The movie making business has evolved considerably since its birth in the latter half of the 18 hundreds and so knowing ‘how to make a movie’ is no longer quite as simpler as it once was. Despite the emerging complexities, there are some critical stages that need covering.
1- An idea. Every great movie is based on a concept, a message, a story or just even a character. Mull it over, develop it, and start to mould it into a tell-able story.
2- Write the script (see ‘how to write a script’).
3- Make a story board. Making a story board of your film involves sketching out what you want the different scenes of your movie to look like. Professional movie directors sketch out the position of every shot. Although you may be employing (by employing I do not necessarily mean paying), a director who will take over much of this function, you at the very least need to make sure that you are both ‘on the same wavelength’. Essentially you’re drawing out a basic pictorial representation of how you want things to look through the means of a comic book format.
4- Think about feeling and atmosphere. How do you want the film to look on the screen? Will it be warm? Will it be dark and sinister? Will it be nervy? Gaining an appreciation of this early on will help ensure that you start developing an idea of aesthetics before other ideas run away with themselves and you get lost in a movie with no identity. You’ll also be better equipped to pick out locations and actors for you film. Everything from costume design, lighting, and sound should be considered early on.
5- Recruit crew. You will need, at the very least:
A Producer: This is the film manager as it were. You will most likely be the one co-ordinating everything so this will most likely be you, although you may prefer to direct, or do both. Be sure to delegate as both Directing and Producing are more than full time jobs!
A Director: Someone to creatively control the look, feel , style, interactions, cast and crew.
A Director of Photography (D.O.P.): This person makes sure that every shot is uniform and stylised. Think lighting, angles and method of shooting. For a low cast team, this may be the lead camera man.
Sound man: This role is more essential than you could imagine! Poor sound quality is one of the first give-aways of a ‘cheap movie’.
Hair and makeup artist: The camera tends to flatten faces etc making them look cold and drab. A make-up artist will ensure your characters will keep definition of their features. You may also want to make this person in charge of costume/clothes styling.
Editor: Once the production has been filmed, many hours will be spent seamlessly putting it together. There is huge skill in professional editing. You may have someone do this for you or you or the director may opt to do it yourselves. The soundman should also help you mix in the sound.
6- Recruit your cast. Everyone wants to be in a movie and some local actors may be prepared to act for free to get their name in the credits. Don’t make promises you can’t keep to friends etc. Cast your film professionally, brief those auditioning with what you’re looking for before putting them to the test.
7- Carefully choose locations. Make sure that there are no legal requirements for written permission etc before going ahead and filming. If you choose to not seek permission for using land that is not yours, ensure that there are no clear distinguishing landmarks that may land you in bother should someone choose to try and legally claim recompense at a later date.
8- Find your equipment. Beg or borrow to get the equipment you require before you think about hiring or buying. Some things you will need include: Camera (Canon 5D is the new HD industry standard but it’s worth the investment as it also makes for a great still camera for personal use), sound recording equipment (boom, professional microphones (perhaps radio mics), mixing box), spot lights (at least 2), power leads (an often forgot essential!).
9- Get filming. The extent to which you decide to film depends on the available time of your actors, crew and the size of your pockets! Professional film makers film multiple angles at once and film in all of wide shots, medium shots and close up shots of the same scenes. You will need someone in charge of continuity through shots i.e. you can’t have a plastic duck next to the lead actor in one shot and then have it disappeared when shot at a wider angle.
10- Edit your film. Get to know your editing software. There are countless available but just be sure that you learn about it inside out. First put together a rough cut with the shots and sound files that you like best, but never discard of the other shots. Once you’re happy with its shape, work at seamlessly transitioning the shots and scenes with well-balanced sound.
11- Add music to your film. Music and sound effects are essential for adding feeling to your film. It’s best to use music from local artists who first give written consent to their work being used. They’d get an all-important credit in return.
12- Professionally develop your title and credit sequences. Again, another giveaway of a ‘cheap movie’, is poorly delivered title and credit sequences.
13- Cut a teaser or trailer. Use this to approach film festivals or distribution companies with. The movie industry is all about who you know not what you know, so get networking!
Before you call a wrap, be doubly sure that you have more than enough film footage than what you’d need. It’s incredibly frustrating to be at the editing stage and then realise that there was an essential shot that you wished you would have filmed.
Be realistic with what you want to achieve. It’s too easy to lose friends in the movie business through over aspirational (false) promises.