light the scene? Figure it out, write it down and bring that shit to set. It will save your ass more than once.
All the pieces in place and it’s time to shoot, right!? Wrong. How are you going to feed these people? What time are you going to shoot? What order are you going to shoot the scenes in? What time should the crew arrive? What time should the cast? All things you need to consider and figure out before each day of shooting.
Finally, we’ve made it. All of the hard work is complete and now it’s time to have some fun. Correct about the fun, but the hard work continues. It’s time for a million questions and be prepared to have an answer for them all. What’s the blocking? Where’s the camera going to be? What are we shooting first? Does this look good? How’s the lighting?
Set life is certainly fun and you get to see the magic happen, all the hard work coming together, but it’s tough and exhausting work. You will essentially be all over the place. A single day on set can range from 8-12 hours and it will seem like 2 hours to you. That’s how busy you’ll be so just prepare yourself.
After you rinse and repeat the steps above 15-30 times, you finally have a film. Just kidding, you have footage. Time to put that footage onto the computer and edit. You need to piece this puzzle together.
During editing you will determine if you need any reshoots, fix any dialogue, sound effects, special effects, etc. It’s fun to see the story come together but again it comes with work, just a different type of work.
Making a movie is a lot of work. Aside from the work, you will have to deal with the mental struggles that come with. The highs, the lows, the good times and bad. The doubt that will creep up into your mind, forcing you to ask the question, what the hell am I doing? Why am I doing this? What was I thinking?
Have the thoughts, acknowledge them and then bury that shit. All will be okay, just keep moving forward. One day at a time. One scene, one moment, one shot, just keep moving forward. You will get to the finish line, you will be proud and you will look back and appreciate the moments you went through. You’ll miss it entirely and want to go through it all again. This is film in a nutshell and the juice is certainly worth the squeeze.