Making a film isn’t an overnight process. Funding has to be secured, a cast and crew have to be hired, and then, after all of the footage is shot, video editors need to get the film ready for its big release.
All of these things happen behind the scenes of film production, but there’s a lot more to this process than you might already know. If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite films were made, we’re here to shed some light on that process.
In this blog, we’ll address:
- Why storyboards, shot lists, and call sheets are crucial
- What executive producers do
- How sound effects (SFX) are actually made
- What it takes to build a movie soundtrack
- How film editors create visual effects (VFX)
Before jumping right in, however, you should first have a good understanding of the three main stages of film production: pre-production, production, and post-production.
Pre-production is the planning stage of the filmmaking process, and the end of this stage is marked by the start of filming (i.e., production). During this time, several things are happening at once: the script is perfected, the budget is set, the cast and crew are hired, locations are booked, and more.
In order for filming to go smoothly and successfully, there are a lot of pre-production boxes that need to be checked first. — you can learn more about those steps here.
Production lasts from the moment filming starts until the moment it ends. This is the stage where filmmakers follow through with all of the plans made in pre-production and capture the footage needed for the film.
Though the production timeline can vary from project to project, it usually takes about four months — give or take — to shoot feature-length films.
Post-production is the stage where video editors sort through hours of shot footage and gradually cut the film into its final shape. This process is complex and time-consuming, especially when visual effects need to be created and composited into the film.
If pre-production and production both go smoothly — and on schedule — video editors have everything they need to make a film that viewers will love. If these stages don’t go smoothly, however, only so much can be done to salvage the project during post-production.
5 Things You Might Not Know About Filmmaking
With all of this context in mind, here are five things you might not already know about the filmmaking process:
1. Why storyboards, shot lists, and call sheets are crucial
For filmmakers with multimillion dollar budgets and fixed deadlines, “winging it” isn’t an option. To give the entire process some much-needed structure, filmmakers create and rely on documents like storyboards, shot lists, and call sheets.
Here’s the rundown on what those documents are, and why they are important:
Storyboards: A storyboard is a pre-production document that filmmakers create to visualize how the film will transition from script to screen. This resource is a big asset for filmmakers when planning out the set design, visual effects, and shot list.
Shot lists: A shot list is a pre-production document that lists out all of the camera shots and angles that will be used in production. Directors and camera operators reference this document constantly during filming so they capture each scene in a specific way.
Call sheets: A call sheet is a document that is made for each day of production. Essentially, call sheets list out all of the information that the cast and crew need to know before they arrive on set. That includes the main contacts, filming locations, call times, nearest medical facility (in case of an emergency), and shooting schedule.
2. What executive producers do
If you’ve ever noticed the title “executive producer” in a film’s opening credits but didn’t fully understand what this role is, you’re not alone.
There are many different types of producers working on and off a film set, but the executive producer(s) is the one who is responsible for finding investors for the film and even contributing their own funds toward production at times.
Without good leadership at this level, films simply wouldn’t have funding to be made. Executive producers — along with a film’s other producers — make sure that the production stays on schedule and within budget.
If you’re curious about other producer-type roles in film, here’s a detailed breakdown of (almost) everyone involved behind the scenes.
3. How sound effects (SFX) are actually made
As viewers, it’s easy to take sound effects (SFX) like creaking floorboards, crunching footsteps, and blustering wind for granted. But even though it seems like these SFX are recorded during filming, they are actually captured in post-production by Foley artists.
Foley artists are SFX specialists who use props like a tray of sand, a bag of cornstarch, a bucket of water, etc. to create the sounds that you hear on-screen. As you can see in the video below, they do this by recording and syncing new sounds with the action happening on-screen:
4. What it takes to build a movie soundtrack
Another important part of making a film is creating an original score or soundtrack. Not only do filmmakers win awards for Best Original Score, but they can also garner a ton of critical acclaim for producing a soundtrack that makes their film more memorable and engaging.
Behind the scenes, filmmakers have a few options for building a film’s soundtrack:
- They can hire a composer — think John Williams and Hans Zimmer — to write and record an original score.
- They can license music from copyright owners and performance rights organizations (PROs).
- They can do all of the above.
Regardless of what route filmmakers take, they need to have the legal rights to use the music. Because, if not, they can face hefty fines and legal consequences.