How far off am I on the basic concepts?

It's been a long time since I have been a newb at something, and I am just beginning my research into film making.

In commercial photography there are basic guidelines that easy enough to follow through a project.

So my thought is to treat film making exactly as I would any other commercial project. What I don't know is if that is even a viable idea or not. Having spent many years dealing with advertising agencies, model agencies, equipment companies, city permit offices, emergency agencies (cops-fire), etc., it seems that the same process should work.

The big difference that I see is in step #4. For a photo shoot, the end distribution is determined before you begin, which makes funding/product/service placement easier. If the ad is running in a national magazine with a readership of four million, the company doing the placement has an expectation of return.

Of course a certain amount can depend on the team that you build, but that is to a lesser degree than distribution.

With a film there seems to be a lot on the back end that is not easy to calculate. You can't guarantee festivals (outside of the local yokel ones where you buy your way in), and there is no certainty of good distribution like that of a magazine.

So my question to you all is am I totally off in my way of thinking through the process or just slightly off? Am I missing a crucial part? Am I over thinking it?



Here's how it works in my thought process.

1. Write or buy a script that is basically mainstream.

2. Draw up the story boards.

3. Develop the team.

4. Bring in the product/service placements.

5. Find the locations, get the permit process started.

6. Get the agents to begin casting for actors.

7. Get the equipment necessary to pull the shoot off.

8. Primary filming.

9. Post production.

10. Distribute.
 
One big item missing IMO...how are you going to fund the project ? Sometimes one must shoot something to show what you want to do in order to get funding so you will have to change things up if you need to produce a trailer first
 
There is a level where it becomes more similar. When they make a $200 million Tom Cruise movie many of the international distribution rights are already sold based on the star, script, director, etc... Then take the way all the corps and contractors are structured and connected and the film can "lose money", but everybody still gets paid a nice profit. Sometimes they even get lucky and make profit you can actually see (with the naked eye).

They are playing poker, we're betting the mortgage on Red 14.
 
There are distro channels for folks at every level... if you can find those and show that you're able to distribute through them, then you have a distro plan, which allows you to know a target to shoot for in terms of quality and style (audience expectation), which allows you to know the types of locations you'll have access to, which allows you to know when you can shoot, which allows casting and licensing, which allows more targeted preproduction and development.

So flip your list and you're good to go.
 
Here's how it works in my thought process.

1. Write or buy a script that is basically mainstream.

2. Draw up the story boards.

3. Develop the team.

4. Bring in the product/service placements.

5. Find the locations, get the permit process started.

6. Get the agents to begin casting for actors.

7. Get the equipment necessary to pull the shoot off.

8. Primary filming.

9. Post production.

10. Distribute.

1. It doesn't necessarily have to be mainstream. For example, I wouldn't necessarily call a Christian film "mainstream", but they can be highly profitable.

You left out step 1.5 -- funding. If you're gonna self-fund, then there you have it. Otherwise, this is a pretty big step.

2. I think it's a common misperception that all movies are storyboarded. I think it's much more common to just make shot lists for most of the movie, and storyboard the scenes that are more complicated.

2-7 all happen kinda at the same time. One doesn't necessarily come before the other. #7 - you wouldn't actually need to physically gather the equipment until right before production, but of course it needs to be secured as far ahead as anything else.

Except for #3 -- some of your team needs to be gathered before the rest of preproduction begins. You definitely want both your DP and sound designer involved in location scouting. And then there's other stuff, like you obviously can't start talking about costumes until you've got a costume designer.

By the way, #4 -- Unless your movie is going to be a major blockbuster, I wouldn't expect to receive any payment for product placement. I'm not sure if that's what you meant, but if it was, forget it. You might want some product placement, but you'll be asking permission to use their products, not the other way around.
 
Cygnus,

This is how it should be done whether you are micro-budget indie or Lionsgate-level indie. This also how the mainstream industry works

1. Write or buy a script that is basically GOOD

2. Create a schedule, post-schedule and a budget based on that schedule (location prioritised budget is fine at this stage)

4. Create your pitch, finance plan and cast wish list

4. Find a director (if director is a first timer, you will need really experienced DP and Production Designer, you will also need concept boards)

3. Cast one or 2 actors

4. Finance

Once this is done...

