Pre-Shooting Stage

Pre-Shooting Stage in Film Production Process

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Film Production Process

Pre-Shooting Stage

Movie-making typically involves several stages that can run in parallel. Each stage involves meticulous planning, organization, and attention to detail.

The pre-shooting stage, also called pre-production, is the foundation stage of a film and is crucial for its success. Filmmakers plan every aspect of their project, from script development to casting, location scouting, and budgeting.

A well-planned and organized pre-shooting phase is the key to a successful and smooth filmmaking journey. It sets the stage for a film that captivates and resonates with its audience.

Conceptualization of a Story

The pre-shooting stage often begins with conceptualizing a story idea. A story can be converted into a film project in multiple ways.

  • A writer has a story. He or she contacts a production house in Mumbai, such as Yashraj Films, Dharma Productions, Excel Entertainment, Red Chillis Entertainment, or any other small or big production house elsewhere in India. The production house likes the story and agrees to produce the film. They will then hire actors, directors, DOPs, and everyone else required to start planning the film shoot.
  • A writer has a story. He or she contacts an actor who likes the story and agrees to play the role. Then, they approach a producer and show them that an actor has shown interest in the story, which convinces the producer to make the film.
  • A producer or someone else with a lot of money and connections in the film industry who wanted to be in the business of film for creative satisfaction or to earn money hired a writer to write a story and make the film.
  • A production company wants to make a film about something. They hire a writer for the story, and then the process follows.

By this time, the story has been converted into a screenplay, which is the format in which the film is shot. The screenplay shapes the story cinematically by creating scenes, characters, dialogue, and plot flow. Sometimes, the screenplay also describes locations, moods, and camera movements.

Here is a clip from the movie Dangal; read the screenplay of this particular scene below.

YouTube player

Pre-Shooting Stage Pre-Shooting Stage Pre-Shooting Stage Pre-Shooting Stage

Hiring the Crew

The Writer’s Team

In filmmaking, the roles of screenwriters, dialogue writers, and story writers can sometimes overlap, but they each have distinct responsibilities.

The story writer creates the initial concept and narrative framework. They develop the characters, plotlines, and major events that drive the story forward. This often involves conceptualizing the film’s central idea or theme and outlining the plot’s structure.

The screenwriter converts the story into a screenplay format. This involves writing the scenes, action, and dialogue that will be depicted on screen. The dialogue writer focuses specifically on crafting the spoken lines for the characters.

However, in many instances, especially in smaller productions, the same person or a collaborative team working under the film’s director may play these roles.

Storyboard Artists

The storyboard is a way to visualize the entire movie in advance. Traditionally, a storyboard was created on paper through sketches. However, with the advent of modern digital tools, photography, animation, color, and notes are used to highlight key characters, scenes, and objects.

pre-shooting stage

Storyboards aren’t just for understanding scenes; they can also be used for a variety of other reasons, including:

  • Visual Planning: Organize the order of a story and flow before filming.
  • Pacing and Timing: Control the narrative’s speed.
  • Visual Composition: Experiment with shots and angles.
  • Pre-visualization: Preview complex scenes or effects.
  • Resource Planning: Plan props, sets, and wardrobes more efficiently.
  • Collaboration: Align efforts so the crew is working towards the same goal.
  • Presentations: Convey ideas to clients, investors, and the director.
  • Problem Solving: Identify and address any issues before shooting begins.
  • Continuity: Maintain uniformity in style and design throughout the film.

The Director’s Team

Once the final screenplay is ready, it is handed over to the direction team to start with the pre-production process. The direction team typically has 3–4 assistant directors (ADs). However, the number of ADs can increase to double digits in larger projects.

The director’s team also has a head called the associate director or first assistant director (first AD). The first AD works closely with the director to comprehend their vision and requirements and manages their team of ADs to fulfill those requirements.

