We all believe we understand the steps of making a film, but I’ve encountered enough productions to recognize that we often SKIP important steps for various reasons: Excitement, lack of funds, scheduling demands, opportunities, lack of experience, and general outside forces.
None of this is a judgement, just admitting it is the first step to becoming a more proficient and responsible filmmaker. After about a dozen films, I think I got it, but then I started a micro-budget pandemic-fueled filming frenzy and threw all the rules out of the window of a moving car again. I need to take a minute and spell it out for myself, so YOU may find it valuable to review again, too!
- Inspiration – Sometimes story driven, sometimes culture driven, sometimes opportunity driven.
- Development – Flesh it out, there are no bad ideas here. Don’t worry about how you got here, just get in and get your hands dirty, nothing else will matter if you don’t give this stage your whole self.
- Goal Setting – Team activity AND personal activity. Big honesty here sets you on a clear path.
- Business and financial structuring – Create your above the line team in your mind to make this a solid stage that doesn’t need to be re-worked. Ask for advice from as many colleagues as possible.
- Financing`- I think you need a crystal ball to get here. Or being born into or introduced into a pretty rad situation. This is a rarely earned position, but you gotta prove that you belong here to get back here again. I like to tout this plan to help get you started: Get endorsements (be connected to a cause related to your story), find relevant non-profits to partner (for awareness), find Sponsors (in-kind: props, locations, wardrobe, …), business partnerships (legit cash or trade), package team, crowd-fund (or seek venture capital), and then rely on personal support (call on social capital).
- Pre-production – Hit the ground running. Always do a more thorough job than what’s necessary. Set yourself up for contingencies. Ask for help, ask for partners, ask for favors. We all do, don’t be shy.
- Principal photography – GET IT ON THE SCREEN. No matter what, go the extra mile to get in on the screen.
- Post-production – Find the right team, pay them well, and be imaginative in re-working this project into a completely new iteration.
- Testing/finishing – Don’t be a fool, you NEED to test with a handful of strangers and really examine their thoughts before you throw the surveys away. They are your first line of legitimate criticism and addressing concerns at this stage will either help you avoid missteps OR help you prepare your answers for when real critics come in to play later.
- Marketing – How you market to festivals and distributors is different than how you advertise to the consumer audience down the road, they overlap, but your release will be informed by this process.
- Festivals – Do it. Aim high but don’t be too prideful to spread it out to middle and smaller fests too, that’s where you make lots of relationships for longevity in this industry.
- Distribution – I’ve written a lot about distribution over the years, read a few articles and ask advice from filmmakers before talking to anyone you have to pay or hire for advice.
- Publicity & Advertising – Pay for it. Professionals do it best. And Press only comes from this route done well.
- Release – Give it your all! But take breaks. It’s a marathon.
- Premiere – This COULD happen before festivals or at festivals or before release, this is a floating option for every film.
- Maintenance – Don’t neglect your team or your fans, stay engaged and prepare for at least a year of supporting this film.
- Community building – Lob up your team into their next projects, get ready for your next project, engage online, engage with screenings and groups, be generous, make friends, and invest your time/energy. The more you give, the more you harvest in the long run. Remember this step along the way.
Am I forgetting a step? Holla at me @JennicaRenee