Many people have a romanticized idea of what filmmaking is like. Most people think automatically of an actor on location or on a set, and a director in a tall chair, calling the shots. The truth is that while filming is an important part of filmmaking, it is also a very small part of filmmaking. If you want to be successful in the movie business, seriously consider the business of filmmaking.
Filmmaking is a business, and like any business, it needs management. You might not think of filmmakers needing office management software, but the vast bulk of what they do is built on signing contracts and filing paperwork. You have to know how many people you will need on set, hire them in advance, keep to schedule as much as possible, and file all the right paperwork with local authorities. There’s licensing to be done and a lot of phone calls to make before you can start the cameras rolling. You need to purchase or rent all the expensive equipment you’ll need. Extensive design work and planning must be done in the costume department and set department. If you’re filming on location, you’ll need to know where, when, how long, and how to make sure your crew gets there.
In the film industry, as with many other industries, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Many people in the film industry are essentially freelancers, and in order to hire the right freelancers, you need to know the right people. Take actors as an example. Most actors have agents for precisely this reason. Agents know people professionally, they do the bulk of the networking on behalf of their clients and make sure the paperwork is in order as well. The galas and award shows you see on television are big networking and promotion opportunities in the film industry. It may look like fun, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
The actual event of filming is a relatively small part of the filmmaking process, but it’s incredibly complex. The actors are the most visible part, but not the only part. They have assistants to organize their schedules and make sure they have everything they need, there are stand-ins and stunt doubles and wardrobe mistresses. Behind the camera, there’s a lot more than the director. There are cameramen, lighting and sound technicians, people who just make sure that the continuity is correct, make-up artists, the list goes on and on and on. Getting them all in the right place at the right time is a huge logistical feat.
After the last day of shooting, the real work begins. Editing the raw footage alone can take months or even years. Putting in the special effects is a similarly complex undertaking. As you edit, you will almost certainly discover holes that need to be filled with pick-ups. A movie isn’t much without some kind of soundtrack, and that takes time too. On top of all that, you have to arrange for the distribution of the finished product. How will it get to audiences and what will it look like once it gets there? Post-production can turn a mess of a movie into a blockbuster, or it can ruin years of planning and effort.
Promotion and Marketing
All the effort up to this point can be completely wasted without good promotion and marketing. No one will go to see a movie if they haven’t heard anything good about it. Promotion and marketing efforts have to get the work out about a film, in an incredibly competitive environment. Television ads, press tours, and reviews can help build buzz and ensure a successful launch, but you’re rolling the dice every time. Not every good movie succeeds, and not every success is a good movie.
Despite our romantic notions about actors and directors traveling to exotic locations and staying in luxurious locales, filmmaking is a lot of hard work. Most of it isn’t remotely glamorous, and the bulk of the work that really matters isn’t done by the actors.