Updated: Apr 4
Join Koura on the first official episode of Filmmaking (Actually) as she details the steps she takes when making movies! While everyone can have their own process, every film project goes through these steps, be it intentionally and smoothly, or by sheer painful necessity of what it takes to get it done.
If you want to ask a question or just want to say hello, you can write to us at filmmakingactually(at)gmail(dot)com! You can also sign up for our mailing list through the "Contact Us" section of our website, for filmmaking tips and tricks, along with all the latest projects and updates on what we are working on.
Below please find a transcript of this episode. Episodes are also available as audio-only podcasts here or with subtitles in this video:
How Do You Make A Movie??
Hello, my name is Koura Linda and this is my podcast “Filmmaking Actually”
So our first official filmmaking episode, I figured I would start with the very beginning. What are the actual steps of making a movie? Not what creativity and skill go into it, but what are the actual steps of making a movie? This will probably be my longest episode. It covers the widest range when it comes to all the different aspects of filmmaking, so hopefully it's also one of the most helpful.
I will say that a key thing to know about filmmaking is that while everyone can have their own process, every single film project is going to go through these steps in one way or another. Be it intentionally and smoothly, or by the sheer painful necessity of what it takes to get it done. Some parts of this process can be done within two seconds in someone's head, or take 20 years in a studio executive's boardroom. Now nothing has to take forever, nothing has to be long, drawn out, or complicated. But somewhere along the line, someone is going to have to do these things one way or another.
It has been my own personal experience that taking the time to bring a project through all of this completely, can help to make the entire experience a lot less of the age-old indie filmmaker fighting for your life, and struggling with perfectly preventable problems.
Now if you're like a total rebel who's listening to this podcast, and you're like “I don't have to do any of this, I just make movies with unicorn dust and biodegradable glitter!” Well okay well first of all, those are like two of my favorite things in the world. So that's amazing. But second, just ask yourself how stressful is your life? If it's... I mean hey, if it's great, then you do you! Like, nobody has to do what I'm telling them. This isn't like some writ of the universe. I'm just trying to share my experience. So if it doesn't work for you, great, you make movies! That's awesome!
So, making a movie.
The first thing to mention is there are a lot of different pieces that make up a completed film. And not every single person on set needs to deal with all of this. Usually it's just the main producer's job, or the studio, or whoever is running things.
And just because you want to work in film, doesn't mean you have to know how to do all of this. But for me personally, knowing all the different parts of making a movie was really helpful in figuring out, you know "Okay where do I fit in?" You know, "What do I want to focus on?" If you're trying to figure out where to put your creative and professional energy, knowing all of what's needed can help to decide - "Okay. That part is not something I want to do." Or "This part isn't something I'm good at." Or "I'm really happy over here. I really like this!"
Knowing all the pieces of the puzzle helps you to know what pieces you're missing, and what people you want to work with so you can focus on the parts that you want to focus on. The director doesn't always have anything to do with a lot of this. The only people who actually get a say in the entirety of a film are the producers.
Oftentimes directors will come in after a lot of this is already done, or they just have nothing to do with a lot of it as the process is going on, depending on the production and obviously depending on the director. I'm sure big giant studio directors have a lot more input, but as a general rule, these aren't directorial choices.
Directors are creative and this is the production side. This is more the nuts and bolts in the business. For me, understanding this whole rundown helped me figure out where I want to fit in and it helped me define what I was looking to be when it came to this nebulous desire to "be a filmmaker". Because I have to level with you, filmmaking can mean a lot of things and you don't have to do all of this to be a filmmaker.
If you want to be a producer however, you're going to need to know how to do all of this and then some. But if you're looking more for the creative, you only need to know pieces of this. But I do think it's kind of cool to understand the whole picture and hopefully this can help you figure out what you want to do, and then you can connect with people who do the other things, and then in the end a movie gets made! Also for me producing a movie from scratch is a lot less overwhelming when all the moving parts are just laid out in front of you.
So, making a movie. This is pretty much an outline for a narrative film, as in not a documentary, but some of this will apply to docs. I'll probably do some documentary episodes as their own thing, but they are very different from narrative filmmaking.
