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The ultimate guide to the filmmaking process.

Explore motion picture fundamentals and tips from film industry professionals to become the toast of the film festival circuit.

Understand the four key stages of the filmmaking process.

Discover the different stages of filmmaking and the jobs they entail with this rundown on:

  • Ideation
  • Preproduction
  • Production
  • Post-production

Film production is an epic undertaking.

Whether you’re making a short film, music video, or feature film, there’s a lot to learn before you embark on your film project. From storyboards to sound design to cinematography to screenwriting, the sheer number of different disciplines involved in filmmaking can be staggering. The process of making your big-screen dream a reality can be broken down into four major stages.

1. Develop your film's premise.

Every movie, whether it’s a low-budget indie film or a Hollywood blockbuster, starts out as an idea. Eventually that idea turns into a screenplay — and that screenplay becomes a movie. Explore these different ways to get the creative juices flowing and kick off your project: 

Short films are a point of entry for many filmmaking students. While these projects are smaller in scale than feature films, they’re no less complex or capable of telling moving and impactful stories.

Once you’ve found your inspiration, it’s time to put it down on paper. Discover how professional screenwriters format and craft their screenplays to create compelling characters and thrilling adventures — and attract the attention of major production companies or streaming companies like Netflix.

With your script in hand, you can finally start thinking about grabbing a cinema camera and getting to work. Before you start, read up on how much time you can expect to spend turning your vision into a reality.

Three women discussing a scene in a screenplay workshop.

2. Start preproduction.

In preproduction you’ll start planning and preparing to shoot your movie. This can include making a shot list and finding actors and crew members, like camera operators and production designers. Learn more about a few of these preproduction jobs and tools:

Figure out the look of your movie by sketching it out shot by shot during the storyboarding process. When you’re in production, your cinematographer can refer back to the storyboards to understand your vision and know what camera angles to use.

You may need to update your movie’s screenplay with important information the film crew needs so they can do their jobs. Learn the terminology and industry lingo to call out specific lighting, props, camera movements, visual effects, or other key details so the crew knows how to prepare.

Although cinematographers and videographers both work with cameras, their roles are not the same. Discover the unique skillsets of each discipline to determine which of these different types of industry professionals is the right choice to shoot your movie.

Two filmmakers going through a storyboard.
Image of a sound crew member logging notes.

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3. Go into production.

Production is when the rubber meets the road, all the careful planning pays off, and you finally get to start shooting your movie. Grab tips and insights on how to pull off a smooth shoot: 

Learn the basics of how to make a film or video from the first draft to the final cut. Use advice and strategies from expert filmmakers to bring your project in on schedule and under budget.

Get specialized tips for success if the short film you’re shooting is destined for TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, or any other corner of the internet.

If you’re planning to add visual effects to your movie in post-production, you’ll want to film your actors in front of a solid-color background to make it easier to implement your computer-generated images. Read up on the differences between a blue screen and a green screen to determine which one you want to use.

If you’re making an animated film, your production process won’t include live actors in physical locations. Learn about the programs and processes you can use to make a high-quality professional animation that’ll give Pixar a run for their money.

A person being filmed working at a video editing station

4. Put it all together in post-production.

Post-production is the last step in the filmmaking process, but it’s by no means the least important. Discover advice and info to help you put the finishing touches on your project:

Explore the best techniques, workflows, and editing software to polish your footage and make every scene look spectacular on the big screen.

Want to add a spaceship to your sci-fi epic or transport your audience to a lavish fantasy kingdom? Read up on visual effects and steps you can take on and off set to maximize their realism and effectiveness.

Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro are both powerful pieces of software for editing your movie, each with its own distinctive strengths. Learn which program is the right choice for each of your post-production needs.

Whether you love grindhouse or fine art films, begin your filmmaking journey today.

You don’t have to move to New York or Los Angeles and attend a fancy film school to learn how to make a movie. While a great filmmaking program can be very educational, you can gather practical knowledge anywhere. Plus, you can find much of the information, advice, and mentoring you need online — and all of the greatest filmmaking lessons can be learned on set while you’re making your film a reality.

 

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