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How Films are made: The Production Cycle behind your favourite movie.

As Dostoevsky noted all Arts imitate life to some degree. Film making is a particularly interesting example of this. As an Art form film can often affect us in a more visceral way than other Arts. Cinema joins the two ways of communication which most define humans as a species: Sight and Sound. Film tells us a story by showing it to us. Many people ask me about the details of my “behind the scenes work”, asking me how “are films made”? Below is a very simple outline of the process through which films are made.

Almost all films, especially those being produced for commercial consumption goes through a production cycle composed of five phases: conception, planning, execution, revision, and distribution. Each of these, in turn correspond to the following main stages of production:

  1. Development
  2. Pre-production
  3. Production
  4. Post-production
  5. Distribution

The production cycle of a film takes about three years: The first year deals with development, the second with pre – production and production and, the third year deals with post – production and distribution.

In pre – production preparations are made to shoot the film. Casts and crews are hired, locations are selected and sets are built. During this phase the idea for the film is developed and legal aspects pertaining to obtaining rights (of books, plays and earlier films) are taken care of.

During production the actual filming of the project begins. Vast amounts of recordings are done. This supplies the “raw elements” which will then be modified and polished in post – production.

In post – production much editing occurs to enhance what will been heard and seen in the finished product. Dialogues between characters are edited, songs and music tracks are composed, and sound effects are designed and recorded. During this phase any other necessary visual effects may be added digitally, through CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). Finally all sound elements are mixed into “stems”. These stems are then mixed joined with to the visual elements and the film is fully completed (“locked”). At this point it is ready for distribution.

Distribution is the final stage of film production. Here the film is duplicated and packaged for display in cinemas or onto consumer media (DVD, Blu-ray etc) and may even be prepared for direct download from an authorized provider. Because of the high financial risk involved in film making film much promotion is undertaken. Expensive marketing campaigns to seek to maximize returns early in the release cycle.

Usually a film is released with a launch party, press kits, posters, and other advertising materials, interviews with the press, press preview screenings, and film festival screenings. The film plays at selected cinemas and the DVD typically is released to the public a few months later.

So the next time you visit the cinema to watch the next blockbuster, give a brief thought to the long process it went through. I am eagerly awaiting “Skyfall” the 23rd James Bond film. “Skyfall” will be released later this year as part of the part of yearlong celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and the James Bond series.

What will you watch?

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