5. Hire the Line Producer/UPM

6a. Hire a Location Manager

6b. Production Designer starts (you will need the DP as well but s/he doesn't start full-time prep at this stage)

6c. Location recce/scout

7. LET THE UPM/LP/LM do their jobs and organize the shoot for you. As a producer or director (sounds like you want to produce), you do not want to be doing this as these are full-time jobs and will hamper your directing or producing. You will be okaying everything though.

8. Principal Photography.

9. Post production.

10. Get a sales agent or schlepp it around the markets yourself. The first is better.
 
It is always good to have an eye on the distribution channels available to you, as well as the ones that may become available, as well as your target audience. You need to write and make something that is not only technically great and creatively satisfying, but also something that is going to sell. If you want to make an artsy fartsy Lynch-ian explosion on a screen, then that's fine but you probably won't make any money. Sometimes, indies are too intelligent for their own good which can be a hindrance because whilst it may be an amazing script, there's no focus on who the audience is and how you're going to sell it.
For example, if you're making a kids film you're going to write, make and market it in different ways than if you're making an R-rated drama.
 
There are distro channels for folks at every level... if you can find those and show that you're able to distribute through them, then you have a distro plan, which allows you to know a target to shoot for in terms of quality and style (audience expectation), which allows you to know the types of locations you'll have access to, which allows you to know when you can shoot, which allows casting and licensing, which allows more targeted preproduction and development.

So flip your list and you're good to go.

That makes sense.


One big item missing IMO...how are you going to fund the project ?

The funding part is what we do quite frequently with lower and mid level clients, although in photography we work backwards as Knightly suggested.

Just as an example, we have a mid level ladies boot company south of the city who honestly doesn't have the budget to afford our services. What we do is tie in a clothing company, make up company, jewelry, accessories and a location to round out the budget for the shoot. Everyone pays for the images and we make the money needed to continue to do such things.

Shooting a film, (at least on paper) seems like it could be put together like a big commercial photo shoot. The hours involved and the amount of crew and talent involved are about the same.

The biggest different that I can see is the end distribution. The bigger the distribution, the more money the clients pay to have their products showcased.


1. It doesn't necessarily have to be mainstream. For example, I wouldn't necessarily call a Christian film "mainstream", but they can be highly profitable.

Mainstream is the wrong term, bankable is the better term. You have to fit within the genre that you're going after.


2. I think it's a common misperception that all movies are storyboarded. I think it's much more common to just make shot lists for most of the movie, and storyboard the scenes that are more complicated.


Again the term doesn't translate well from commercial photography to film making.

When we start out on a project, we lay out the idea for how the shoot goes from beginning to end. It's our story board, versus a particular scene shot which will have a scene layout or story board of its own.

I have to learn the language :D

By the way, #4 -- Unless your movie is going to be a major blockbuster, I wouldn't expect to receive any payment for product placement. I'm not sure if that's what you meant, but if it was, forget it. You might want some product placement, but you'll be asking permission to use their products, not the other way around.

As mentioned in the above reply, we do this all the time. In a couple of weeks we are shooting a shoe ad and we have five other vendors trying throw money into the shoot to get their products as part of the shoot.

Now I have no illusions of a major company throwing tons of money into a small indie film, but we have a pool of clients who regularly pay to get involved in our commercial shoots.

In the beginning if we decide to move into movie making, we may have to tie that into a regular photo shoot to make sure that everyone is happy and making money.

As I said, I don't know if this is going to work, but on paper it doesn't seem that much different than what I do every day.
 
As I said, I don't know if this is going to work, but on paper it doesn't seem that much different than what I do every day.

Except for the fact that these pictures move. It's very different. I absolutely support your idea to branch-out, but I think you should know what you're getting yourself into. If you were to add filmmaking to your photography company's arsenal, I hope you hire some experienced filmmakers to lead the way. In my opinion, photographers make the best filmmakers. But you've still got a ton of new stuff to learn.

Shooting a film, (at least on paper) seems like it could be put together like a big commercial photo shoot. The hours involved and the amount of crew and talent involved are about the same.

