Filmmaking: In the Beginning

In the years following the rise of the various social revolutions that took place in this country and abroad, the making of film changed vastly from the old world of film studio dominance to the exciting world of independent film. In the 50's, 60's and even 70's, independent film was synonymous with Underground film, art film, and foreign film.
Simply defined, a film that is independent is a film made outside of the umbrella of the studio without the funding or distribution options offered.

Producing a film independently has become quite popular, and this is due to the public no longer being satisfied with the Hollywood formula. The audiences of today have become much more sophisticated and expect something different and new every time they sit down to watch a film. The old Hollywood formula just doesn't cut it anymore for entertainment. It has been too predictable for film buffs. We look for cutting edge, quirky and groundbreaking films.

However, the most important aspect of independent film is that anyone with a song in their heart and the burning desire to make a film can now do so. We have the new technologies to thank for this as well as the public's yearning for raw footage with a gritty storyline. So this means you can achieve your dream of making a film, and you don't have to be a big film studio to get it made. It also means that you have the joys of the financial headaches and creative challenges.

There are three main phases of making a film: pre-production, production, and post-production. There might also be a 4th phase: distribution (if you're lucky). The longest phase of making a film is pre-production. This is also the most important part of the production, because it is what makes the film. Without good planning it will be difficult to get anything off the ground.

While you don't really need one, it is good to have a script. So in the beginning you have to have a story, a concept, or an idea. Once you have one, you can move on to all other modes of production planning. Of course, there are several ways you can tell your story, but in filmmaking there are two main classes of film. These would be the short film and the feature length film. It is usually better to start off with a short film rather than a feature length film, and if you are a film student, you rarely have time to produce feature length films.

A professional screenplay is typically scripted for a run time of 90 minutes in three acts. Each act is approximately 30 pages long, and each page is the screen equivalent of one minute. This is a timing consideration that is more typical of the American film industry than it is of the rest of the world film making community. European films have less restrictions concerning film length. Rather, they have the tendency to let the film unfold and tell itself, allowing however much time it takes to tell the story.

Once you have written your screenplay, if you have no immediate plans for production it is best to write a treatment, which best describes the film in a nice neat three-page write-up. These three pages represent one act of your screenplay in a treatment, and is the format commonly acceptable to shop your screenplay. Very often, this is all that gets read, and can make or break your screenplay's acceptance. However, for the independent filmmaker, all you need is a working script and you are on your way!


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