Do you remember working on group projects in college? Remember how hard it was to get everyone on the same page and to pull their weight. By the time a movie is screening in theaters several hundred people may have been involved in the process. No other art form is as collaborative as film and the potential problems, roadblocks and insurmountable crises are numerous when you have so many people working on a project together.
In my experience as a script consultant, involved in the very initial stages of development, and having worked in production and distribution the fact that any film makes it to the screen is an incredible achievement.
The process goes something like this…
It all starts with the writer of course. An original story (or adaptation) has to be written. Assuming this is a spec (commissioned scripts follow a slightly different path but encounter the same uphill battle), the writer then has to get it to someone who can get the movie financed. This might be an agent or a manager who shows it to the studios or maybe the writer has hooked up with a producer who takes it out to production and distribution companies.
Once a studio or production company likes the film (this could take years!) they need to put together the financing. In our ever-changing landscape of filmmaking this can be a very complicated process involving co-productions, soft money, private investment and pre-sales, among others. This is a Herculean task in itself and many well-written scripts are unable to find someone willing to put up money to make the film.
Once money to make the film is secured, the film starts casting and / or searching for a director. Another major hurdle here is casting which depends on an alchemy of finding the right talent, for the right money and a convergence of schedules. Same with the director. And let’s hope all these people have the same vision and don’t end up in jail on the first day of principal photography (don’t laugh it’s happened!).
So the film is cast and the perfect director is lined up. Now we have physical production where any number of things can go wrong. From location logistics to crew dynamics (more than one mutiny has been staged by unhappy below-the-line crew) but let’s assume everything comes together and the film is shot. Whether or not this happens within budget is worthy of its own post.
Then we’re into post-production (or into re-shoots if necessary). Many say the film is really made in the editing room and I’d agree. Visual effects, sounds effects, and music are added here.
So now we have a locked film and the marketing people work their magic to design materials to promote the film. Dollars significantly affect how successful the campaign will be but hopefully people will be drawn to the theater to see your movie.
So there you are on a Friday night, talking to your friend, munching on your Red Vines and waiting for the movie to start. It’s the end of a busy week and maybe you’re bitching about your boss or that co-worker you’ve got a crush on. The last thing you’re thinking about is the hundreds of people who have been passionately involved in making the film you’re about to watch.
For them making the film was likely an intense labor of love. There were probably tears, hugs, fights, disappointments, compromises, and celebrations. A decade may have passed since the writer wrote The End on the final draft. Yet somehow they all came together to craft the movie you’re about to see.
So as the curtain rises know that you’re about to witness a small miracle. The miracle of filmmaking.