Cheat Sheet

Filmmaking For Dummies

From Filmmaking For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Bryan Michael Stoller

The responsibilities of a filmmaking team can be compared to those of the host of people needed to pull off a fine-dining experience from the director/chef to the production assistants/servers. As a filmmaker, you have to be organized enough to know what you need to have in order before you start filming and what to bring to a location shoot. And, if you can get high production values in your film for not a lot of money, you'll be all the more successful.

The Roles in a Filmmaking Production Team

Making a film requires the talents and abilities of a production team. To understand the roles of a film production team, you can compare the positions of each crew member to the people needed to prepare a fine meal. The following chart lists the common positions found on a typical film production team and explains their responsibilities.

Position Responsibility Position Responsibility
Writer Writes the list of ingredients Boom operator Gets the microphone in close to hear all the crunches and lip smacking
Executive producer Pays for the cost of the dinner Gaffer Lights the food to look good (sets the mood with a candlelit dinner)
Line producer Finds where to get the best deals Grips Help with the utensils for eating the meal
Producer Purchases the groceries, helps choose the brands Production assistants Act as waiters and busboys
Casting director Chooses the food that's ripe for the picking Make-up person Brushes on healthy colors to prepare the food to look appetizing
Location scout Locates the dinner location Wardrobe person Dresses the food to look tasty
Transportation Transports the guests to the table Production designer Enhances the setting and decorates it for dinner
Director Takes all the ingredients and cooks them into a great meal Prop master Supplies the appropriate tableware, including plates and glasses
Assistant director Assists the chef Stunt coordinator Rigs the exploding champagne bottles and smashing of silverware
Script supervisor Makes sure the chef follows the recipe Editor Serves the meal in continuity (appetizer first, entrée next, dessert at the end)
Director of photography (cinematographer) Makes the food look really good Composer Creates the right music atmosphere for enjoying the meal
Sound mixer Records all the crunches and lip smacking Post-production supervisor Cleans up the mess

A Filmmaker's Pre-Shooting Checklist

A pre-shooting checklist is a must for any filmmaker. Using a checklist helps you to prepare certain things before even setting foot on your set. Increase your chances of having a successful shoot by using this checklist:

  • Make sure the money's in the bank (is your investor for real?).

  • Hire a great cook or caterer.

  • Buy insurance (for crew, equipment, and locations).

  • Book a professional still photographer for film stills (needed for advertising and posters when you set up distribution).

  • Secure location permits if necessary (so the police don't bust you).

  • Make sure all contracts are signed with cast, crew, and location owners, and get releases from everyone on camera — especially background people.

How to Enhance the Production Value of Your Film

Making a film that looks and sounds professional with high production values is an art and a science. As a budget-conscious filmmaker, you can enhance the production value of your film by using the tips in the following list to stretch your budget to cover the essentials and arrange some of the extras for little to no cost:

  • Barter for things you can't afford to pay for. “Give me this, and I'll give you a credit or show your product or location in my film!”

  • Use big locations. Expansive looks expensive.

  • Use large crowds to make your film look like a bigger production. Instead of only 3 people standing in line, have 100! (use free volunteers)

  • Move the camera.

  • Get in a high shot or two. Shooting from an apartment balcony works great.

  • Use an aerial shot to open up your film. If you can't afford to rent a helicopter, license stock footage to use in your film.

  • Make sure you get believable performances from your actors.

  • Get a crisp, clear recording of your actors' dialogue.

  • Get professional music. A great composer can do wonders on your music score.

  • Hire a cinematographer with a good eye. A good cinematographer can make your movie look impressive — what you see is what you get.

Items to Bring to a Film Shoot Location

Shooting a film on location keeps your filmmaking interesting, but it can also make your nerves frazzled. Before you head out on location, make sure you have everything you need — the items in the following list are crucial:

Map to the location Masking tape, duct tape, rope
Camera Tripod
Sound recorder Actors' wardrobe
Microphones Film, videostock, memory cards or hard drives (depending on what format you're shooting with)
Extra batteries Storyboards and the shot list
Lights Copy of the script
Extension cords
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