Production]] : [[Casting]] [[ScreenPlay]] [[The Production Team]]
[[The Final Step]]
Preproduction ¡V What IS preproduction?
Many people think that ¡§preproduction¡¨ merely plays a minor part in
the process of filmmaking, one that doesn¡¦t require much work. If you
happen to think this way, then you are definitely wrong! Pre-production
is the start of the Big Picture and everything including the writing of
the script, budgeting, casting etc. are done during this period. It is
crucial for this process to be completed smoothly, as it will affect the
whole production. The more time you spend on planning your film during
pre-production, the more economical will the process of making the film
be. But, things may not always go the way you want it; There are times
when an actor¡¦s availability or the final release date of your film
force your pre-production schedule be faster than you¡¦d like it to be.
There is no specific order in which the process of pre-production should
¡§follow¡¨, but things usually proceed in a logical order. In this
section, we will provide you with everything one needs to know about
pre-production ¡V from the screenplay to the final step; it¡¦s all in
PRODUCTION - CASTING
director]] [[academy players
directory]] [[the casting process]]
In some cases, most likely not in low budget films, a
casting director, who specializes in finding/recommending the most
suitable actor/actress for each role, is hired to aid the producer.
However, the producer or the director rather than the casting director
makes the final decision.
A skilled casting director should have a lot of information on
various actors/actresses on hand, either in memory, in files or stored
in a computer. He/she should have dedicated a lot of time in studying
actors¡¦ abilities, and have a knack for sensing new talent all the
time. In addition to that, a casting director should have a vague idea
of how much certain actors cost and the time schedule of various actors.
Not only that, but he should be very familiar with contacting and
dealing with actors¡¦ agents.
There are no specified standard or minimum wages
which casting actors should be paid; their pay varies according to the
casting directors¡¦ reputation, the budget of the film, the number of
roles the casting director needs to cast and so forth.
A few ways for a producer to find a fitting casting
director would be to ask around the film community, to watch films while
noting which films are particularly well-cast, or to search for
recommendations from various actors¡¦ agents. Once a producer has
selected a possible casting director, the producer, director and
potential casting director will meet and discuss the schedule, budget
etc. When the three feel comfortable with the idea of working with each
other, the casting will begin.
Academy Players D
To cast a film, an essential tool would be the
four-volume publication Academy Players Directory, put together
by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and has been out
every year since 1937. Inside they contain information on practically
every actor and actress (that¡¦s over 15,000). Not only are there
photographs of the actors, there are also descriptions of them, a list
of any special talents or skills they might have, agency information,
and guild association.
These four volumes are updated four times a year and each separate
Volume one: Leading Women
Volume two: Leading Men/Younger Leading
Volume three: Characters and
Volume four: Children/Master Index
Besides these main sections there are also special
features including directories for actors of different races along with
actors with disabilities. It is especially useful when a producer is
looking for familiar faces or names for a certain role.
The Casting Process
Casting is broken down into three categories:
Principal players (major speaking parts), secondary players (non major
speaking parts), and extras (non-speaking atmosphere talent).
To cast principal players, usually a
screen test or an audition is held. During an audition, the actor will
read from the producer¡¦s script, and from their reading, you can tell
a great deal about the actor¡¦s suitability for a certain role. But,
the best thing to do in addition to the auditions is to see how that
actor appears on film. Therefore when casting a principal actor, you
would probably base your choice on actors you¡¦ve seen in other films.
IF you have found a potential actor but have never seen him on film,
then the best thing to do is to shoot a screen test.
In a screen test, the auditioning actor will act
out/perform a scene from the script, usually in full costume and makeup,
and they will be shot on film so that the producer is able to see that
potential actor on film.
Unless the actor belongs to the SAG (Screen Actors
Guild), they are usually paid for a screen test, and afterwards will
receive a copy of their completed test so that they can see how they did
during the screen test. If running a screen test is too expensive for
your budget, then you should use video equipment rather than actually
filming them with cameras. That way, you will spend less money and still
get to see that actor on videotape.
Assuming that you¡¦ve selected a principal actor
from seeing their performances rather than shooting screen tests, the
first thing you should do is to contact that actor¡¦s agent. When you
do, the agent will ask to read the script, and if he feels that the
script will interest his client, then the agent will forward it to his
client. The agent also ha to be sure that you can afford his client¡¦s
fee and that his client is available and has no conflict to your
schedule. If you are able to contact a potential actor for the film with
personal connections, then is advisable to sidestep the agent part and
ask the actor directly.