Mmmm...not so much. Just think about how much time you spend on lighting your subject. Now, imagine that your subject is going to move all over the place. Kinda changes things, right? I'm not saying filmmaking is more difficult than photography. Art is art is art, and no single art is better or more difficult than any other. They all present their own challenges, and there are things you can do in one art that you can't do in another. That being said, I think you're not quite aware of how time-consuming filmmaking is.

And that example was used only to address an area that I know you're well familiar with. Now, consider the areas that you are not familiar with. Sound is a big one.

As for the funding questions -- since you're talking about distribution, I assume you want to make feature films, no? Short films, as a general rule, don't get any sort of distribution. So, how much money do you think you need to shoot a feature film? I don't think you're going to get it from your local jeweler and clothing shops. Funding is arguably the biggest issue for filmmakers.
 
Shooting a film, (at least on paper) seems like it could be put together like a big commercial photo shoot. The hours involved and the amount of crew and talent involved are about the same.

I've never worked on a commercial photo shoot in my life.
BUT:

Whilst there are similarities, I can imagine there are going to be major differences. The hours and crew are going to be heavily different.
Think of the time you spend lighting - I know some photographers use continuous lights, but most I've come into contact with are strobe guys. Film is all continuous and has to be. Lighting (generally) has to look somewhat motivated, as well as be dynamic in the scene, as well as be positioned in a way as to not intrude on anyone's performance. Plus, it needs to look realistic rather than glamorous. Not to mention the fact that you may have a day photo shoot where you need to take 100 photos (let's say), compared to a day's filming where you need to shoot 4 pages of script. That diminishes the time you can take on each shot. Plus you're going to be resetting lights etc for each shot/scene, and you also have a moving camera now - and a camera whose shutter speed shouldn't really be changed from 1/48 or 180 degrees.

Then, in terms of crew - again I've never been on a commercial photo shoot, but I can't imagine you've got a DP, Camera Op, 1st and 2nd AC, Gaffer, LX crew, grips, etc. etc.
Not to mention that continuous lights need to be overseen by a gaffer, because strobes are generally sucking less power, and they're only 'on' whenever a photo is taken.

Correct me if I'm wrong at all, but just try and avoid thinking that filmmaking is going to be a breeze. No matter how prepared you are, or how similar this part or that part of what you do is, filmmaking is never a breeze and it's rarely easy for those just coming into it.
 
Cygnus,

This is how it should be done whether you are micro-budget indie or Lionsgate-level indie. This also how the mainstream industry works

1. Write or buy a script that is basically GOOD

2. Create a schedule, post-schedule and a budget based on that schedule (location prioritised budget is fine at this stage)

4. Create your pitch, finance plan and cast wish list

4. Find a director (if director is a first timer, you will need really experienced DP and Production Designer, you will also need concept boards)

3. Cast one or 2 actors

4. Finance

Once this is done...

5. Hire the Line Producer/UPM

6a. Hire a Location Manager

6b. Production Designer starts (you will need the DP as well but s/he doesn't start full-time prep at this stage)

6c. Location recce/scout

7. LET THE UPM/LP/LM do their jobs and organize the shoot for you. As a producer or director (sounds like you want to produce), you do not want to be doing this as these are full-time jobs and will hamper your directing or producing. You will be okaying everything though.

8. Principal Photography.

9. Post production.

10. Get a sales agent or schlepp it around the markets yourself. The first is better.


Im thinkin now...with most micro-budget / no-name writer / producer / directors one quite often will need to shoot a teaser to get others onboard and secure funding ..Im thinking how does a workflow like the above acommodate the first steps ( indiegogo / etc ? ) needed to get the project looking like it will get funded to get the ball rolloing
 
You will need to shoot a pitch video if you are doing crowdfunding, which you should do after you have a budget, and if you can, after you have cast a couple of actors.

I don't think you really need to shoot a teaser unless you have zero directing experience. Directing a short beforehand is always better though. Of course, I am assuming this thread is about a feature.
 
