Filmaking For Beginners
A brief explaination of the basic steps in filmaking. A checklist for would be producers.
We live in the middle of a technological revolution. Digital camera and filmmaking software allows almost anybody to create a film. I use the term “video” but I’m really referring to any type of way of making moving pictures. Whether you use a camcorder, digital camera or movie camera, the steps needed to produce the finished product are the same. I won’t deal with the actual filming. This article is meant to give you an overview of what goes on before a film or video is made. There are lots of books on the process of shooting the film so I won’t be covering things such as lighting or sound equipment here.
1. Identify the audience and the purpose of the video. This will determine the necessary structure and theme for the program. Every film has a “target market.” Do you want to appeal to teenagers? Baby Boomers? Everyone in between? Knowing who you are talking to is one of the most important steps to creating a successful product. You also need to know what you are going to say to your target market. Do you want to make them cry? Laugh? Think? Do you just want to entertain them or do you have specific information you want to get across?
2. Plan out the structure so that all of the important areas are covered, and the basis for a script is established. You can never do too much planning. Having the “concept” for your video worked out from the very beginning will save you time and frustration later on. You should know what you want in your video and what you don’t want before you start to write the script.
3. Develop a script and story that will adequately convey the message to the audience. All lot of great movies have been sabotaged by scripts that didn’t work. You can have the greatest actors, the most professional crew, but if the script isn’t there you’re going to have a problem. Sometimes you don’t know that something isn’t going to work until you actually start filming. At that point you have to make changes.
4. Once the script has been written, draw up a story board to illustrate it. Story boards are one of the best ways to find problems in a script before you start to shoot. They also let the crew and actors “see” what the director is thinking. They can be as elaborate or as basic as your time and talents can make them. Some directors work with very detailed story boards.
5. With everyone involved, plan the days required to film the story board. Plan a shooting schedule (what will be shot and when). It’s always good to plan extra time just in case things go wrong. That way, if things go right and you end up ahead of schedule, you look good.
6. Get everyone together to “read” or go through the script so that everyone knows how it will go while shooting. Preparation is the key. Everyone has to know what is going on, when it’s going on and the basics of how it’s being done. All of the people working on the project have to have a clear idea of what is going to happen and why. This will save time and frustration during the actual filming.
7. Undertake filming schedule as planned. Remember this is the fun part. Try to be flexible. Things go wrong. It’s just a fact of life. You may need sun on a day that it decides to rain. What are you going to do? It’s not like you can call anybody and get the rain stopped. Try to shoot another scene, maybe one indoors, instead.
8. While filming, remember to time code all footage. This is needed to make editing much easier. You’ve all seen the movies where someone holds a clapper and someone else says “Lights, camera, action!” The reason behind this is to keep things straight. Some people like to film multiple takes of scenes. Some takes may have lines re-arranged or added. Time codes are necessary to keep everything straight.
9. Make any adjustments to the script to ensure complete continuity between the script and the footage. Sometimes actors improvise things that are much better than what is in the script. If that happens you may have to change something at some other point in the script so that it makes sense. You might even have to go back and redo something – if the change is that good.
10. Once all the various scenes and pieces of you script have been filmed, the last step is to edit it together. Some people say that editing can make or break a film. It is in the editing room that the actual vision of the work comes together. Since films are usually shot out of order, this is the first time anyone can actually see how it all fits together. Editing can be frustrating. You’ll have to keep up with what the editors are doing, even if you don’t understand it, and make decisions “on the run” but you’ll be glad you did.