Film Production, Distribution, and Exhibition
Film Production, Distribution, and Exhibition
otion pictures are so much a part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine a world without them. Our appetite for ﬁlm sustains an immense industry. Today every ﬁlm that makes its way into a theater is part of a process involving a sophisticated technology and thousands of workers.
MECHANICS OF THE MOVIES
You are entering a theater with some friends. You pay for your ticket, scan the posters announcing upcoming releases, buy popcorn and soda at the concession stand, and meander toward the auditorium screening the ﬁlm you’ve selected. Once inside, you settle into your seat and prepare to be amused, moved, provoked, or just entertained. The lights dim, leaving only the Exit signs glowing. As sound ﬁlls the theater from all sides, the screen becomes a bright rectangle ﬁlled with a moving picture. Already something fairly mysterious is happening. You have the impression of seeing a moving image, but this is an illusion. The smoothly moving picture you see consists of thousands of slightly different still images called frames projected in rapid succession. Each frame ﬂashing by is accompanied by bursts of blackness. Although you aren’t aware of it, the screen is completely dark for nearly half the time you’re watching! Our eyes ignore the gaps and see continuous light. Just as important, our minds somehow create a continuous action out of a string of still pictures. What makes a movie move? No one knows the full answer. Many people have speculated that the effect results from “persistence of vision,” the tendency of an image to linger brieﬂy on our retina. Yet if this were the real cause, we’d see a bewildering blur of superimposed stills instead of smooth action. At present, researchers believe that two psychological processes are involved in cinematic motion: critical ﬂicker fusion and apparent motion. If you ﬂash a light faster and faster, at a certain point (around 50 ﬂashes per second) you will see not a pulsating light but a continuous beam. A ﬁlm is usually shot and projected at 24 still frames per second. The projector shutter breaks the light beam once as a new image is slid into place and once while it is held in place. Thus each frame is actually projected on the screen twice. This raises the number of ﬂashes to the threshold of what is called critical ﬂicker fusion. Early silent ﬁlms were shot at a lower rate (often 16 or 20 images per second), and projectors broke the beam only
Mechanics of the Movies
once per image. The picture had a pronounced ﬂicker—hence an early slang term for movies, “ﬂickers,” which survives today when people call a ﬁlm a “ﬂick.” Apparent motion is a second factor in creating cinema’s illusion. If a visual display is changed rapidly enough, our eye can be fooled into seeing movement. Neon advertising signs often seem to show a thrusting arrow, but that illusion is created simply by static lights ﬂashing on and off at a particular rate. It seems likely that certain cells in our eye or brain are devoted to analyzing motion, and any stimulus resembling movement tricks those cells into sending the message that motion is present. Apparent motion, like critical ﬂicker fusion, is a quirk within our visual system. To take advantage of these quirks and create the illusion of movement, inventors had to devise certain machines. Some of these go back before the invention of ﬁlm (1.1, 1.2). Film as we know it began when the images were imprinted on a strip of ﬂexible celluloid. After your movie is over, imagine that a friendly manager lets you into the projection room at the rear of the theater. There you’ll ﬁnd the movie mounted on the projector as a ribbon of celluloid. It is very long: The movie that lasted two hours takes up over two miles of ﬁlm. There is so much footage because a sound movie runs through the projector at 90 feet per minute. Like a reel-to-reel tape recorder, the projector unwinds the ﬁlm from one reel, passes it through the lens mechanism, and winds it up on another reel. The projection booth you’re visiting has put the entire ﬁlm on one big platter, with another platter below it to take it up. This arrangement allows the operator to use only one projector for showing the whole movie. Other theaters use a “changeover” system alternating between two projectors, each one using a reel holding about 25 minutes of ﬁlm. Interestingly, the projector is very much like two other machines involved in creating the movie we see. In each one, a mechanism controls how light is admitted to the ﬁlm, advances the strip of ﬁlm a frame at a time, and exposes it to light for the proper interval. At the heart of cinema are machines that, in essence, pull a strip of sensitive plastic past a light. First, there is the camera (1.3). In a light-tight chamber, a drive mechanism feeds the unexposed motion-picture ﬁlm from a reel (a) past a lens (b) and aperture (c) to a take-up reel (d). The lens focuses light reﬂected from a scene onto each frame of ﬁlm (e). The mechanism moves the ﬁlm intermittently, with a brief pause while each frame is held in the aperture. A shutter (f) admits light through the lens only when each frame is unmoving and ready for exposure. The standard shooting rate for sound ﬁlm is 24 frames per second (fps).
1.1 The Mutoscope, a 19th-century entertainment, displayed images by ﬂipping a row of cards in front of a peephole.
1.2 The Zoetrope, an earlier device, printed its images on a strip of paper that was rotated in a drum.
Film Production, Distribution, and Exhibition
The contact printer.
The optical printer.
After a ﬁlm has been processed, it runs through a machine similar to the camera, the printer (1.4, 1.5). Printers exist in various designs, but all consist of lighttight chambers that drive a negative or positive roll of ﬁlm from a reel (a) past an aperture (b) to a take-up reel (c). At the same time, a roll of unexposed ﬁlm (a´, c´) moves through the aperture (b or b´ ), either intermittently or continuously. By means of a lens (d), light beamed through the aperture prints the image (e) on the unexposed ﬁlm (e´). The two rolls of ﬁlm may pass through the aperture simultaneously. A printer of this sort, called a contact printer, is diagrammed in 1.4. Contact printers are used for making workprints and release prints, as well as for various special effects. In another sort of printer, the optical printer, light coming through the original may be beamed to the unexposed roll through lenses, mirrors, or prisms. This is shown in (f) in 1.5. Optical printers are used for rephotographing camera images, for making prints of different gauges, and for certain special effects, such as freeze-frames. The printer is something of a combined camera and projector. Like a projector, it controls the passage of light through exposed ﬁlm (the original negative or positive). Like a camera, it focuses light to form an image (on the unexposed roll of ﬁlm). Now we can see that the projector is basically an inverted camera, with the light source inside the machine rather than in the world outside (1.6). A drive mechanism feeds the ﬁlm from a reel (a) past a lens (b) and aperture (c) to a take-up reel (d). Light is beamed through the images (e) and magniﬁed by the lens for projection on a screen. Again, a mechanism moves the ﬁlm intermittently past the aperture, while a shutter (f) admits light only when each frame is pausing. As we’ve seen, the standard projection rate for sound ﬁlm is 24 frames per second, and the shutter blocks and reveals each frame twice in order to reduce the ﬂicker effect on the screen. Although the ﬁlmmaker can create nonphotographic images on the ﬁlm strip by drawing, cutting, or punching holes, etching, or painting, most ﬁlmmakers have relied on the camera, the printer, and other photographic technology. The images that we see in movement are usually created photographically. In the projection booth, the projectionist hands you a scrap of ﬁlm. Turning it over, you notice that one side is much shinier than the other. Like ﬁlm used in still photography, motion-picture ