Producing a film or series… How does it actually work? - episode 1

A phased process

What’s the story?

The production of an audiovisual project can follow diverse and tortuous paths… There are, however, four accepted key stages: development, pre-production, production and post-production

The development stage marks the start of the adventure, as this is when the rights are negotiated over the “story” that the film will recount. It might be based on an existing work (such as a novel, for instance) or on any other element of content such as a striking event (personal or otherwise) or historic deed. Once the property rights have been acquired and an option taken, the development process can get underway. The audiovisual project’s producer generally recruits one (or more) screenwriter(s) to adapt the tale into a format tailored to the audiovisual project. As a general rule, this involves a “reduction” of the story in line with certain constraints in terms of “time” – the official minimum length of a feature film is 58 minutes and 29 seconds, which is equivalent to one standard 1,600-metre-long reel of  35-mm film – and of “resources”, as there’s no point writing a screenplay that would be impossible to finance. This phase generally lasts several months and once the screenplay’s ready, the producer can finalise the project’s budget and establish the production logistics and schedule, the shoot planning, the cost calculations and the funding plan. In parallel to this, they will look for a director and actors and take the steps required to secure the project’s funding. This might take one… or often several years. So for producers, patience is a must! 

Last update on : 13.04.2021

Logistical preparations

Now let’s get into the heart of the matter as we move on to the pre-production phase. What’s it all about? Well it covers various aspects such as the signing of contracts with the director, actors and technical team, the finalisation of agreements with the financiers, preparations by the production managers, insurance contracts and location scouting. Thought must also be given to the requirements in terms of costume designers, camera personnel and production coordinators, all in close liaison with the producer and director. So clearly, pre-production is first and foremost a question of logistics!

Last update on : 13.04.2021

Lights, camera, action!

After the pre-production phase comes the production itself. Clearly, the key element here is the filming of the audiovisual production. Everything’s got to be ready: technicians, previously identified locations, studios, lighting, make-up and catering. This phase generally takes a matter of weeks (a shoot tends to last between 25 and 55 days for a feature film). Filming is frequently split between highly varied locations and therefore requires the transportation of the teams from one shoot location to another, sometimes on different continents. What’s more, all this has to happen within a fairly short time period, as each person has other commitments to meet. Just think for a moment about the impact of the seasons on the ambiance of specific scenes from a film: a summer scene cannot be shot in winter…

When it comes to the editing and the sound & image mixing, plus, where applicable, the creation of special effects, we talk about the post-production phase. Once the director decides that their film is finished, they obtain a “zero copy” and the film then moves into the distribution phase.

Last update on : 13.04.2021


Calculation tool