Filmmaking For Dummies
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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 and what to bring to a location shoot. And, if you can get high production values in your movie for little money, you’ll be all the more successful.

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The roles in a filmmaking production team

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

Making a movie 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 production 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 movie!”
  • Use big locations. Expansive looks expensive.
  • Use large crowds to make your movie 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:

  • GPS address to the location
  • Masking tape, duct tape, rope
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Sound recorder
  • Actors’ wardrobe
  • Microphones
  • Film, SD 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

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Bryan Michael Stoller is an award-winning filmmaker who has produced, written, and directed more than 100 productions from music videos and commercials to TV shows and feature films. His movie First Dog had nearly a half-million Redbox rentals, and he has directed stars such as Edward Asner, Barbra Streisand, James Earl Jones, Drew Barrymore, and Dan Aykroyd. Bryan's movies have amassed close to eighteen-million views on video on demand platforms. Learn more at

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