Im thinkin now...with most micro-budget / no-name writer / producer / directors one quite often will need to shoot a teaser to get others onboard and secure funding ..Im thinking how does a workflow like the above acommodate the first steps ( indiegogo / etc ? ) needed to get the project looking like it will get funded to get the ball rolloing

Not always - usually if you've got a couple of good shorts under your belt, and a good script that will be enough to tip investors over the edge. If you're going for a kickstarter thing, that's different; I'm not sure what using kickstarter to fund a film is like - I get the feeling that it tends to be mostly donations from family members and friends of the cast/crew anyway.

Another way to do it is to do a low-budget short that contains some of the key themes of the feature and use that to sell to investors. If you're going that route, however, please try to write the feature first, then adapt it into a short. I've seen Directors make shorts and then sell that to investors to make features out of them and then they're stuck trying to make a ten minute film fill an hour and a half. So you end up with an hour and 10 minutes of beautiful shots interspersed between the 20 minutes of actual story.
 
Except for the fact that these pictures move. It's very different. I absolutely support your idea to branch-out, but I think you should know what you're getting yourself into. If you were to add filmmaking to your photography company's arsenal, I hope you hire some experienced filmmakers to lead the way. In my opinion, photographers make the best filmmakers. But you've still got a ton of new stuff to learn.


I totally agree that there is a steep learning curve. I'm not going to pretend that this will be easy. We have shot stills for a few commercials, so I have seen that part of the process, although our part is completely different in the overall process of making a commercial.


That being said, I think you're not quite aware of how time-consuming filmmaking is.


You're absolutely correct. I have only worked on one little very small budget film, and that can best be described as learning what not to do. However it was enough for us to consider film making as our next move. Whether we actually do that or not has not been decided. The idea of making films intrigues me, but because I like the idea doesn't mean that I'll end up doing it.


And that example was used only to address an area that I know you're well familiar with. Now, consider the areas that you are not familiar with. Sound is a big one.


We've actually worked with sound companies before, and if we do decide to make movies, that part of the process will be done by the those do understand it.


As for the funding questions -- since you're talking about distribution, I assume you want to make feature films, no? Short films, as a general rule, don't get any sort of distribution.

If we do decide to make films, feature length will be the direction that we go into.


So, how much money do you think you need to shoot a feature film? I don't think you're going to get it from your local jeweler and clothing shops. Funding is arguably the biggest issue for filmmakers.


The budget will depend a lot on the type of movie, but our preliminary thoughts for a test is $275,000 to $325,000.

By bundling up a couple of clients while still providing the still shots for their advertising needs, it makes it comfortable for us. At least for a test movie. If we go beyond that, then we'll make that consideration when the time comes.


I've never worked on a commercial photo shoot in my life.
BUT:

Whilst there are similarities, I can imagine there are going to be major differences. The hours and crew are going to be heavily different.
Think of the time you spend lighting - I know some photographers use continuous lights, but most I've come into contact with are strobe guys. Film is all continuous and has to be. Lighting (generally) has to look somewhat motivated, as well as be dynamic in the scene, as well as be positioned in a way as to not intrude on anyone's performance. Plus, it needs to look realistic rather than glamorous. Not to mention the fact that you may have a day photo shoot where you need to take 100 photos (let's say), compared to a day's filming where you need to shoot 4 pages of script. That diminishes the time you can take on each shot. Plus you're going to be resetting lights etc for each shot/scene, and you also have a moving camera now - and a camera whose shutter speed shouldn't really be changed from 1/48 or 180 degrees.


Again this is very true. At this point in my research I am just learning what the overall process would be like. My original steps 1 through 10. What needs to be added, what needs to be eliminated, what needs to be changed.

We shoot with all sorts of lights depending on the need of the client. Continuous is easier, so that's a part that I would enjoy.


Then, in terms of crew - again I've never been on a commercial photo shoot, but I can't imagine you've got a DP, Camera Op, 1st and 2nd AC, Gaffer, LX crew, grips, etc. etc.
Not to mention that continuous lights need to be overseen by a gaffer, because strobes are generally sucking less power, and they're only 'on' whenever a photo is taken.


Some of our larger shoots can have 30 crew members plus the talent, the agents, the art director, the client and any reps that someone thinks that they need.

An average shoot has about 6 crew plus the talent.