As an agent, it is his job to help his client to obtain the best
deal possible. A good agent will also look at the long-range proposition
of a project. If, for instance, the role that you¡¦re offering could
allow the actor to be accessed to a whole new area of opportunity, then
the agent might reflect on that and bend a little to fit your budget.
The worst that can happen us that the agent turns
down your offer, but most probably, he ill recommend other clients of
his that he feels are more suitable to your film.
To an actor, and not just fresh new actors but A-list
actors as well, the most important thing to him is the script. They are
always alert and watchful for scripts that will best serve their talents
and expand their perspectives. Basically that means that, for instance,
a certain actor might be well known for doing drama, but he may also
wish to give a shot at comedy or action. In this case, because this
certain actor is not known for doing comedies, he will then definitely
be willing to accept a smaller salary for the chance to play such a
role. However, since that actor is know for dramatic roles, he will
often not get the chance to work on comedic work as they are usually
first offered to actors who have created a name for themselves in this
In order to do a good production it is best to cast the
right person for the right role because if the actor takes on the role
because of the attractive salary or whatsoever, they will lack the real
enthusiasm that adds a spark in their performance.
What¡¦s in a Name? (Choosing the right actors)
For small independent films with small budgets, the
casting choices are made based on the best actor for the best role, not
based on name value. However, it is helpful for the producer to cast at
least one role to an actor whose name is somewhat recognizable in the
film community. This helps with the release of the movie and also
eventually the video, television and foreign sales.
Among the large amount of actors and actresses there
are a small amount that are considered ¡§bankable¡¨ stars. What this
means is that by casting a ¡§bankable¡¨ star in your film, no matter
for a big or small role, it will guarantee financing. It doesn¡¦t
guarantee your film being a big hit or topping charts, but it will guarantee
¡§bottom-line return¡¨, which in other words, means that you will be
guaranteed for a minimum market.
The importance of having a recognizable
name in a movie and not having a familiar name at all has a great
significance. If someone asks you ¡§who¡¦s in your film?¡¨ and you
answer by saying a name everybody knows then your film will be treated
with respect. But, if you are not able to name anybody they know, then
your film will be treated differently and obviously not with as much
respect. That¡¦s why it is always important for the producer to at
least include one well known, if not A-list, actor/actress in his film.
good ScreenPlay]] [[The Writer's
It would be impossible to overemphasize
the significance of the screenplay for a film - there isn't such thing
as the screenplay being too important. As a saying goes: "If it
ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage". Compare the process of
filmmaking with the process of constructing a building and you'll find
the similarities. Just as a building needs a strong and sturdy
foundation (base), a film needs a strong and sturdy base as well - which
is the screenplay, the script. If the screenplay is bad, then everything
else collapses as well.
However, there are two different types of filmmakers, thus
bring two different kinds of viewpoints. The first type is independent
filmmakers, and they're the kind that really see the importance in the
script, whereas studio filmmakers don't. Independent filmmakers are able
to take risks that studio filmmakers can't. In order for their films to
be a guaranteed success, studios remake previously successfully films or
hit TV shows. Their focus might not so much be on the screenplay, but on
special effects. For example, in Speed II: Cruise Control, the script
was not written with the thought of an appealing plot or attractive
actors; it was written so that it could accommodate the
$83,000-per-second five-minute stunt (this stunt is known as the most
expensive single-stunt in history) that director Jan De Bont wanted.
Independent filmmakers, on the other hand, are able to give their
audience something original and fresh, and they don't so much rely on
special effects to make their films a success, even with a modest
budget. Actually, there have been more independent filmmakers than
studio filmmakers to win academy awards in the past years. That's
because independent films are really written with the heart set out for
a good script, whereas studio films are just selling their big-star
actors and special effects.
In Hollywood, there are top-notch scriptwriters who are
hired as "script doctors" by studio executives. Obviously, as
you can see from the name, these scriptwriters are given huge amount of
money to correct/rewrite any parts of the script that might be in
trouble. They are also hired as a protection to the executives
themselves, because just in case the movie is a big flop, the executive
can say, "but I hired William Goldman!" Sometimes it isn't
just the studio executive that wants to hire top screenwriters as script
doctors, it's the actors (well known and famous actors, of course) who
demand this as part of their contract.
