For those of you just starting out on your filmmaking journey, we thought we’d provide the first post at an overview of the filmmaking process to give you a guide as to how to make your movie from start to finish. In essence, this is our 5-minute film school.
Steps in order…
Step 1: Research
Most people totally ignore this. They come up with an idea and totally by-pass the idea that you have to know which markets and genres actually make money. For example, if you do some research at Box Office Mojo, you’ll see that while there have been more than 350 movies produced in the ‘Romantic Comedy’ genre since 1982, films are just as likely to flop as they are to succeed. The trick is to find a genre that is successful and hasn’t been overpopulated. A few years ago when Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels came out in the UK and was extremely successful, there were a string of other movies in the same genre that followed. Find genres that are consistently successful and not just fads.
Step 2: Script
Now you’ve determined the genre of the movie you want to make, it’s time to get a killer script. The trick here is originality. It needs to be an idea that’s never been done before (where possible) or so long ago that people have forgotten. The characters need to be interesting, unusual, and the script needs to propel you from one place to the next.
If you need to meet a writer, try upwork.com or clearvoice.com which is a really great tool for finding out which writers have scripts available in the genres you are after. Negotiate an option on the script, which can be done incredibly cheaply. We’ll post some sample contracts on here at some stage, but in the meantime try sagindie.org which is a brilliant resource.
Step 3: Getting your Director/Producing Partner
Now you’re going to need a bit of experience here to make your movie. Unless you’ve made half a dozen high-quality short films, we advise approach a Producer with a track record and understand that they’ll bring a lot more to the table than you will. The truth is that you’re not going to get a top cast for a low budget feature, without a producer with contacts who could call in favors, so the trick here is not to worry about it and simply bring on board someone with a little experience as a partner. Be prepared to accept 50:50 or even 30:70. An experienced producer with a great script can do a lot and more importantly, you can learn a lot.
If you choose to make the movie yourself then here are the next steps.
Step 4: Business Plan
Unless you’re a top producer, you won’t get the money without one. Some questions and they’re commercial questions. How are you, the Producer, going to sell the movie? Good question. The reality is that until the film is made no one will touch it. But if you can’t sell the movie yet how do you get the investment. You need a plan! We recommend checking out Stacey Parks Book, on film financing which will walk you through all the juicy details as to how to set up and plan and do the approach to investors.
Our super-fast guide:
a) First, choose some of the best scenes from your script and make a very short, high quality, trailer to present to investors
b) Build your business plan and sales guide as to potential returns and make sure it presents to potential investors the ‘realistic’ expected returns upfront in the executive summary. You’ll need to budget the movie. There is software that can do it for you, but it’d be best to find a financial controller for your movie to make sure the costs don’t spiral out of control!
c) Make sure you understand your bottom line. IF YOU CAN’T GET A DISTRIBUTOR ONCE THE FILM IS MADE, HOW WILL YOU MAKE MONEY FROM THE MOVIE????? Have a plan. We’ll self distribute to our list of 50,000 fans online, selling them the DVD, and we’ll get a sales agent to sell the film to TV around the world. (More on how to promote your movie in another post!). Our sales agent (because you’ll approach one and have one) thinks that if we have this cast and it’s a good movie we’ll get X. If not, we’ll get Y, which is the worst-case scenario forecast.
d) Practice your 1-minute elevator pitch (you need to be able to concisely explain exactly what the film is and excite people)
e) Approach investors knowing what you want and how you’re going to get it, and more importantly how much they can expect to make and when. Remember most film investors use it as a tax write-off, they won’t make any money out of it, so they’re in it for the perks. The credit on the movie, the conversation to their friends, the on-set photos with the stars, and the glory if it is a success.
f) Keep it simple. Investors like simple.
g) Finally, set up the company – don’t do it before because if you don’t get the money you’re stuck with the admin costs
Step 5: Make The Movie
Get insured. You won’t get a completion bond for a low budget (a completion bond effectively guarantees that if the movie doesn’t get made the financiers get their money back). But you’ll need to ensure the kit and the crew.
OK depending on you’re budget, you’ll do a 3-week preparation, 3-week shoot, and 6-week edit/post-production. Shoot on Film if you can, or Digital if you haven’t got the budget. Digital is getting better but still isn’t quite as good as film.
At this stage, upload your movie to your Facebook fan page and build yourself a website. Market and promote your movie and build a fan base, by doing a video diary or a media plan using its poster.
Your website IS NOT for people to be able to contact you, it is for the public to know more about your movie. It’s not for the industry either. Don’t distract with cast and crew, keep it simple, and promote the trailer. GET THEM ON A MAILING LIST!!.
a) Cast the movie. If you can employ a casting director – they’ll do the job a whole lot better than you AND will know where to find good actors.
c) Shoot the movie. 6 day shoots 1-day rest. Finish on time to avoid late payments to the crew where you can, and feed them well.
d) Check the dailies (the footage you’ve shot during the day, at the end of each day and check it’s all in order, or if you have it use a video monitor on set.
e) It’s a wrap. Get to Post-production and sit down with your editor. Let him do his job, it’s what he’s paid for!
f) Find a composer, or a high-quality local band if you can’t access a composer and get some music. There’s not a lot of work for composers these days so you should be able to find a decent one for less than silly money.
Step 6: Market Research
Again, a step that most filmmakers miss. Once you’ve made your product, you need to screen test it. Invite some of your lists to view the film. Give them a sheet of paper with questions about the film. Get Feedback!!! You need to know that the movie works. You need to know how old they are, their gender, what they do for a living, what is their CORE IDENTITY. Essentially who are they, do they like your movie, and what don’t they like?
Go back. Recut the movie, and Reshoot if you have to.
Try again. Different people from your list. Find out what they think. Are they your target market if they don’t like the movie??
If you’re happy, make a trailer. TEST the trailer on your list. Do they prefer this trailer or the other trailer?
Step 7: Approach Distributors
* If you have a Sales Agent they’ll do this for you for a fee!
Once you’re happy with your movie, send distributors your trailer, EPK, Unit PR stills photo, and press kit. Explain that you have X number of fans for the movie, and you’ve researched the demographic and it is Y type of person who will buy the movie.
Step 8: Film Festivals
Enter your film into the festivals. You never know they just might like it.
Step 9: Try Again
It’s very unlikely at your first attempt you’ll be a success. Try Again. Practice makes perfect. Just make sure your investors keep getting their money back and you’ll always get more money to invest, so do a good job and remember, the quality of the movie is all in the quality of the script. Always get a great script and be hypercritical of it.