Movies and Film: Postproduction


Postproduction takes place in the time from "That's a wrap" to "delivery" of the finished film print. It includes the various kinds of editing—in sound and celluloid—we discuss in the more technical chapters. (See especially "Film Editing," and "Film: Sound in Movies,")


Film Editing details the technical process of editing. Here we are just going to mention that the director and editor do not normally decide on the final cut. Probably the best-known example of the studio's prerogative is Blade Runner (1982). The studio decided that the story was too difficult to follow, so they added a film-noirish voice-over narrative by Deckard, the futuristic detective (Harrison Ford). The studio also tacked on a kind of happy ending after the more ambiguous one created by director Ridley Scott. We know this because the "director's cut" of Blade Runner was released on laser disc a few years ago, so that fans of the film could decide which they liked best. Since then, there has been an avalanche of "director's cut" video releases, often simply proving that the director and the studio are equally insipid and clueless.

Independent filmmakers, of course, have much more control over the final cut.

Sound Mix

After the music is composed and recorded, the postproduction dubbing is finished, and the special sound effects are created, the sound mixer assembles all these tracks together so that they sound right when projected to an audience. The sound mixer cleans up the various tracks, making absolutely sure there is no audible ambient noise (unless such noise is part of the plan). The crowd noise decreases in volume as the romantic couple speaks to each other on a crowded street. The music swells and peaks as the space cowboys defeat the bad guys.

To Market, to Market, to Market We Go

This stage of filmmaking is the one that people consider the least, but that is precisely as important as the others.

Part of the marketing process is testing the film with audiences, to make any changes that might be necessary. The most famous method is the sneak preview, in which, after viewing a film, audiences will be asked questions about how much they enjoyed the film. If the audience response is lukewarm or negative, the film goes back to the editing room, or even back for additional shooting.

Hopefully, the producer has lined up a distributor in the preproduction stage. If not then, this is often the last moment at which distribution can be obtained, when a film is freshly made. It is the unfortunate fate for most independent films to end up on the shelf without ever having had a real shot at a large—or even a small—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.

To order the e-book book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website. You can also purchase this book at