Movies and Film: How a Film is Made

How a Film is Made

So how does a film get made? What are the basic elements of making a film? This section will describe the entire movie-making process, from beginning to end.

There Are Many Ways of Making Films

If we have considered the question at all, most of us assume that there is a standard mode of film production. This in fact often seems predicated on the stability of the various jobs in the movies and of the division of labor and the technology. We have this sense because, for many years, the movies our culture produced did come largely from a single, monolithic process: the studio system. In fact, though the studios do not operate like the assembly lines they once were, those assembly lines have left a legacy to be copied or resisted, but never ignored.

Today there is actually no single way or set of ways to correctly go about making a film, so this section is in a sense nearly impossible to write. (Of course this won't stop us.) First, there are more sectors in filmmaking than there once were. The most conspicuous sectors are Hollywood feature films, independent films, and foreign films. The latter two kinds of film have slowly garnered an increasingly significant audience interest since the 1950s, when the old studio system began crumbling.

Further, the old studio model, though still present in a kind of ghostly way (MGM still exists, though it's more an oversight agency for various projects than a factory now). Studios can't exert the same kind of authority over stars and directors that they could in the "golden era." The talent now has free agency, and is now forming its own production companies.

So it is important to remember that the model we are giving you here is hypothetical, if logical. This model has five parts, which we shall briefly define here:

  • Development. From idea to signing of contracts.
  • Preproduction. All the technical matters that can be settled before shooting.
  • Production. The actual shooting of a film.
  • Postproduction. The technical portion of filmmaking that turns raw film into finished product.
  • Marketing. The process of getting the finished product to its audience.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Movies and Film © 2001 by Mark Winokur and Bruce Holsinger. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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