The pre-production phase in film making

The work of filmmaking begins long before the production phase, at a corporate level, with bankers and businessmen, stylists and authors, and lawyers and actuaries. The start of the creative process involves a lot of work done in basic planning before shooting starts. A large number of people contribute, but producer, director and writer are the key players. As their planning develops, finance experts become involved and managers, designers and location specialists are brought into play.

The pre-production phase in film making

Pre-Production First Stage is Constructing a Package

Vertical integration, where a company controls all stages of the process, production, distribution and exhibition, was characteristic of the classic Hollywood studio era in cinema history. This may still occur, but packages are frequently constructed to bring together various interested parties who negotiate their stake and role in creating a film and taking it into production.

The events listed are roughly chronological, but ways that the ‘package’ comes together vary. Property rights must be contracted for writing, directing, producing teams, and the distributor.

The star may have purchased film rights to a book, (which will probably guarantee finance). A screenwriter must then prepare a synopsis and a treatment, a director becomes interested, a producer then brings the deal together.
The director has a story idea, writes a treatment, finds a producer.

The producer has a script, (many producers are also trained in camerawork, editing and writing).

A script consists mainly of a short synopsis at first, and then is developed into a longer treatment, possibly with concept artwork, which is used to sell the idea to backers and a distributor. Visual and generic style are already important at this stage and probably influence the choice of star actor and his/her previous roles as well as choice of cinematographer.

Pre-Production Second Stage is Making a Deal

The studio, private investors, a film corporation may buy in to the project, which provides finance. Investors expect to see a return on their money, often in a percentage of box office profits. Experienced producers are valued for their ability to bring a film in on budget, which also means on time, and then, especially if their past films were box office successes, develop high investment value.

Distribution used to be part of the studio package, but now there are many distributors who can be approached, often on a geographical basis, for example see UK film distributors list or IMDB list of film distributors. Distributors develop marketing and publicity strategies and input on issues of star and style as well as devising contracts for exhibition and reproduction of the finished movie.

Publicity strategy begins early:

Rumour about the project is engineered and manipulated to steer the package into creation
Journalistic interest is gained
Involvement of fans (of the star, director, author or genre) is engaged
Multi-platform campaigns begin
Teaser and trailer campaigns are planned; these will come later, once production footage is available.

Making a Budget and Devising a Filming Schedule

film making

Producers develop budgets and schedules after the full draft script has been developed, assessing resources requirements through analysing the script and creating the ‘breakdown’. Budget for equipment, craft workers and location expenses are usually predictable, but costings for leading actors and the director are variable. Costings may have to be adjusted once filming begins, so leeway has to be built in to the initial plan.

The increasing team commences getting people in line to do what is needed, holding auditions, contracting stars and principals, briefing location scouts, booking technical crew, equipment, studio space, and locations. Location shooting assessments are made, and studio hours requirements are accounted for. Drafting a shooting script commences and sketching of storyboards. Compensation insurance has to be obtained.

The deal is done, the team is in place, locations decided, the pre-production process completed. Now all the elements of the production must be brought together to begin shooting the actual movie and creating the ‘footage’ that will be shaped into the final creation. Next comes the production phase of making the film.

The Best Filmmaking Schools in the UK

Finding the best screenwriting course is essential if the hopeful writer is able to secure a successful writing career, be this in writing for films, drama broadcasts or writing sitcoms. But which screenwriting schools are most valued by the filmmaking industry?

Met Film School

This scriptwriting school, set in Ealing Studios in London, is considered to be one of the elite schools for screenwriters. The courses are available in various formats, from a two day intensive course, to one that lasts six months.

A taster course entails writing a story to screen in eight weeks, which provides valuable information on the important aspects of filmmaking, including casting, editing and direction. The course culminates in the shooting of a short film. But a more intensive project on writing a full length feature film is provided on every other Sunday over six months. This Write a Feature Film project enables the more serious filmmaker to write a full length screenplay.

Degree courses on filmmaking are also available, which include BA (Hons) Practical Filmmaking, BA (Hons) Film, Visual Effects & Animation and BA (Hons) Film & Digital Cinematography. Prospectuses are available online.

National Film and Television School

pre-production film making

This prestigious film school, unique in that it is based in its own film studios, offer MA film and television courses that are validated by the Royal College of Art. MA courses in filmmaking are offered on vital areas relating to script development, including direction, cinematography, editing, production and screenwriting itself. Diploma courses on script development are also offered, as well as taster courses. Noted filmmakers teach at the school, including Stephen Frears, who worked on Trainspotting and Lynda Miles who worked on The Committments.

The Script Factory

This well-respected London film school offers courses for the filmmaker on essential aspects of screenwriting and film production, but now includes story development for TV and radio. A training programme, known as Friendly Producers, aims to introduce new writing talent to the film industry. The screenwriter working alone will often feel shut out by the film industry yet fresh talent is always in demand. Friendly Producers scheme aims to bridge that gap, in persuading the right people to read the work of an exciting new screenwriter.

Screenwriting courses and workshops are available in the form of film treatment writing workshops, adapting a novel into a screenplay and creating compelling and unique protagonists for films

Other Great Film Schools in the UK

High profile MA courses in screenwriting are offered at the University of the Arts in London and at Leeds Metropolitan University. Valuable screenwriting experience is also offered at the BBC Drama Writer Academy for Drama Writing, which offers a valuable springboard for the screenwriter’s career, who must write episodes for TV soaps.

Film Schools for Screenwriters

Finding the best film school is essential to every aspiring screenwriter. Film schools that are endorsed by notable filmmakers, as well as those with a good track record and good contacts within the film industry, will help the screenwriter secure a successful career within the film industry. Of course, hard work, evidence of talent and the successful completion of the screenwriting course are essential.