Sometimes, when you watch your favorite movie, you probably try to guess how much work lies behind what you see on the screen. Everybody has in mind some image of the famous “Lights, camera, action!” – but there is so much to do before the director says the words.

Filmmaking consists of 5 essential stages:

  • Development, starting from the mere idea of the film and ending with the project financing and finalizing the script.
  • Pre-production, when the script is broken down and all the preparations and planning are done before the shooting.
  • Production (also known as “principal photography”), where the “Lights, camera, action!” is finally pronounced and the film shooting begins.
  • Post-production, including film editing, sound and visual effects, music tracks creation, and all other actions to transform the raw footage into a finished product.
  • Distribution, the release of the produced movie.

In this article, we will talk more about pre-production. This stage is easy to overlook if you are a beginner in filmmaking. However, the success and efficiency of the whole production process heavily depend on how thoroughly the pre-production is done. By the moment the cameras start to roll you should have everything prepared and planned, to avoid wasting the precious shooting time.

Pre-production starts right after the development stage when the final version of the script is ready. During the pre-production stage, filmmakers need to take essential steps and make many choices to arrange the production:

  • Settle the business and legal side of production (set up the production company and establish the production office)
  • Finalize the budget
  • Assemble the crew by hiring all crucial staff that will be involved in the production
  • Break down the script into individual scenes, highlighting all the elements mentioned there
  • Based on the script breakdown, cast actors, including the lead actor, supporting actors, and background actors
  • Pre-visualize the film (plan the color scheme, lighting, costumes, etc.)
  • Create a storyboard visualizing each scene of the future movie
  • Find and secure locations mentioned in the script breakdown
  • Make a shooting schedule
  • Take care of rentals, props, permits, insurance, etc.
  • Prepare call sheets containing all the necessary information for the participants of the shooting.
  • Start rehearsing

Once all these elements are thought over and taken care of, the shooting can finally begin.

Pre-production is a complicated process that includes many steps. It usually takes from 4 to 10 weeks and requires coordinated work of many people (producers, director, 1st assistant director, cinematographer, production managers and coordinators, location scouts, etc.). But once this work is performed properly, the pre-production will significantly help make the production process as smooth as possible.