So like everyone else on YouTube, you want to become a filmmaker. It looks like fun, creative people everywhere are taking a liking to it, and it’s becoming less difficult. And by less difficult, what I really mean is less expensive. This is because cheap cameras are getting good, and good cameras are getting cheap. Chances are, you have a 4k video camera in your pocket right now — or maybe you’re reading this blog post from one.
Regardless of how nice and easy technology continues to make our lives and hobbies, there is still a proven process that should be followed. Anyone with decent equipment can start filming videos, but only those who understand the actual process behind it will have what it takes to create something worth watching.
Today, I’m going to share this process with you. All your favorite directors live by it, and it can be adopted by creatives at any stage in their filmmaking career. Hobby or work, this is how you’re going to get better.
The 3 Steps of Filmmaking
This first stage is essentially your road map (or bible, as I like to call it) of your production.
Here, it’s time to figure out absolutely everything.
You’ll want to:
- Write your script
- Storyboard your scenes
- Plan your shots
- Cast actors
- Scout locations
- Curate the style and feel
- Decide on animations and special effects
Whether you’re working with a client or not, this ensures that you stick with what you planned. This is by far the most boring and important part of filmmaking and it will also save you time down the road. When you have multiple projects happening simultaneously, this is how you’ll keep everything straight and eliminate opportunities for confusion or miscommunication. Plus, having a solid vision and wireframe for your video will make the next 2 stages much more efficient. If there was one area of filmmaking you need to work on, it’s not your camera moves or focus pulls — it’s your pre-production.
This is where you Cinematic Sages out there really shine. The goal of the production stage is to capture all the necessary elements that were decided upon in pre-production. In theory, your filming days should go exactly as planned — in the real world, this rarely happens. There will always be factors outside of your control and unexpected circumstances, but the main objective is that you have a plan that’s being followed.
Your pre-production plan will guide you through and help eliminate any issues that could or should have been avoided. And because you planned out each shot weeks before even arriving on site, every scene will be shot, lit, and recorded with detail and intention. That’s what makes the difference between a video and a film.
“Keep calm — we’ll fix it in post!” is a common phrase amongst creatives, although not necessarily words to live by.
Most of your mistakes will be fixed in editing but that doesn’t mean that all your mistakes can be wiped out. If you’ve planned properly, editing should really be the easy part. If the first 2 stages went well, then you should already know what clips go where on your timeline and most mistakes would’ve been mitigated.
For me, the flow goes a little something like this:
The vision comes together in the editing room, and the process starts by laying down your A-roll, which is your script. Speakers, interviews, and talking clips are played out to get a basic idea of the overall story and duration. Once completed, B-roll is added on top to fill gaps and provide more details to the viewer. These shots can be more cinematic but are used primarily to help back up the story or context. Now, you have a rough cut.
This is the ideal place for you and your client to stop and review the project before proceeding. Once you are pleased with your rough cut, there are a few final important edits to be made. The first will be audio mixing. You want to ensure the main purpose of the video is heard loud and clear, whether it’s through the script, sound effects, music, or all of the above. You always want to edit audio using headphones or a quality pair of monitors to ensure you’re hearing all the details in your audio. Lastly, there’s the color correction to match the style that was planned during your pre-production phase. This is the icing on the cake that will really tie together all the other aspects of the production.
Regardless of what you’re shooting or how big or small your project is, THIS PROCESS WORKS. The first stage is the most important by far so give it the time and attention it deserves. Adopting this model for all your filmmaking projects moving forward will help you uplevel your skills and show your clients (or your employer) you know what you’re doing.
Have any questions? Ask away, I’m always here to help.