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The 5 Stages of Production

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Do you ever wonder how your favorite movies are made from the beginning till the end? or why some films take years to shoot before it hits the theaters? if your answer is yes and your curiosity about the filmmaking process is burning then this article will take show you how to plan a film and what are the 5 stages of production.

Man holding a camera filming
<a href="">Cast photo created by freepik -</a>

Film Production

Filmmaking is an art, and therefore there is more to it than planning budgets, casting, and promoting the film. Film production can take years as it has a very lengthy process. Whether it is a big budget film or independent film, all filmmakers will go through the essential 5 stages of production. Each stage has purpose and goals, and it is important that in each phase the goals are met before proceeding to the next. The 5 stages are development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution.

Stage 1 - Development

Before casting, choosing location, and shooting, every film production begins with the development stage. This stage is where ideas are born from its creation, writing, organizing and planning the overall production of the film. Conceptualizing the script based on true story, from a famous book, or an original concept is also part of the development stage. Also the financial logistics will be set in this stage as the casting, location, and multiple scripts are written in this phase writers and directors will work on storyboards to sell the films to producers to finance the films.

This stage can take long as nothing is certain at this point, changes and the filmmakers needs to ensure the financial logistics to hammer the budget for the film. This process can take months to years and can result to either the film being successfully financed, in hiatus or cancelled.

"All good ideas, started out as bad ideas, that's why it takes too long." Director, Steven Spielberg

Stage 2 - Pre-production

The second stage of filmmaking is the pre-production. It may sound as if the cameras are already rolling but, not quite. Getting a greenlight to start pre-production is another intense part of filmmaking as filmmakers have to know if they are able to shoot the film or not. in this phase the filmmakers need to go over the auditions and final casting to determine who will be in their film, check once again how much will be their budget, and many final changes to be made.

Man standing in pre prod stage
Credits to: iStock: Pre-production

Part of this phase is lining up the crew, the costumes, and work with local authorities to cooperate on shooting the different parts of the chosen location. The to this phase is preparation, anticipating sudden changes would require back up plans, that in any case will prevent the filmmakers to shoot at their chosen location.

Stage 3 - Production

Production is the stage where you can finally see the cameras rolling. it is the part of filmmaking that can be considered the quickest, how every variables such as number of locations, film length, set creation, and if set members such as lead actors and actresses not being able to shoot everyday are factors that can prolong the production stage. In filmmaking, production stage can be very challenging as throughout the process the budget may balloon from its original budget and can cause negative publicity for the film before its release, however many films have surpassed and even doubled its profit.

This stage can be very stressful as it has no guarantees to run smoothly, the production stage success will rely to the strong vision of the Director. The filmmakers also must strengthen their communication and collaboration in order to surpass the production stage.

"Making a movie is like building a watch because it is so small and you can only fit so many things inside it that all pieces really do need to work together" Cinematographer - William Eubank

Stage 4 - Post Production

Before making the final cut, all the scenes in the movie are in rough cut. This means the film is still very raw and you would not like it all without the sound effects, music, and other post production magic. In the post production stage, filmmakers begin to work on editing the film. proper visual effects, sound effects, composition of music, voice over, and titles are in the works and eventually finalized. The footage will go through a successful post production, the editors do not simply edit the film for it to become visually appealing and polished, editors will have to create the pace for the film, when overlooked bad editing can cause a film to flop.

Post production is an opportunity for the filmmakers to finally see their efforts coming alive, from raw footage, the filmmakers can now see a refined version resembling a real movie.

Stage 5 - Distribution

Finally, after successfully surpassing the development, pre-production, and post production stage, the film will be ready for distribution. The medium of distribution for the film will depend on its quality and the pull of the studio or filmmaker. The mediums for distribution are television, movie theaters, home video, streaming, and digital media. Choosing the medium for distribution is critical to films success as the filmmakers chosen medium is how they will reach the target audience.

Spiderhead Netflix Poster from IMDb
Credits to

At this stage the success of the film to be distributed to the chosen medium will also depend if the film studio is pleased on the final cut or may want reshoots of some scenes or may even decide to put the film on hiatus. That is why the stages of filmmaking prior to the final stage are very important as each process will affect the final stage, as it can be a nightmare to the filmmakers and its crew to have their film sitting on the shelf, and this can be avoided through proper planning, collaboration, and communication at every step of film production.

The Final Cut

As a movie goer and an avid fan of films, we do not realize the challenging process that a film goes through before making the final cut, we rarely see the "BTS" or behind the scenes where we truly see the beauty of every stage and appreciate the technicalities of each scene, sound effects, color tone, angles, and transitions. In filmmaking, there is no one and done formula, every project is unique. Filmmaking is both art and business, knowing the 5 stages will make you appreciate the effort and creativity that everyone in the set puts in, indeed there are no small roles in show business everyone has a critical part to play in order for a film to succeed.

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Do you have interested in filmmaking? Do want to be a part of the Cinemagics Team? If you have the passion for film production then we want you to be a part of our team! Contact us now.

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