There is no set procedure of how to make a film in Bollywood or for that matter other film industry in this world. Karan Johar’s formula may not work for Rohit Shetty while Priyadarshan’s rib tickling style may not work for Ram Gopal Varma. The movie making process is a mix of the actors and the crew’s talent, the Director’s ability to bring vision onto the silver screen and the Production team’s promotion/networking.
Whether a film works or not, whether financiers make money on the movie or not and whether the actor and actress have an affair or not, one thing is sure – The show must go on. Putting all that aside, if you have ever wondered how movies are made in Bollywood, here is a glimpse into the timeline of a film – from concept to celluloid.
Making a movie: Story and concept
The story is the very first step in the process of filmmaking. The Director might like to write the story so that his/her vision is communicated succinctly. The Film Financier might want to buy an upcoming writer’s story if he/she is looking for good projects to invest in. The Senior Producer may recommend a personal connection with a storywriter from an idea incubation agency.
On the other hand, the Financier may have a eureka moment for a story in his/her shower one day and hire a writer to get the idea out on paper. Bottom line, there are multiple ways in which the story of a Bollywood movie, or for that matter, any movie is selected.
This period is called The Development Phase in Hollywood. This is the phase when the story of the movie is chosen, book adaptations are licensed, key crew members are gathered to envisage the story on celluloid and so on.
In Bollywood, filmmakers may hear out story narrations from aspiring writers or rummage through a bunch of hard bound scripts to see what they like. Traditionally groomed filmmakers may choose to stick to a story idea that catches their fancy.
Making a movie: Script
Once the story itself is frozen upon, whether in the form of a synopsis or an executive summary, the script comes into the picture. The script of a movie can typically be a 200-300 page spiral bounded document which breaks down the story into scenes, adds dialogue, instructions of enacting the dialogues, descriptions of the setting and so on. As a rule of thumb, one page of the script amounts to one minute of filmed footage.
Making a movie: Screenplay
The screenplay follows the script. It carries further details about how a certain scene should be filmed, camera angle specifications, visual demeanour of a particular shot and so on. Hollywood has technicians with nuanced job descriptions such as Script Doctors and Script Supervisors for working in the Development phase. In Bollywood, many screenplay writers are also proficient lyricists.
Making a movie: Crew
Film crew members can either be loyalists to film production houses or be working in freelance capacities. Apart from the Director and the Producer, the key crew members include
Chief or First Assistant Director
Associate / Supervising Producer
Background Score Composer / Music Composer
Director of Photography
Making a movie: Auditions
Whilst work on the story and screenplay is ongoing, the head of the Direction and Casting team simultaneously begin auditions for actors and hiring the crew.
Making a movie: Budget
The contribution and insights of the key crew members is critical while drawing up the budget of a movie on the basis of the script. Before the budget is finalized the senior crew conducts a Location Recce. This includes scouting various indoor and outdoor locations according to the demands of the script. Every element of the backdrop, actor’s costumes, sound, colour and lighting are influenced by the locations that are available to the crew.
Making a movie: Production
Working simultaneously while budgeting is going on, the Production team gets busy in implementing the creative decisions that are taken by other crew members. For example, if the Director likes the lobby of a certain five star hotel for an action sequence, the production crew will book it. If the Action Direction wants fire goblets popping out in the background of a stunt, the production guys will make that available and so on. The goal of the team and this particular phase is to bring together all the resources that are required to convert vision and creativity to celluloid. All for a 100 odd minutes of popcorn entertainment!
Making a movie: Principal photography
The Principal Photography or in simple words, the shooting of the film begins only once every single element of the script is locked, including location. This is because even the smallest of changes in the script can lead to major fluctuations in the budget which spiral on to bigger problems.
In Bollywood, the very first shot that the camera records, is of utmost emotional importance. This is the Mahurat shot which is followed by pooja and distributions of sweets amongst the crew to welcome good luck and success for the film.
The main challenge to overcome during the shooting of a movie is to be able to finish the Principal Photography according to the original schedule and timeline. Every extra day can cost the film lakhs of rupees because of the extra time taken from the crew, actors, equipment vendors, studio, location and much more.
Making a movie: Post Production
Even whilst a movie is being shot, film cans are continuously sent to the Post Production house where the Editor simultaneously begins to look at the footage. These cans of raw footage are known as Rushes in filmi lingo. The Direction team also gets a good chance to review their ongoing work through these rushes. They get to see how the films ‘looks’ and they can incorporate feedback from the rushes in shooting the rest of their film.
Once the shooting of the movie is complete, the reels on which the film has been shot are sent to the studio where final Post Production work begins. This stage is commonly referred to as Post by film crews. The post production crew can be a mix of formally qualified and trained experts and those who have simply learnt the art from the previous generation of experts.
Many members of the crew are let off after the shooting is over. They may have no idea about what goes on in Post. A separate mini crew is hired for Post Production with only the key members of the crew remaining available for constant supervision. Post is crucial for a film because that is where the film gets its final dressing and includes many technical procedures and tedious procedures that most lay people are not even aware of. Some of them are
Background Score composing
Special Effects if any
Digital Intermediate (DI)
Making a movie: Promotion
While experts work on Post Production in studios tucked away in suburban Mumbai into the wee hours of night, Promo-making begins simultaneously. The Promos or TV commercial spots of the film have to be made and released a few months before the film to create hype.
The concept of promotion is much more than just putting up posters and banners of a movie before its release. Producers get their stars to make public appearances, give interviews on TV, attend game shows and much more.
Making a movie: Distribution
While promos are released and actors promote the movie with their antics and interviews, producers and financiers become involved in something completely different. According to the budget of the movie, they take important decisions regarding Distribution. They decide on the number of prints to be released throughout the country and internationally. Important questions like “How many cities and how many multiplexes will show the movie?” are answered. Tie ups with corporate, planning for DVD production, sending the film prints to film festivals, etc are also some of the decisions that are taken.
Making a movie: Release
The film is then released as per plan and the rest as they say, is history. Friday is the traditionally anointed day of release in Bollywood and it decides the fate of the film. Trade pundits and movie critics spew out good and bad reviews and the junta takes the final call.