Okay rule number one:
Filmmaking in general is more of an art than a science. Some of these steps can be done in other sequences or other ways, but no matter the sequence all of the steps pretty much are going to be done by someone at some point. This is the way I go about it. The first thing to do is actually to decide what movie is going to be made and why? I know it may seem kind of funny to know why you're making a movie. Like you just want to make a movie right? But it actually helps to know why you're making this movie once you get to some of the later decision making processes.
What do you want to do with this thing you're making? Are you going for festivals? Do you want distribution? Are you going to self-distribute? Are you just trying to evoke social change? Are you looking to create a visual calling card? Do you just want to make a movie? Are you an actor and you want great footage for your reel? There are a ton of reasons to make a film, and tons of categories that a finished film can fall into. You can hit multiple points with any single film.
But budget choices, casting choices, audio mix requirements, even a few script and editing choices can all be affected by what you are looking to do once you actually finish this film. Like what are you planning on doing with it? And I'm not trying to be nebulous, there'll be a whole episode on that. But things like, you know, do you need an audio mix for a theater, or is this just going to be played on a cell phone? Do you have to have a name talent, and how soon in the final edit do you need them to show up on screen? Questions like that can be answered by what are you planning on doing with this? But again, separate episode I'm trying to keep this one short.
So step one: Why do you want to make this film?
Then step two: What film do you want to make?
And I put those two questions in that sequence specifically because, what you're looking to do is going to affect the story that you're going to tell. Are you an investor who wants to make a movie so you're going to fund a script to be written? Or are you a writer with a script that you want to just get made? Or are you someone with a good idea in need of a writer and then you're going to need funding? Or are you an actor who wants to star in a movie? Bottom line - where is the story going to come from, and how is it going to become a shootable finish script ready for production?
Now this part can literally go like this... An investor wants to make a movie so an investor funds a script being written and the script enters into pre-production. Or a script exists and needs funding, so the writer looks for a producer who can find an investor who funds the script and gets it into pre-production. Or someone has hopefully a good idea, but someone has an idea and they get the idea turned into a script, and then that gets connected to an investor, and it goes into re-production.
Now just to be clear, investor could be crowdfunding, could be the writer's own pocket, it could be someone just got a new credit card and has the overwhelming desire to max it out on a movie (have them call me) it could be a band of friends coming together who want to invest their time and resources into the movie. It doesn't have to be some big fat cat with a bunch of cash writing a check. When I say investor I just mean the person or people who are going to take their time, energy, resources, to create this film and get it actually made. Someone, somewhere, at some point is going to come on and bring these resources to make it happen. You're not going to have anything without that so that has to happen. Somewhere in there, somehow, a story becomes a script, and someone comes along and decides to do the work of getting it made into a movie.
Now what? For this example I'm going to go with you have a script but no money as I'm pretty sure that's the more common situation for most indie filmmakers. You have a script. And that's it. Next comes all the development and pre-production stuff. In a perfect world you would start to hire a production team, do the breakdown in the budget, or you yourself need to know how to do a breakdown in a budget so that you can.
A lot of times people say “I have five thousand dollars to make a movie and I'm gonna make a feature!” And I mean that can work, but unless you're just a group of friends starting out if you actually want to be a professional, the way to go about this really should be to find out how much money is this going to actually take? You can substitute the word money with resources, but you want to know what is it actually going to take to make this movie? And if you're going to fundraise, you want to raise that much money. Because you're going to spend as much work working to get an investor, to get somebody to donate their time and resources.
Whether your budget is five dollars, or whether your budget (okay maybe not five dollars)-- you're going to spend as much time running a crowd fund, working to put money together, raising three thousand dollars or raising ten thousand dollars or raising a hundred thousand dollars. And I've actually heard from people who work in film financing, it's easier to raise millions of dollars than it is to raise a hundred thousand dollars. Focus on the idea that you're going to want to do this professionally with professionals. You want to bring people on. And this method isn't for everyone.
And it's also not about fundraising. (That's going to be a separate episode) And you should always be smart and resourceful and never let a lack of money stop you from creating your art. And when you have money, you shouldn't just spend it with no regard to anything. Honestly working with very tight budgets is a really good way to start. Because then when you suddenly have a ton of cash, you're more used to thinking with "Wow do I make this dollar be worth ten dollars? How do I get the most for my money?" instead of being like “Yeah a million dollars no problem woohoo!”
