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Film Preproduction

How Are You Going to Turn Your Screenplay Into a Movie?

The actual production of your movie is going to be very hectic and confusing, and time is money, so any mistakes or delays during production become very expensive. And Murphy's law guarantees that if anything can go wrong it will. For this reason it is very important to do a thorough job of preproduction so every possibility is completely thought out and your production goes like clockwork.

The first step is always to have a great script. There is no point in starting production until the story is perfect. This point can't be emphasized enough. Without a great, great story your production will be wasted.

Budget and Financing

An important step along the way is to establish a budget and get some financing. Unless you are already independently wealthy you will probably need some money to make your film. The less expensively you can make your film the more likely you are to get some funds.

The majority of movies lose money. Even the big movies costing millions made by the smartest filmmakers using the best actors and equipment mostly lose money. Banks won't lend you money. No one in their right mind who understand the economics of filmmaking will give you money.


Some excellent advice is to not ask for money from family or friends. If they are expecting grand profits which never materialize there will be hard feelings that never go away.

Some other excellent advice is don't use a credit card to pay for the production. Production almost always costs more than you think and there can be many more costs involved with post production and marketing about the time your credit card is maxed.

I'm sure you're now thinking that you may never get the money you need, and you're probably right. However! Don't give up yet. You still have options.

There are foundations and philanthropists who might like to make a "contribution to the arts" without expecting any return.

If your family or friends are willing to give you some money after being convinced there is almost no chance they will get their money back, go for it. Seeing their name on the film as an "executive producer" may be enough reward.

Use your credit cards but understand you may spend years paying them off.

You can always work for a while and save your money.

Finally, another option is to have a budget of near zero by getting everyone involved to work for free, provide their own food, and borrow equipment for free. It can be a lot easier than you might imagine to convince people to work for free with the promise of a credit on the film.

Understand Your Liability

If property is damaged or someone is seriously injured by your production you could be personally liable for a vast amount of money and possibly face criminal charges. Your personal liability insurance won't cover it because a film production is considered a business. You can get business liability insurance or you can take a chance. It's up to you.

If you have no personal assets to speak of you have less risk than if you own a house and have other assets you might lose in a law suit. In any case please be incredibly careful and safe during your production.

Everyone who comes near your set should have signed various legal documents and film contracts to delimit duties, expectations, liability and compensation.


If you want people to pay money to see your film someday you've got to get them excited. Creating buzz should start early and never stop.



The director has many tasks that center around putting together a creative team to analyze the screenplay, form the vision for the film, discover locations and actors, and schedule the production.


The crew needs to be assembled, understand what is expected of them, and be looking forward enthusiastically to the production. The most important member of the crew is the director of photography, or DP, who will have a lot of advice on the equipment, locations and other requirements to pull off the production.


You need to know where you will get the equipment you need which is more than just a camera. Proper lighting and sound equipment make a huge difference. A big item that many beginning filmmakers overlook is "craft services". This means the food and beverages that the actors and crew will consume. This is a lot more expensive and time consuming than you might imagine.


Where are you going to do the filming? Do you have permission? Does the location city have ordinances against film productions or require you to hire a city police person? Hiring a cop is very expensive.

I once did a film in a city that forbids film production. When a cop came by and asked what we were doing we said it was a film class and we were students. The cop not only let us continue but helped us by getting a drunk trouble maker to go away.


You need fine actors to create a fine film. Be very picky about who you choose and especially what the emotional chemistry is between the various actors. Be sure they are enthusiastic and committed to being available for the duration of the film, including for retakes and ADR.


Some very experienced actors can prepare well on their own but all the actors need to understand your vision for the film so time isn't wasted during production arguing about how the actor should be reading their lines or acting their part.

You can learn a lot more about film preproduction at

Writing & Pitching


Film Schedule & Budget

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