In the last blog post we explored what Hollywood or movies can teach us about project management. We deduced many similarities between movie making and project management. We learned that movies themselves are large scale creative projects.
In this article, we will examine the basics of film production management and try to understand it from a project management lens. Production management consists of managing the work, tasks, logistics and processes that contribute to the successful completion of a movie. Normally, a film production process has three stages: pre-production, production and post-production. But from a project management perspective it can be broken down into the widely-known project management stages of: initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and control and closing. At the helm of the affairs of these stages is either a producer, production manager or a line producer. If it is a small budget movie, a single person will have the responsibilities of these positions. But in a big budget movie, there will be a different person for each position and the production manager or the line manager, who act as project managers, report directly to the producers.
Let us now explore the process of film production management:
The initiation stage
The first stage of film production is the idea development stage where an idea or concept, on which a film will be based, is proposed and evaluated for its creative and commercial worth. Once the idea or concept is accepted, it is expanded into a screenplay which is the deliverable of this first stage. This process includes a lot of to and fro leading to long discussions, debates and meetings, hence taking a long time. The screenplay can be compared to the scope or charter of the project.
An approximate budget is evaluated, then either an appropriate sponsorship is solicited or a producer/financer is approached.
The planning stage
Then comes the planning stage which in the film vocabulary is the “pre-production stage”. During this stage, the script is finalized and resources that are needed for the movie are obtained. The resources are evaluated and assigned. In other words, a team is assembled: crew members, technicians, directors, creative artists……. are recruited and involved in the project. Auditions are conducted to recruit talented actors and actresses. A schedule is created to estimate the length of all activities and tasks with all the milestones. A storyboard is rolled out where each and every scene and shot is defined well in advance. A definite budged is allocated and formalized at this stage.
All aspects of the movie are considered in this process, including background music, costumes, shooting locations, filming materials, editing tools, video formats…. etc.
Actually, this stage can be sub-divided into two stages – production and post production stage. During this stage, first the film is shot according to the screenplay and storyboard and everything else that was planned is carried out.
Second, once the film is shot, then the postproduction process begins where the film is edited as well as graphics and visual effects are put to it.
Monitoring and control stage
While the entire film production process is going on, the line producer continuously makes sure everything is going as planned and the film is following the script. He monitors and controls every aspect and tries to find solutions for any challenges that are popping up. One way to monitor if everything is going well is to go through the rushes of the film and compare it to the script, screenplay or storyboard and see if the results are coherent.
Once the editing of the films is finished, a special screening is held for certain stakeholders to evaluate if the firm has met its initial objectives and if the film adheres to the screen play and script. If necessary it goes back to post production if certain scenes need to be changed. Once the movie production has been successfully completed, it is either screened in the desired location (if it is a low budget movie) or handed over to an operational team (marketing and communications team) to distribute and promote the movie in cinemas.
So, we have explored the different stages and process without going into the specific details. Hope this article will be useful for project managers who want to understand and enter the movie business. Since this article is just a simple bird eye view of the film production management process, maybe you might want to learn more in detail from other resources.