As a general rule, there is this idea out there that it's noble or honorable to make a movie for nothing but your blood sweat and tears! And while that's a good point, I'm pretty sure that the people behind that are actually the big Hollywood producers who love cashing in on the random shoestring budget that happens to be brilliant and sells for millions. I think "The Blair Witch Project" budget was like $60,000 or something like that? And it literally sold for over $200 million dollars. Like the box office. At the end of the day, the producers get millions of dollars, but the crew who worked for free and everyone else who donated their time and talent... because there really is no such thing as a free movie (and I'll go over that in another episode) but, everybody who begged and bartered and bled to make a film happen for quote unquote no money, they don't usually get a royalty check in the mail after it sells for millions of dollars.
So stop letting big distributors get rich off of your hard work. There is money out there for film, and in a later podcast we'll talk about that. I'm sorry it's a bit of a soapbox topic for me but seriously, I read this quote once about how "If you're not working to make your own dreams come true, then you're working to make someone else's dreams come true." And that really goes for film. Know your worth, don't let someone else (oh my gosh I sound so preachy) but that really goes for film! Don't let someone else get rich because you're smart enough and talented enough to make magic out of no resources!
Okay moving on!
If you want to raise money, you need to know how much money or resources you need, and that means budgeting. There is one way to do this which is look at what resources you have and figure out how you can make something out of what you have. That's basically just an inverted way of doing what I'm about to say, but it's also workable.
I list out everything that I know we're going to need. Partially for our budget breakdown, and partially so that I know what we're going to need, and I can start putting the movie together. Things like all of the cast needed including extras, crew, including things like legal, set medics, things that you're probably going “Whoa I thought this was supposed to be an indie film?!” Okay remember, these things are done as big or as small a scale as the project is, but they always need to be accounted for. You don't necessarily need to have an actual set medic. I mean you should if you can, but you probably should make sure you like, at least have some band-aids and an ice pack on set and someone should know where those things are.
You may not need to hire a whole legal firm, but you probably should make sure there's somebody signing crew deal memos, and somebody making sure you have the rights to what you're doing. (Quick note, I'm not a lawyer this isn't legal advice so take from it what you will and consult an actual lawyer) But you should name out all of the jobs that need to be filled because someone is going to need to do them, or you're going to spend 30 minutes of production time running around trying to find someone on set who has a pair of tweezers because your lead actress accidentally got to splinter. Yes, that has happened. After that you're going to need to figure out your wardrobe costs, or where you're getting your wardrobe from, same for props. If there's special mention of set dress items like your character falls onto a couch, you need to make sure that there's going to be a couch for them to fall onto.
[Also] any VFX notes. I personally also do audio notes at this point. Let's say a character hears music, you need a few moments shot of the character reacting to the music. But it isn't dialogue or otherwise timed out in the script. So it needs to be determined, how much time do you need of the visual of the character hearing the music? And you need to be sure to shoot that! You're going to need to account for it in your schedule. But it's also going to impact your edit. And if you don't shoot it, your editor is going to have to get creative to figure out how to make it work! Also audio notes are helpful because then, whoever is doing your post audio can give you an idea not only of post audio budget, but also how much time it's going to take. Which is important depending on your deadline. Okay, projected day count for each character. Any other special notes.
This is a little outside the box but I personally actually survey my cast and crew and ask for any major allergies or dietary restrictions. There's a lot of people who have allergies, and the least I can do is make sure they're able to eat lunch. But also things like if your key grip is deathly allergic to peanuts, you're probably gonna want to know that before you're in the middle of a shoot and somebody opens a pack of Reese's and you have to stop and call 9-1-1 because your key grip just collapsed.
Also if your lead is deathly allergic to cats, you're going to want to know that before you book a location at a house where the owner has six cats and 30 minutes into your day... Now you have a lead actress who is so puffy and her eyes are runny and red and can't do anything. Simple things like just asking ahead of time can then put the information in place that you need so you can plan.
If you haven't noticed yet, filmmaking is a lot of work. And you might be like “Wait this isn't fun, this is supposed to be fun!” All I can say is things are fun, because they're smooth. Like fun days on set are where everything just goes, people show up, they do their job, everything jives. But the reason that happens is because somebody had these conversations. You don't have to be the person doing this, but somebody on your shoot probably should. Wing it productions always end up with things going wrong. Last minute emergencies, nightmares in post-production, and then everyone is just making memes and sharing in bitter Facebook groups about the horrors of being an indie film producer.