Correct me if I'm wrong at all, but just try and avoid thinking that filmmaking is going to be a breeze. No matter how prepared you are, or how similar this part or that part of what you do is, filmmaking is never a breeze and it's rarely easy for those just coming into it.


I have no doubt that this will be incredibly difficult on multiple levels, and the learning process will probably be painful and expensive.

When I first started in photography I actually had the belief that photography was about a pretty picture. The business of photography has very little to do with the image. As silly as they may sound, it is true. For every hour that I have a camera in hand, about sixty hours are spent in dealing with every other detail on what is going to end up in that picture.
 
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Some of our larger shoots can have 30 crew members plus the talent, the agents, the art director, the client and any reps that someone thinks that they need.

An average shoot has about 6 crew plus the talent.
I wouldn't suggest trying to pull off a film with 6 crew ;) Some try to do it, but it makes it infinitely harder, IMO. Getting a good crew together is really important, and you need to make sure you have really good people in key roles like Producer, UPM, 1st AD, DP, Gaffer, Production Designer, Editor, Sound Designer, and then really good support crew for those people. If you do that, you'll end up woth a great film - but it can be a matter of budget sometimes as to whether you are able to get that many people on.


When I first started in photography I actually had the belief that photography was about a pretty picture. The business of photography has very little to do with the image. As silly as they may sound, it is true. For every hour that I have a camera in hand, about sixty hours are spent in dealing with every other detail on what is going to end up in that picture.

Well film is similar in taht way at least, just that there's a Producer whose job it is to do all of that business stuff, and everyone else is there to make the film look and sound good. There are those of us who don't have to worry about hardly any businessey stuff ever :)

The more I thin about it, the more I sort of liken photo shoots to TVC shoots. On a TVC you're usually trying to make things look glamorous, the spot is often not very long so you don't have a super long shoot and you're constantly bugged by the client and the agency on set ;)
 
Cygnus, what do you mean by a test film? Just curious.


Over the years we have moved into larger and larger projects. There isn't really a way to learn how to do something other than to do it. You can read all the books that you want, but without the real life experience of doing it, you really won't know if it works.

When we wanted to go after some of the automotive market, we had to learn how to light a car that's driving along the highway or the bottom section of a double decker bridge before any of the ad agencies would think about hiring us to deliver those types of ads.

Same principle with making a movie. If we decide that we really want to move into making a film, we will make a film to make sure that we really can make a film. Start off simple, buy a script, put together a team, get the talent (probably regional actors from the play companies) do the filming, editing, and such. After than, do some local screenings and see if it really looks like a movie once it's up on the big screen. It's very possible that despite our best effort and intentions we're not able to do it.

I expect making a film is similar to photography in one major way. It takes more than wanting to and having nice equipment.

All I have today is a want to. I am going to spend a lot of time learning more before I suggest we make the move into film making.


I wouldn't suggest trying to pull off a film with 6 crew ;)

If we decide to actually make a test film, I would have more than six people helping me to put the idea together.
 
I expect making a film is similar to photography in one major way. It takes more than wanting to and having nice equipment.
This. And also:

All I have today is a want to. I am going to spend a lot of time learning more before I suggest we make the move into film making.
This.

I am a bit of a photographer myself, nothing professional just a hobby on the side because I love imagery and I think it helps me with my cinematography.

There are probably a lot of similarities between the two, especially in terms of the pre- stuff. I think it's a great idea and I wish you all the best of luck with it. You seem to have your head screwed on right, and know that it's about more than just having a pipe dream and a fancy camera.

One thing I'd suggest, however, is to get a really good film Director on board. They obviously don't need to be a name talent, but smoeone who has some experience and who you like the work of. You can probably pull off the producing stuff yourself, and the cinematography, but get an experienced Director. I'd also suggest an experienced 1st AD and experienced Sound Recordist. IMO having those people on board are really going to make the difference between an actual film shoot and a bunch of photography guys trying to make a film.
 
Cygnus, the more you explain your ideas, the more I think you've got a really good head on your shoulders (not that you need my approval, obviously). Anyway, if you can get that budget together, if you do a lot of research (which it seems like you're doing), and if you hire experienced filmmakers, I see no reason why you can't produce something that'll sell.

Filmmaking is a lot of fun. You should do it! :)
 
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