the filmmaking process

What are the five stages of filmmaking?

There are five stages of film production and they include development, pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. Understanding the different stages, what is involved at each stage and the filmmaking process is key to success in the filmmaking industry.

infographic showing the five stages of filmmaking

So you are desperate to succeed in the film industry and jump out of bed in the morning, ready to get stuck in and start your next film project, however, do you then get held back and face challenge after challenge on your filmmaking journey only to compromise and eventually get exhausted by the whole project and give up?

You are not alone in this. Millions of filmmakers across the globe face the same challenge. They have a fantastic idea for a movie or film but just can’t get it going, or at least in an acceptable time frame and budget.

I was discussing this recently with a group of indie filmmaker friends and we wondered, why do some filmmaking projects “just flow” while others sink? Are some people just more talented at film production? Is there a secret sauce to producing a film?

After much discussion, my filmmaker friends and we concluded that the key to successful film production is planning. 

Personally, from my experience as a music composer for film, the best and most successful film projects I have worked on are film projects that are well planned so I can vouch for this. 

So, how can I break down the filmmaking process into stages that will result in a well thought out plan and manage my expectations?

Stage 1: Development 

Have you ever heard the phrase “my film is in development?”

Many of us might be super impressed by this statement but at this stage, nothing is made or decided. Everything is still just an idea that is being considered, planned and thought out. 

At this point, the following should be achieved:

  • The film idea or movie concept is well-formed and thought out.
  • The script is complete.
  • An idea for the total film budget should be evaluated and ideally confirmed. 
  • Initial casting may be done to evaluate potential talent.
  • Locations are confirmed 

This is a very tentative stage of film production. Making a film can be a big endeavour. You will be working with a large group of people and need to organise people well and not mess them around or you will lose your leading cast and key crew before the camera gets turned on!

Before taking on any big project, assess and evaluate. This is what the development stage is really about – ask yourself, is it:

  • A good idea?
  • Can it be made?
  • Where can it be made?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?

From this stage, once the film is fully developed there is the opportunity to approach a film studio or investor for financial support.

music for videos on youtube download

Stage 2: Pre-Production

This is a critical phase of filmmaking that often gets overlooked. At this stage, you have the preliminary go-ahead to make your movie. Now is the time to expand the points raised in stage 1 and ensure you are on top of things. 

You need to start thinking more like a Project Manager and less like a filmmaker at this point. It is time to ask the following questions?

  • Can we get permits to shoot at the selected locations? 
  • What cast is available 
  • What is our confirmed budget? 
  • What crew is available? 
  • What sets and wardrobe do we need? 
  • What contingencies do we have if we can’t shoot in a certain location?

This stage is about the details and answering the questions raised in stage one but with more detail and final answers.

film making action

Stage 3: Production

This is the fun bit and what we all identify with as filmmakers. In a nutshell, this is the filmmaking stage when the cameras are rolling. 

Having a good plan in place from stage 1 & stage 2 of the filmmaking process can really help the production phase go smoothly.

It is critical for the production to go smoothly and for directors, crew and cast to all get along and know exactly what they are doing. This is both true for multi-million pound productions and local indie films. If your production goes smoothly, your cast and crew will return and propel your career.  

background music depiction

Stage 4: Post Production

This is the stage where a film can soar or tank. At this critical stage, the footage is edited, special effects added, the sound design incorporated and music scores composed. 

Editing is often overlooked but is essential to the film pace and storytelling.  Typically as a music composer for film, this is the stage at which I will get called upon and often receive raw footage to score music too. 

It is a key stage as it brings all the creative elements together from directing, acting, filming, storytelling and more and creates a finished product that is the accumulation of months of hard work and sweat. 

Video Game Music

Stage 5: Distribution

After all this hard work, you will want the world to see your creative media creation. Distribution of indie films, in particular, is a widely discussed topic as there are many routes to finding your audience. 

In a nutshell, the quality of your distribution will impact the financial return on investment. 

Film festivals are one of the better ways to reach an audience as they can draw attention to your work from the professional filmmaking community and true film critics. 

movie making action

Final thoughts…

Making a film can be a daunting and overwhelming task but breaking down the filmmaking process into stages can turn the film into a manageable process. 

Planning is the key to success when undertaking a film production and never underestimate the amount of work involved.

Understanding the film making process and breaking it down into these five component steps can help you manage the task and stay on top of the production process and produce a result you are proud of. 

Do you have any tips or experience you can offer and share with aspiring filmmakers starting off on their filmmaking journey?

Please drop your comments below.

Happy filmmaking!

Louise Byrne Music Producer Profile

Louise Byrne is a UK based Composer and Music Producer who writes & produces music for filmmakers & content creators.

Her music has been used globally by major broadcasting houses & brands such as MTV, Discovery Channel, Discovery Science Channel, The History Channel, Fox Sports, VISA, BBC, NBC Sports & many more.


Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.

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