Honestly, I feel like indie has become synonymous with unprofessional, and that's not fair. Indie by definition is not produced by a studio. So stop letting the studios give all of us a bad name and just be a professional! There you go, I apologize for my little soapbox moments but I care about this stuff. I have a whole episode coming up about networking, and about finding people to work with. You don't have to do it. Just work with people who do.
Okay now maybe you're listening to this and you're like “I just got three friends and 50 bucks and we went down to my basement and made a music video!” I mean that's awesome! But you still need to know where you're going to film, what wardrobe you're going to use even if the wardrobe is coming from your talent's closet. You still need to know what they're going to wear, and know what lights you're going to use, even if it's your buddy's lights you still need to have that set up ahead of time.
These are things that people do whether they do them intentionally, or whether just the nature of the process kind of works them through it. And I always say, it's much better to do things conscientiously and intentionally because then you can take care to make sure that it's done professionally. Remember a budget breakdown doesn't have to mean what you're spending actual money. It just means what you're going to need. And you're either going to need to know how much it's going to cost, or how much money you're able to spend, or how to get it without using actual money by cashing in favors or using your own resources or whatever.
I actually do this type of a breakdown on every single film, even 48 hour film projects where you're not even allowed to pay people. Like that's one of the rules. For example for a 48 hour project you can line up your cast and crew in locations, but that's it. We make a spreadsheet of everyone who signed on all of their skills so we can use that when it comes to writing the script. Possible locations, dietary needs etc. And then Friday before launch, we go food shopping and then we get our prompts, and we go back to our spreadsheet, go through the skills to write the script…. I'll go over more on 48 hour film projects as their own thing, but the point is you don't have to have millions of dollars or seven years to put together your film.
Prep also doesn't need to stifle creativity. For me I find that prep actually helps creativity! Like if you can get your wardrobe designed before you get to set, even if it's just what colors you want people to wear, then you're not going to end up with everybody wearing white shirts standing in front of a white wall. Unless that's the aesthetic that you're going for! In which case you can intentionally create that. Also you're not going to end up with things like, your lead is styled in this beautiful pale blue outfit but, the shoot is outside in front of the pale blue sky and now she's a floating head.
Spending time like that is going to actually make it a little bit better. And if you're like me and the idea of creatively naming out everything ahead of time makes your head hurt, try and look at it from the perspective of you're not being forced to like, organize! You don't have to like, name out every single little detail. Even just general notes can be really helpful. Like your location is very brown toned, what color do you want your actors in, are they supposed to stand out from the background? Are they supposed to blend in? You know I can go on and on and on there'll be a whole episode about production design. But the point is spend some time, and make your notes as detailed or as general as you need them to be.
VFX prep is actually really important, because if you talk to your VFX person ahead of time you can actually coordinate your shoot so that post isn't a nightmare.
99% of post problems are because nobody had the conversation during pre-production. Just saying. My husband and I did a music video once where the lead singer's eyes were going to have an effect put over them, and we knew that we had to lock down the camera for that effect to be put on. But there were a bunch of shots we wanted to do that were handheld.
Because we had the conversation ahead of time, we just planned it so that all of the shots where the camera was locked down, her eyes were open. But for all of the handheld stuff and where the camera was kind of seeing the world around her, we actually had her close her eyes. Every single time the camera's moving, her eyes are closed. And in the edit it just looks like she closed her eyes, or she's struggling, or she blinked or whatever. But for us it meant that we did not have to put any effect on her eyes during those shots. And my husband actually directed that and he was able to get what he wanted as far as the movement in the camera. And we were able to tell the story visually, while not having to give our VFX guy a hundred extra hours of work. A couple conversations in pre-production and a couple of decisions as you're planning can actually make things really smooth, and make it able to have a very smooth uh post-production process.
Now unless you're one of those people who loves to fix problems that could have been prevented in the first place, go for having conversations about things that could cause you problems. Continuity and wardrobe, lighting issues, sound on location issues... I mean I've sent little video clips to my on set sound tech to find out you know, what's going to be the effect of this sound in the background.
One of my mentors actually pointed out that knowing things like the train schedule around your location like that could be a factor. If you're filming in Chicago in an apartment you probably want to know when the train's gonna come rushing by.
