Film Pre-Production [10 Important Steps To Remember]

Film Pre-Production
Film Pre-Production

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Want to make the most out of film pre-production?

We’ve listed the 10 major steps you should be paying attention to whilst planning your film shoot. As you likely know, pre-production is the filmmaking process that takes place after you have sourced the screenplay but before you shoot the film.

And by taking this stage seriously you can avoid problems that in effect save you time and money. After all, to make a good film every step needs to be carefully designed and planned!

So if you are about to embark on a filmmaking venture this new year check out the steps below. We also have a resource section where you can download free film production form templates.

1. Budget

Film production budget

You can’t start film pre-production without an initial budget. To create a budget estimate, first breakdown your screenplay into scenes. Then list all of the elements that are needed to film each scene. These elements include everything that you can see such as locations, cast, and props as well as your film crew and equipment.

Research and make an estimate of how much all of these elements will cost to get together. You will be updating your budget throughout film pre-production.

To start pre-production your first major cost is going will be your screenwriter and story rights.

2. Above-the-line Crew

Above-the-line Crew

Above-the-line means any essential crew members that need to be sourced during the early stages of film pre-production. This includes the following:

  • Screenwriter
  • Producer
  • Director
  • Production Designer
  • Director Of Photography

You might also wish to lock a 1st assistant director, editor and composer (essential if shooting a musical). By hiring key crew members in advance the pre-production wheel can start to spin. Lead actors are also considered as above-the-line and furthermore, early casting can help with scheduling and securing a budget.

3. Script Breakdown

Script Breakdown

Breaking down your script lets you know what you need to source before filming each scene. The script breakdown is often done by the producer and production team but you can do this yourself.

To break down your script list all of the elements in each scene. Once you have a breakdown you can begin to gather your elements. Elements are everything that you can visually see in the scene. For example:

  • Cast
  • Location
  • Props
  • Costume
  • Set Design
  • Vehicles

4. Storyboards

Film storyboard

Storyboards and shot lists can help you visualize your film. The director and director of photography will work together to produce these storyboards alongside a storyboard artist.

Keep in mind not every film needs to be storyboarded. Sometimes only special effects and complex shots are pre-visualized like this.

5. Locations

Film locations

An important step in film pre-production is finding and securing locations. You might wish to hire a location manager to make this process easier. Permission and permits are going to be needed for all locations. That is unless you are shooting guerilla-style with a very small team.

Location recces will also be carried out with all heads of departments attending.

6. Casting

Film pre-production casting

As I have said you might choose to cast lead actors at the start of film pre-production. Ideally, before filming begins all actors need to be cast and any supporting artists found.

By now you should have a general idea of your production filming dates and be able to begin the full hiring process. To help with this we also have a detailed article on how to cast actors for your indie film.

7. Below-the-line Crew

Below-the-line Crew

Below the line means all other crew members. This includes any other heads of department and their assistants.

  • Assistant Directors
  • Sound Department
  • Makeup Department
  • Costume Department
  • Camera Department
  • Art Department

Every head of a department will be able to help you find assistants to hire (for example, the makeup artist will have their own assistants).

Alternatively, as a producer, you can advertise for crew on online job sites and crew databases.

At this stage, production meetings will be carried out between all departments. It’s important that all departments are in communication with one another.

8. Film Production Insurance

Insurance is essential even for the lowest of budgets. Consider how expensive equipment can cost and that everyone will be bringing their own equipment to set. It makes sense to prepare for the worse, the last thing you want is to have a surprise bill to pay at the end of production.

Make sure to fully secure story rights, location permissions and make sure to get all paperwork filled out before filming. The UK’s film union Bectu can help you with public liability insurance.

9. Film Equipment

Film equipment

You might be renting out, buying, or hiring crew who own equipment. This includes equipment for the camera department, grip, lighting, and sound. If you’re shooting low-budget, we have a guide on the best budget cameras.

Other departments such as the art department might also need you to hire additional equipment. Be sure to check that all departments have what they need before production.

10. Rehearsals

Some directors wish to have rehearsal time with the actors. Additionally, costume and makeup might also need time with the actors for screen tests. And If you’re shooting a special effects-heavy film test shoots are going to be essential.

During this stage, more film pre-production meetings will be carried out. And lastly, before production begins the shooting schedule is finalized.

Film Pre-Production – Wrapping Up

For the most part film pre-production is a straight forward process. Follow the steps above and deal with problems as they come.

The pre-production stage should be the longest stage you spend time on whilst making your film. In short, by being overly prepared you will effectively save both time and money.

Amy Clarke
Amy Clarke
Amy is a content writer at the Video Collective. She is a former script supervisor and writes about careers in the film industry. Follow her on Facebook.
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