Generally, the process of filmmaking proceed according to
the following order: Treatment: A sketch (description) of the whole
story and the characters, written in an essay-style format.
First Draft: The first draft is usually longer than the
final draft, and it's written in what's called a standard form
Second Draft: The second draft is basically a modified
version of the first draft, including all the important changes in the
relationship of the characters, plot, or storyline.
Polish: This is to "polish" up specific
dialogues, actions, and settings etc, not a complete rewrite.
Usually, a script written in standard form runs roughly
around one page per minute of screen time. Which means, the script for a
100-minute long film would be around a hundred pages long. However, once
you begin to edit it, you'll find yourself wanting to trim and tighten
different scenes, or even cutting some scenes. That is why the final
running time of the film will be shorter than the final script.
A Good Screenplay
The most important thing in a completed screenplay is that it is able to
hold the interest of its' intended audience. If it is not appealing and
it can't hold your interest, then it is not considered as a good
screenplay. Another way to see if a particular screenplay is good or
not, is to see if it can express the movie before it is shot. That
means, a good screenplay should allow the reader to be able to really
hear and experience the movie by just reading the script.
The Writers Guild
A majority of experienced and skilled film and television writers belong
to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), an organization that began in
1942. Producers sign a contract with the WGA and are able to work with a
writer belonging to the guild. However, there are disadvantages for
independent film producers. Signing with the guild means that you must
pay the writer a guild minimum charge for each writing progression,
which basically means that you have to pay them for the story, draft,
revisions and polishing. A script can go through a number of revisions
before it can be ready, and that means we're talking about a large sum
of money - sometimes an amount that independent producers can't afford.
Another thing that the WGA does is to determine the final writing
credits. It is very important to follow exactly what's determined by the
guild, and if a producer fails to follow exactly, serious consequences
would occur. The producer or production company may be fined (a large
sum of money, of course).
Some screenwriters prefer using a typewriter, or even paper and pencil,
to write their scripts. But, nowadays, there are software designed to
help screenwriters with their scripts, such as the formation of the
scripts and the organization of the characters in the script etc. There
are many kinds of software, everything from the most traditional kind -
converting a basic word document into a standard screenplay format - to
more sophisticated programs that formats your screenplay as you write
along. With these software, writers are able to write with ease.
Selecting a Writer
The most important thing to look for in a writer, apart from genre, is
whether the writer is able to tell a good story or not to the audience.
If that person is not able to, then he/she is not a good writer, period.
Besides being able to tell a good story, you should look for a writer
with the writing style you have in mind. What I mean is, say, if you
wanted to produce a comedy, you'd want to look for a writer who's
humorous and able to crack a few good jokes. It is common (and
necessary) for a producer to select screenwriters by watching films.
They watch films that show the genre of films that they're after, and
after that they take a look at the screenplay, where they can really see
the potential writer's works. Once a producer has selected a few
potential writers for his film, he should contact the writers' agents.
If he finds that his desired writers are unavailable or too expensive
for his budget, their agents will naturally recommend other suitable
clients of his for you.
THE PRODUCTION TEAM
Unit]] [[Directing Unit]] [[Production
[[Costume Department]] [[Electrical
Department]] [[Grip Department]]
Department]] [[Props Department]]
Construction]] [[Sound Department]]
[[Additional Personnel]] [[Selecting
Besides the production and directing units, other departments include
cinematography, costumes, electrical, grip, locations, makeup and hair,
production design, props, publicity, script, set construction, sound,
special effects, stunts and transportation. The smaller the film, the
smaller the crew. Usually in documentary films, there are only two
people in a crew, a director/cinematographer and a sound recordist.
A producer's responsibility varies from film to film.
Because of this, nobody is really sure what the job of a producer is.
Nowadays films contain several producing credits with more than one name
attached to each. For example, one film can have two executive
producers, three producers, three co-producers, and one associate
producer; this brings the total amount of producers to nine. Out of
these nine producers, some of them earned their credit while some of
them did nothing whatsoever relating to the producing role. To allow you
to understand more about each kind of producer, below are some brief
descriptions of each one: Executive Producer: Traditionally this credit
is given to the person who is responsible for assembling the whole
production together, in terms of financially or creatively. Nowadays
this has become an unclear title. An executive might be the star actor's
associate or partner, or perhaps the owner of the production company
that produced this film. Producer: A creative producer works hands-on
the film and is involved in the whole process of filmmaking. He's the
one who selects and works with the screenwriter, casting, editing etc.