I've also checked things for time of day like you're shooting in the woods and three o'clock in the afternoon when you were location scouting... hey that's great but your actual shot is at six when the sun is setting, and now there's like a symphony orchestra of frogs and crickets. Not so great.
My great uncle used to have this saying he'd say "Do what's easy and life will be hard, do what's hard and life will be easy” and I have to say that is so true especially for filmmaking. It's going to take work but if you take the time to do a little bit of work in the beginning, you're actually going to have a much smoother run of it later. Now you can also look at it from the perspective of "What's the worst thing that's going to happen?" You don't do something you get in trouble, or maybe you have to pay a fine, or you have to deal with an avoidable problem because you didn't do something, or maybe you're looking at this and going “Well I didn't do that on my film and it turned out great!” You were lucky! That's awesome! But don't hedge your bets on luck. I mean you can but why? Take the time to do what's hard and then everything will be so much smoother.
Okay so you're starting to get your budget together, you've got your story...
Now what? You have to get your cast and crew hired. Or at least figure out who's going to be doing what. You should put together a lookbook and a pitch deck if that's what you're going to be using for financing. If you're planning on doing a storyboard, you probably should start to get that together. I will say not everybody uses storyboards and don't feel like you have to but you should absolutely at least have a shot list. Even if it literally is just: wide shot, medium shot, close up. Like no matter how basic you want to have a shot list. You should have your location scouted. Again this doesn't need to be some fancy location scout. You at least want to know where you're filming, and have any preventable problems prevented through planning.
Get your budget finalized if that isn't done already. If you're planning on marketing your film you should be starting to move into your basic marketing. Getting everybody's contract signed. Getting location permits and getting location agreements signed with your location. If you're a guerilla shooting, you still need to get some sort of agreement. Now again I'm not a lawyer, not legal advice but there's nothing stopping you from getting an email or even a text agreement to shoot in a certain location at a certain time. I've literally lost locations the day before a big shoot because no one in production got any sort of written agreement, and then we had to scramble and find a new location.
I mean yeah it feels great to be the superhero who problem solved at the shoot and save the day, please be a superhero on like, actual disasters not preventable problems! (You may be noticing a theme here) Any wardrobe either made or purchased or altered or just lined up. What gear you're going to use, if you need to buy it, or rent it, or line it up, borrow it, beg, steal, (don't steal) get it tested. Always always always test your gear! Always charge your batteries the night before that is all.
Get any sets built as needed! Any press releases, PR done even if it's just posting on your own Facebook page or Twitter or Instagram or Tiktok or whatever! Get people excited about your film! No matter what you're planning on doing with the film... I mean unless you literally just want to like, lock it up in a box afterwards... you are going to need an audience! Get all production crew hired or at least agreeing to work. Work out who's doing what, maybe you're not hiring a medic but make sure your cousin the PA knows where the band-aids are. Also this is where experience on set actually means something. It's totally one thing to read about all of this and another to actually do it. It is super important to just get out there and make stuff! Make little shorts, make a web series mess up, do it again! It's fine because next time you'll know. And then you'll be on an even bigger project and you'll learn more. So just never stop learning, and never stop taking the opportunities to even just practice. Hopefully this podcast helps shorten the learning curve a little bit but um, yeah! Okay!
Now the magic happens now you get to have fun! Go shoot your movie! Make sure to back up your files if you can! If you're shooting on a DSLR or other smaller camera, follow the best advice I ever got from a wedding photographer: Use as small a chip as you can get away with! It may mean you have to switch out your cards constantly, but look at it this way - if a card craps out, or gets lost, or runs off with a roll of gaff tape, wouldn't you rather lose 2 hours of work than 10 hours of work? Or worse, your entire film? To the best of your ability, use small cards. It's a little annoying, but I personally think it's totally worth it. Data dump, backup all day long! Even if your cousin the PA with the band-aids (I’m laughing because I think my cousin's gonna hear this) But seriously, even if it's just somebody assigned to do double duty, nothing is more important than the actual footage that you've now shot. Like that is the most holy object on set! No offense, not trying to be sacrilege but literally without that why are you doing this? So yeah.