The First AD is crucial in ensuring smooth communication and coordination between the Direction Team and other teams involved in the production. This includes communicating with the Art Direction, Camera, and Post Production teams to update them on the director’s requirements. The First AD is also responsible for assembling the entire movie.

The assistant directors execute the director’s vision. Each AD is responsible for managing at least one department of the process, such as Costume, Background, Postproduction, Art, etc.

pre-shooting stage

The ADs job is to decide locations for shooting various scenes, actor dates, shoot schedules, production requirements, art requirements, set-building, costume trials, make-up sessions, performance workshops, shooting permissions, research, and coordinating with all the other vendors for various requirements.

While the Director may interact with all teams, the ADs work behind the scenes to ensure the production runs seamlessly at a micro-level.

The director collaborates with the music team to determine the tone and soundtrack of the film. Often, the music creation process begins during the screenplay writing stage. The responsibilities of the Director of Photography (DOP) and the post-production team (responsible for visual effects, dubbing, and sound) are also decided at this stage.

Normally, this process takes anywhere from 15 days to 3 or 4 months, depending on the project.

Casting

The casting director works closely with the director, producer, and sometimes the screenwriter to make casting decisions. He carefully reads and analyzes the script to comprehend the lead and supporting characters’ personalities, backgrounds, and relationships.

pre-shooting stage

This understanding guides the casting process to ensure that the actors selected are suitable for their respective roles. The casting director arranges auditions for actors.

Once actors are selected for roles, the casting director may negotiate contracts and terms with their agents. This includes discussing compensation, scheduling, and other contractual details.

The Production Team

The production team handles the budget and takes care of the actual requirements on the set, including props, set requirements, animals, crowds, food, crew services, and many other things.

The Executive Producer is typically the head of the Production Team. The production company appoints them, and they are in charge of overseeing every aspect of the production process. They lead a team of line producers who manage the various production tasks.

The Art Direction Team

The production designer, or art director, oversees the art team creating the film sets. The art team creates every element in the movie, including a house, a street, a market, and anything else.

The Art Director has a team of ADs, graphic designers, carpenters, painters, artists, and other creative resources to help execute the vision.

The Camera and Light Team

pre-shooting stage

The Director of Photography, also known as a cinematographer, is in charge of the camera and light team. The DOP envisions the scene and decides the best way to shoot it.

The DOP decides where the camera should be placed, which lens should be used, how the camera will move, the lighting for the scene, etc.

The Costume and Make-up Department

The Costume Department provides the necessary attire for actors, background artists, dancers, stunt performers, and body doubles. One designer and their team manage the costumes for lead actors, while another set of designers and their team look after the other actors and background artists.

pre-shooting stage

A big film set has numerous trunks filled with shoes, clothes, accessories, and every imaginable clothing item. Additionally, a team of tailors is available on set to make quick alterations as necessary.

The costume is an essential element of a film’s look, and the colors and textures must be discussed with the costume designer, the production design department, the director and director of photography, and maybe even the makeup and hair departments.

Budgeting

When planning a film, it’s important to consider the logistical elements involved and the associated costs. This will help determine the budget required to achieve the creative vision.

The production team’s job is to research the costs of everything required in production so that the funds can be allocated effectively. 

Creative Planning

Once department heads are recruited, the director will start the creative planning. This stage allows the departments to determine their needs to fulfill the director’s vision. They’ll meet regularly and tell the line producer what they need so the budget can be adjusted.

This is the time for the line producer or production manager to ask big questions and identify risks. For example, whether the production designer needs extra time to build a tricky set or the cinematographer needs specific equipment to create unique special effects for a certain shot.

Scheduling

pre-shooting stage
Sample Call Sheet

Line producers prepare a preliminary production schedule. A call sheet is prepared to organize the crew and actors. It outlines everything everyone involved in film production must know before the shoot. Crucial elements like location, contact details, schedule, and, most importantly, the arrival time are minutely listed in call sheets.

The Film section in the CUET UG 2024 Mass Media and Communication syllabus includes this topic.

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