UNDERSTANDING MOTION PICTURE PRODUCTION"There's no business like show business "
Do you ever watch a movie and say to yourself " Wow! I wish Iwas in a movie! It must be so much fun! " ? Well movies aren't all glamour. They involve tremendous work on the part of everyone participating in making them.
The movie I finished working on was a low budget film.That means that the total cost of making it had to be under $500,000. I was being paid in one week what I would have been paid in one day on a high buget film (meaning a film in which the total cost of making itwould be over $3,000,000). The hours I had to put in were at least 12 a day which meant that if I was to be at the set by 7 in the morning, I would most likely be home by midnight; or if I was to be there at 2 in the afternoon, I wouldn't be home until 4 in the morning. The work I had to do was both pysical as well as mental and even when I was at home, I was working over the phone. My job there was only the Costumer; and if you think that my job sounded tough, can you imagine what it must have been like for the Producer and Director? Most people tend to think that all they do is stand around and give orders. Through this speech, I am going to describe exactly what the jobs of the Director and Producer really are, and what goes into making a feature film.
Before I get started on how films are made, let me get into why films are made. I did two interviews - the first with Chester Fox, a producer who has taught classes in film making at New York University and the Actors' institute, and Nick Manning, a Director who has a PHD in visual arts. Both have worked on several films and I was interested as to why they chose film making as a career. Chester Fox said that he believes that "... Films bring out a whole set of morals and values...They show how man sees man in today's society." Nick manning had a different approach. He said that "...Film is a way of getting a message across to an audience...It is the most interesting form of entertainment these days because it is a combination of all the arts." I asked them if they believed that most people get into "the business" because of the money. After all, the average film Producer can make $300 a day or more per film, and the average film Director can make from $200 up to $1500 a day per film. Both Mr. Fox and Mr. Manning were quite clear about the answer being definately not. According to Mr. Fox "Film is like a baby, you nurture it and it becomes a part of you...You fall in love with your picture even if it doesn't make money." Mr. Manning agreed saying "When you do something in the art world, it could never be like a job...It's something you would sometimes do for no money at all."
Next I asked them," With all the work you have to put in, do you ever get bored and want to give up the business?" Mr. Manning replied that he would not work on a project he didn't enjoy, and if he did then he would have to be well paid to do it, then he could use the money towards a project that he would enjoy. Mr. Fox said that on the set of his films, he winds up doing a variety of jobs. "...That's the fun thing about it..." he says "...I go from project to project and the people become like family." My final question to them was "What type of movie do you believe sells the most today? What do today's viewers want to see?" MrFox's answer was "Unfortunately violence" in contrast to Mr. Manning who believes it is "Romance". After looking through Billboard magazine'sl atest issue, I discovered that interestingly enough, the movie that has been most rented and bought over the last three weeks in a row, was the cartoon movie "Alladin". I wondered why it was that Fiction movies make such an impact on our audiences. As I was reading a book called
"Understanding movies" I came apon my answer. The book stated "...Audiences are highly sophisticated in their responses to non-realistic films. Viewers can almost totally suspend their disbelief, partially suspend it, or alternate between extremes, according to the aesthetic demands of the world of the movies." In other words, we watch movies to escape reality, and by watching them we can acually change our mind frame to believe for those 90 minutes, what we see is real!
Now that we have gone into the "Why" about making films, lets get into the "How". What do these brilliant minds that bring us our "escape routes from reality" have to go through before their movies hit our screens? Let me start by exactly defining what a Feature film is. A Feature Film is a movie that plays in the theatres and runs approximately one and a half hours long. The person in charge of supervising and guiding the Feature along from beggining (Preproduction)to end (Postproduction) is the Producer. It is the Producer's job to hire the necessary people to help make the film and make all final decisions regarding the film. The first thing the Producer must do is finance the film. This is done with the help of a Specialist. A Specialist is a lawyer who uses money invested by several different clients to Finance several different films at the same time and with the help of a studio chosen by the Producer, a deal is made. This deal is based on the fact that there is an idea already existing which will be or has been turned into a Sreenplay or Script. Then there is an agreement made on Salary, Time-Scedule, Screen-Credit, and percentage of the film's Profits. Then a budget must be determined by research on how much money the film will cost to make and how much money will realistically be invested.
The Director must then be hired. The Director is the person who brings the film to life. Steven Spielberg, Director of films such as"E.T.", "Back to the Future", and even more recently "Jurrasic Park", once pointed at the movie camera during an interview and stated"...That's the audience. You can't quite see them but they're looking through this little tube at you and they're responding. " Good Director swill use Creativity, Sensativity, and a touch of Reality while translating the script into a visual work of art and will keep theaudience in mind while they do so. It is that talent, along with the Personality to relate to cast and crew members, and Ability to get the job done that the Director is hired for. "The Director is boss on the set..." said Chester Fox, whom I mentioned earlier "...but the reality is that film is a medium where many people's input is needed. It is a collaborative effort."
On the set, the day begins with "breakfast". That is what the first meal of the day is called no matter what time it is. It is the job of the caterer to provide this and take into account special dietary needs that the crew may have. Then the crew gets their call sheets which tell them exactly what time they must be at the set the following day.
Everybody has a different call time and depending on what job you do, you may have a different call time than someone else on the set. Then the Costumer and Make-up artists must get the actors ready and the Cameraman and Sound operators must get their equiptment lined up for the first take of the day. Once the Gaffers and Grips have built and prepared the set, everyone must stand by for several reherals and camera rehersals to make sure that the shot looks its best through the lense.
Then the Assistant Director makes sure that there is quiet on the set and gives the signal to roll sound and camera. The Director says that famous word "ACTION!" and the first take is in progress. To make sure that the shot is as correct as possible, they will shoot the scene many times and at different angles. They may have to shoot one single line over ten times before the Director is satisfied with it. While I was watching a T.V. show about making films the other day, there was a clip shown from the movie "Hot Shots" in which they had spent days making a perfect mold model of Saddam Hussein and it was to fall to the floor and smash into peices. The scene was shot but the camera they used wasn't fast enough to catch all the special effects so a new, more advanced camera had to be brought in and all the effort they had put into making the mold had to be redone. This is an example of some of the technical difficulties that film makers have to go through. At the end of each day, the film is taken to a lab where a Daily and Sound Daily will be created. The next day, while other shots are being filmed, an Editor will take both Dailies and mix them together so that the Sound and Picture are synchronized. After many weeks of shooting, there is a Wrap and the filming has been completed. Then all the Dailies are given to another Editor who will put the film together in it's proper order. Then a composer is hired to watch the film a create a musical score for the film. The music is then dubbed over the film and it is ready to be Distributed. A Distributer will either buy the film for a flat fee or a deal is made on certain conditions that the movie will gross a certain amount of money at the box office. Only after this entire process is completed do we get to see what comes to our movie screens.
Keeping all this in mind, maybe the next time you sit down to watch a film, you will really appreciate the time and effort put into what you just paid 7 dollars and 50 cents to see.
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