You're also going to want to keep that buzz going even if it's just social media posts to your friends and family. I will say, just be careful about posting spoilers. You're posting an Instagram story, but make sure you're not like, sharing a big reveal that's gonna ruin the film for everybody. I mean unless you want to. But I know for one of our films there's a character that you don't see at all until the very very end. And we actually apologize to the person playing the character because they were not in any promo, they're not in the trailer, they're not in the production stills like they are in nothing because it is such a huge reveal, we wanted to keep that character completely under wraps. So just be smart about what you want to put out there.
Okay, you've shot your movie!
Now you're ready to move into post-production! (And I'm almost done, sort of)
This is another place where “Why are you making this film?” comes into play. Some festivals have run-time sweet spots. That said, I've totally seen like two minute shorts and 30 minute shorts at Sundance so take from that way you will. There is that alleged festival sweet spot so if you're wanting to pander to festivals, you're going to want to think with that. Distributors can look at certain run times depending on the platform. Storytelling doesn't actually go by a runtime, and maybe your film really needs to be 27 minutes long. Maybe you got a sponsor for your film and you're contractually obligated to have their brand on screen for no less than five minutes of the whole film. If you're going for international distribution, there are things you need to do so your film can be dubbed in other languages.
But no matter what, the next step is your edit. You won't know what else you need as far as ADR or VFX. I mean you may know that you need ADR, but hopefully your sound mixer was good and it's not glaringly obvious that you need to ADR your whole film. As a general rule your ADR, VFX, color correction score, all of that stuff you actually need to have a picture lock. Otherwise you're going to risk working on scenes or frames that end up getting cut, and you don't want to waste your time on that. I mean you can, but that's my personal approach. Make sure you schedule your shoot deadline with the time for post in the first place. Like if you're determined to make a festival submission and the late late deadline for that festival is March 5th, don't shoot your movie until March 4th or even March 1st! Give yourself some time if you can.
There are always superheroes who make crazy things happen on impossible deadlines and those people are literally amazing! But don't create impossible deadlines because of bad planning! Sometimes things don't go to plan, and then you have to save the day! Awesome! That doesn't mean you can't live in a world without preventable problems making you work 50 times as hard as you need to just to make a movie. I don't know, I'm a bit of an idealist anyway moving on.
Editing! For the most part you're going to want to lock your cut before getting into any coloring or effects. I know sometimes it is so tempting to start layering things, and looking and like trying things out and seeing how it's going to look before it gets locked. As best you can, get it locked first, otherwise you're going to be correcting scenes you end up cutting, or depending on your computer, you're going to be dealing with overwhelm with all the adjustment layers you decided to put on, or you're going to spend so much time on one shot that then it's going to need to get cut and you're not going to want to cut it because of how much time you spent. It really doesn't help the finished film and now you're not editing the story, you're editing how much work you put into the edit. Which is not how you make a movie.
This is also where you're going to see if you need to do any reshoots. I will say I've never done a reshoot on any project ever. I have rewritten the script in post. We've used random shots from either before or after a scene started. We've run clips backwards. We've twixtered the living daylights out of a shot to make a two frame clip into a few second shot. But don't always jump to think that you need to reshoot your movie, or that your movie is just garbage. Like there's a ton of ways to get creative about dealing with the footage that you have. That's to be covered in another episode, but just wanted to throw that out there.
Now that your picture locked, you can send it to your post sound team, get your audio mix done. This can be done at the same time as the score getting written, and the effects and the color correction. I will say get your effects in, and then color that just so everything looks good. In a perfect world your coloring, your effects, your sound, your score, your audio mix, all that is finished around the same time and there you go you have a film!
There will be some back and forth in there as you're ironing things out, and while that's happening depending on what you plan to do with the film, you can be getting out press releases, or finding more marketing funds, or spending marketing funds you already planned for. You probably have heard like so many people who then go looking for finishing funds. But if you did your homework in the beginning, hopefully you have the funds you need to finish the film you were making in the first place.
Remember indie film does not mean unprofessional film, it just means you didn't have a studio standing over you dictating your every move. And I'm just going to throw this out there again. I completely agree that no one should ever use ``I don't have any money” as a reason to not make a movie. But at the same time you can always try to have all your ducks in a row before you start filming. Like that is an actual possibility in the world. Things like finishing funds, marketing funds, PR, all of that stuff. Like, try! Just see what happens! Like at least make an effort. Because on the one hand, I know there's people who have the idea that “Well when I finish the film I'll be able to show people how great it is and then I can get my finishing funds because they'll have a proof of concept to see that this actually is worth more investment.” Totally! That is a way to do it! That doesn't mean that you can't try.
