How to make a movie

Posted: August 29th, 2013



How to make a movie

I love watching movies; I have watched hundreds of movies since middle school. Movies are fascinating, captivating, emotional and full of exploration. Through watching movies I get to see different places, cultures, people and lifestyle that people live which is portrayed in the movies. Through movies myths, legends, other planets and history of past events are brought to life. Movies are based on fiction or real experiences; they each have different themes depending on the script. They are made either for education purposes, entertainment or for creation of awareness among the audience.

I know that a movie is produced by recording the actors in action with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects. It requires a crew too make each movie who work as a team to produce quality work. However, what I do not know is how to make a movie, the crew involved or the processes involved in making one from the start to the point it is shown in a theatre. Therefore, I set out to research on how to make a movie and the process involved

I decided to talk to jack, who is a DVC student. He was busy doing his homework at the media lab, which involved making a short movie together with his classmates, and he was the movie director. He told me that they were making a movie about a love story. In the story, a girl is in love with two boys and she has to choose between them. He also commented on how good the movie is expected to be. After I asked about the responsibilities of the rest of his crew, he replied that the boy with the camera in hand is the camera operator and that he is the one who shoots the scenes, the boy holding the microphone is recording the vocals of the actors and the people at the centre are the actors. He explained that their movie did not have many crewmembers since it was short but normally a movie has a large crew. Independent movies may be made by a skeleton crew of eight or nine who include the film director, film production manager, screenwriters, actors, sound crew, set dresser, production accountant and make up artist.

After my visit to the media lab, I knew the skeleton crew involved in filmmaking. However, on their individual responsibilities I had to do more research. Through my research, I learnt the role of each crewmember involved in the production. The production manager role is to organize the budget so that it can meet the goals and means of the producer and director, break down the entire shooting schedule and ensure the production ends on time on the estimated budget. The director role is to direct the actors performance, selecting and organizing the locations where the film will be shot, controlling the flow of the plot and managing technical details on camera positions, lighting and films sound track content.

Screenwriter’s role is to write the script on which the movie is based on. The screenwriter may be hired by the producer to write the script on contract or may be the one to approach the producer with the script. The screenwriter is sometimes involved in the creative aspects of the production. The actors’ role is to act out the script of the film, which they must follow and give their best in order to come up with a good film. Sound crew role involves capturing  the sound at the onset location for editing, which include the sound of the surrounding area and the actors’ dialogue. The set dresser role is to purchase or rent the materials required to dress the set location to acquire the needed look.

The production accountant evaluates and examines all expenses and their appropriateness then issues the funds. In addition, he issues the crews paychecks and pays any outstanding balances on rented equipment, wardrobe and props after the completion of principal photography. Lastly, the makeup artist is responsible for creating the character look for actors using makeup, hair and special effects. They make the actor appear more youthful, older, scary, monstrous or bigger than the actor is. In addition there some makeup artist whose capabilities  focus on the body rather than the facial features.

After learning the basic elements of making a movie, I decided to interview a professional in order to get more perspective on how a professional movie that premier at the theatre is made. Lee is a college student who majors in film and communication for the past three years and has made different types of films. This Saturday afternoon Eva and I went to Lee’s apartment to celebrate our friends Tyler birthday. It was Tyler’s 20th birthday and it was his first time to celebrate his birthday abroad. We bought him a big birthday cake and held a big party that night, ate delicious food, played video games and cards.

After the party, I asked lee if I could have an interview with him. He was curious about its subject. Therefore, I informed him that it was about his major, film and communication. He agreed and led me to his room, which was small but clean and contained a bed, a black study desk and a wardrobe. On the wall there ware some posters and most were about movies. The most conspicuous poster was that of the famous movie titanic, when jack was holding rose from behind ,standing on the ships bow. Lee told me that titanic is his favorite movie because of either the story or  the filmmaking.

I asked lee why he chose film as his major. He said that he loved film and that film was a way for him to express and show his creative thinking. He said he could write his thoughts into a story and make it a film. Film, like a book, tells the author’s thoughts, but film is stereoscopic than a book because it excites the audience through vision and hearing. After he is through with making a movie, he feels satisfied by his accomplishment. I inquired from him about the main core process of filmmaking and this is what he answered.

“Filmmaking process starts  from the moment the initial story or idea is written into a script, formatted correctly and financial backing is obtained. The planning is made to cast for the appropriate actors to be featured in the film, acquiring the best crew to make the film, scouting for the best filming location and acquiring permission to use it from the owners or relevant authority (Indie, 2011). All this activities occur during the pre-production stage. Once the crew is on location, the actual production starts. Through the setups to teardowns the lighting should be excellent, microphones positioned properly and the camera handled correctly to manage time. The actors are directed on how to act according to the script. This stage is the production stage where the raw footage is collected. The filming is completed and editing, transferring video to computers, adding background music is done . Finally, the film is screened in a theatre and later released to the audience as a fully completed film ready to be distributed all over the world. This last stage is the post production stage”.

One film may be shot in several different places or countries. These places may differ in social, economic or political contexts and is determined by the theme of the film. In addition, the crew involved in the film production varies from one film to another and so is the time taken to produce a film. After production, the distributors are responsible for distributing the film to the cinemas and consumer media through the DVD,VCD or the direct download provider. Then the profits are shared between the distributor and the production company.

In order to experience the process of making a movie, I decided to make a short movie for the banquet of  my club. I wrote down a script to be used for the movie, secured the equipment to be used in the production and began searching for the crew and actors who would feature in the movie. Due to the small size of the movie, I required a director, a camera operator, a voice recorder, a make up artist and some few actors. Many people were interested ,so I choose a few who suit the profile of the characters I was looking for. I also included myself in the cast as the leading actor of the movie. After obtaining, the permission of the proposed location  and finalizing all the preparation the production began.

The movie was about two men who were in love with the same girl and each wanted to win her love. So one man invited her to the banquet , danced with her, expressed his feelings for her and captured her heart while the other man failed to win her heart due to his cowardice. I was the loser, it was not an easy task to act the part, and express all the emotions expected. However, the director was very helpful in controlling the angle of the video, the lighting and guiding the actors. In addition, the make up artist assisted in display of emotions through makeup. I did the editing right after the shooting, and required the best shots  from all the scenes to be put together in a sequence and the relevant background music added. I spent the whole weekend editing the movie and after the hard work, I finished my first independent movie.

What I learned is that making a movie is not easy it took us the whole day to shoot a ten-minute movie. This was because of moving through different locations in order to have different scenery in the movie. In addition, the camera operator had to take several shots with different angles to each scene to create different variety aspects and enable the editor to choose the best shots (Reilly, 2009). The editing part was the hardest, because details were important especially during the transfer from one scene to another and the connection of relevant music to the pictures. What I did not learn was how a movie with a big crew manages to work together throughout the production without conflict and emerge with a successful quality film that is well received by the audience all over the world.




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