He is responsible for staying within the budget throughout the
production and acts as a liaison between the production company, the
studio and the director. Besides that, the creative producer supervises
the line producer, who is responsible for the budget of the film. Line
Producer: A line producer is usually involved in large-budget films and
besides managing the budget he is second to the UPM (unit production
manager) and acts as a supervising production manager. Besides that he
is responsible for maintaining and make the most of the budget. They are
not responsible for the "creative" parts of the film and are
therefore not required to attend casting sessions and script meetings. A
line producer is usually included in the head credits, unlike the UPM,
which appears at the end credits. Associate Producer: Usually an
associate producer acts as a supporting producer. Sometimes, an
associate producer may even perform all the standard line-producer's
duties. In other cases, this title is given to a UPM or the first
assistant director for contributions that greatly go beyond that
person's duties. Or, the writer could get this credit if he/she was
actively involved in the production process. There is no fixed person
who should get this credit.
Director: As the director, he is responsible for convert
the whole screenplay into images and sounds to form a whole complete
motion picture. He keeps track of and works with/directs the cast and
crew during pre production, production and postproduction. He also makes
the most crucial creative decisions throughout the filmmaking process.
First Assistant Director: This person works closely with the production
manager to arrange the best possible shooting schedule, and he is
responsible to the director. He also assists the director in the
direction of extras, crowd scenes and special effects. He is also
responsible for production paperwork. Second Assistant Director: This
person supports the first assistant director. He is responsible for
managing the logistics of the set so that there won't be any mix-ups of
where the cast and crew are supposed to be. Besides that he should
assist in the director on extras and distributing production paperwork.
Dialogue Director: In some cases, a dialogue director is hired to review
and practice the lines with the actors. Usually he is needed when a
character is required to speak in a particular accent or dialect, in
which case a dialogue director who is an expert at that accent or
dialect will coach the actor. Second Unit Director: For some shots,
usually those that do not require the use of principal actors or sync
sound, then usually it is more proficient and essential to send out a
small camera team called "second unit". In this case, the
second unit director will be given specific directions from the director
on how to shoot the scene. Sometimes a cinematographer, UPM, or first AD
will function as the second unit director.
Unit Production Manager: He is responsible to the producer
for organizing the budget, rushing all aspects of the production etc.
The UPM is usually only involved in pre- production and production.
Production Coordinator: This person works in the production office to
coordinate the logistics of the production. Logistics as in things like
shipping film, arranging transportation and accommodations for actors
and crew, and generally coordinating things. Production Assistants:
These people are responsible to the director, production manager,
assistant director, and production coordinator. They should assist the
production by doing things like running errands, typing production
notes, carrying equipment etc.
Director of Photography: This type of director is also
known as the cinematographer. He is responsible to the director for
achieving the best possible photographic images for the film. He is
required to select the camera and lighting equipment, oversee the camera
and lighting crew etc. This person should work with the director of the
film to develop a photographic style for the film. Camera Operator: This
person should never leave the camera and is responsible for operating
the camera at all times. First Camera Assistant: This person should set
up the suitable lenses and filters for each shot. He should also check
the film in the camera after each scene so that there will be no dirty
stuff blocking the image during the shot. Second Camera Assistant (also
called "loader"): This person is responsible for loading and
unloading the film. Not only that but he should clean the camera package
and keep track of all the camera department paperwork, and also help the
first camera assistant in whatever way that is useful.
Costume Designer: This person is responsible to purchase
and/or designing the costumes. The costume designer must also supervise
the making of all the costumes for the production according to the
overall design of the picture. Wardrobe Supervisor: This person is
responsible for the operation of the wardrobe department.
Gaffer: The "gaffer" is the main electrician and
is responsible to the cinematographer for the safety of carrying out the
lighting patterns decided by the cinematographer. Gaffer's Best Boy:
This person is the first assistant electrician and is responsible for
assisting the gaffer and oversee the operation of the lighting and
electrical equipment. Electricians: These people are responsible to the
gaffer and the first assistant electrician for the operation of lighting
and electrical equipment. Generator Operator: This person is responsible
for the maintenance of the electrical generators.