There's that really stupid thing in sales you don't get what you don't ask for. Ask!!
Ask an investor for your full budget, maybe they say "No". Okay. Then you say, "Why don't we do this much? And then if you like it we'll come back for the rest." But honestly a smart investor is going to want to be investing in something that's going to actually make their money back. And if you're spending all this time and effort on making a movie, you should be wanting to make something that's going to be the best possible quality.
While you got your post going, your marketing starts, your promotion for distribution or film festivals, if you didn't get pre-sales early on you can start looking into distribution deals, or start researching self-distribution festival submissions... Hopefully when you were doing the whole “Why am I making this movie?” you answered these questions already.
No matter what, when you finish the film, always watch the exported file before sending it anywhere! I don't understand why anyone would not do this, unless you literally don't have the time (Like you're doing a 48 hour film project) and as much as I want to say “Technically you should have planned better" 48 hour film projects are very intense, and I've definitely not been able to watch the finished product before I send it in before.
But as a general rule, always always always watch the exported file, and if you're burning your own DVDs or blu-rays, test them before you send them! Always just pop it in, let it play, don't take your eyes off the screen, don't scroll through social media while you're watching. Actually watch it. Also test videos after you upload them to YouTube, or Vimeo, or your website or wherever. Just watch them! It may get a little obnoxious to watch the movie over and over and over again so, maybe have a friend do it, maybe be like “Hey Mom, wanna watch my movie?”
But before you go sending it out into the world, just take a moment to make sure the file didn't glitch. That you didn't accidentally end up exporting like all the random clips that you put on the end. Like whatever. Just make sure that your file is good.
People take technology for granted but it isn't perfect and things glitch. So find out before you send it out to the world. Just test your stuff that's all.
So you're going to get your film out there, you're going to send it to your mom, you're going to email it to your friends, you're going to sell it, you're going to put it in festivals, you're going to make merch that's going to get sold. If you crowdfunded, make sure that all the perks promised to your contributors are actually sent out. A lot of people offer things like you know they get to see the director's cut, or they get behind the scenes or first access preview link, like actually do that! These are the people who made your movie possible so make sure to give them what you promise.
If making money on the film was your goal, hopefully you're able to sell it and make enough money that you can turn around and make another movie! And then you start from the beginning!
No matter what you actually made a freaking movie, which is actually a big deal! Like so many people never even get that far like you actually did it and that's amazing! Congratulations, be proud of yourself, take a minute. Seriously, you are awesome and drop me a link so that I can follow you! Because no one is ever finished learning. And if you're like the rest of us, take the time to learn how to do it right.
I assume if you're listening to my podcast, you're either curious about what my process is, or you're looking to learn. Check it out, give it a shot, see what works for you, and do it! And if it doesn't work, don't do it. Just find your creative groove. Find where you fit in all of this. Use this as a basis to figure out what your process is, what's the best way for you to do it?
And you know, maybe you're listening to all this and you're like "Wow I only want to show up on set, do my job and go home. The rest of this? Whew!" or maybe you just want to do the PR, or you just want to do the marketing, or you just want to do the budgeting, or whatever, you just want to edit... Like that's fine and that's awesome because no film project would exist without somebody doing all of these different things. So figure out what piece of the pie you want, grab your whipped cream and jump on in.
All right! That's it! That's all I got! Done!
Be sure to like, subscribe, follow, comment, let me know like your thoughts! Have you found a better way of doing this? Because then I would love if you wanted to share it with the class. Also you can drop me a voice message on Anchor or you can leave a note in the comments. Let me know if there's a topic that you want me to cover in the future or if there's a question that you have or let me know if there's a part of this process that you would like me to give more information on. Like I said in my intro episode, if it's not something that I know, I do plan on bringing people in who can speak more in depth on these different topics.
Okay that's it thanks for listening! Bye!
Have more questions? Email us at filmmakingactually(at)gmail(dot)com.
Have more than one question? Set up a (free!) consultation with Koura Linda! Limited time slots are based on availability. There is no charge and no sales pitch as part of a one-time consultation. We got this far through the generous mentorship and support from friends and industry leaders who took their time to offer guidance and teaching and advice. It will always be our goal to pay it forward!