Key Grip: This person is responsible to the
cinematographer. He must supervise all grip crews. He should assist the
gagger during the lighting procedures and maneuver the camera during
moving shots. Dolly Grip: The dolly grip is responsible to the key grip
and the cinematographer for the maintenance of all the dolly equipment.
Grips: These people are sometimes called "hammer grips", and
they do whatever the key grip tells them to do.
Location Manager: This person usually has an assistant and
he is responsible for looking for suitable sites/locations for shooting
the film, and he should negotiate the financial or logistical
arrangements for the use of a particular location.
Key Makeup Artist: Besides designing and applying the
makeup for the actors, this person should supervise all the other people
in the makeup department, such as body makeup artists etc. Assistant
Makeup Artists: They assist the key makeup artist in applying the makeup
on the actors. One of these artists will have to touch up actors' makeup
between takes. Hairstylist: This person supervises assistant
hairdressers and is responsible for cutting, coloring and styling
actors' hair, wigs etc. Body Makeup Person: This person is responsible
to the key makeup artist for applying makeup on the actors' bodies (neck
down) when required.
Property Master: This person is responsible for the
selection, inventory, and the maintenance of all props. He will usually
have a few assistants. Prop Maker: This person, as you can see from the
name, is responsible for making the props associated with the production
in accordance to the design decided by the director and the production
Publicist: This person is responsible to the producer for
arranging promotional events/activities promoting the film. Still
Photographer: This person is responsible to the producer or publicist
for any still photography associated with the program.
This department contains a set construction foreman,
carpenters, painters, scenic artists, drapery crew, paperhanger,
plasterer, and the welder. Basically all of these people are responsible
to the set construction foreman and they all build the set together.
Production Sound Mixer: This person is only the sound mixer
during the production process. He is responsible for selecting and
operating all production sound equipment and monitoring the quality of
all sound recordings. Boom Operator: This person is responsible to the
sound mixer for the placement of microphones. He must make sure that the
microphone and boom do not create shadows in the shot. Cable Person:
This person is needed to connect all the cables related to the sound
recording equipment and handle all these cables.
Stunt Coordinator: This person and his assistants are
responsible to the director for arranging and carrying out the stunts
Transportation Captain: This person is generally
responsible for marinating production vehicles, even the ones that the
actors drive in the film. Drivers: These drivers should transport the
crew during pre production and production.
Craft Service Person: This person is responsible for
providing snacks for the cast and crew. He also helps to keep the area
surrounding the set tidy. First Aid Person: This person is responsible
for the immediate care of any person in the cast or crew.
Selecting the crew
Usually the director, along with the producer, will select
the main members of each crew. These decisions will be based on personal
preferences, budget, artistic and technical requirements etc. Once you
have chosen the key members, then that person will naturally bring their
own support staff, and your job of crewing will be over.
- THE FINAL STEP
the Cast]] [[Prepping the Crew]]
Before the production actually begins, it is important for the director,
the actors and the writers to discuss the script so that everybody
understands each scene of the film. This is the time to smooth out
awkward scenes before the actual production. The director should
rehearse with the actors. It is also important for the entire cast to
assemble together and have a reading of the script. It would be even
better if the writer could attend too. The purpose of the reading is so
that everybody can get a feel of how everything actually sounds from
just listening to the script. After the reading it would also be useful
to work on individual scenes. The amount of time spent on individual
scenes depends entirely on the actor. If he feels that too much
rehearsing will make their performance stale, then it is best not to
Prepping the crew
It is important to prep the crew so that during the production
everything will run smoothly. This can add efficiency to the production
process. More in-depth discussions will be needed with the key members
of the crew such as the cinematographer, costume designer and production
designer etc. Discussions about everything will be needed; from general
things about the style, approach etc. to things concerning the props,
fabrics, color etc.
A good way for a director to convey his thoughts to the crew would be by
using a storyboard. A storyboard is a multiple paneled pictorial
demonstration of the film, something like a comic book. The more
detailed it is, the better it will be for the crew. By the means of a
storyboard, the crew can understand fully what each scene will include
and how the setting will be.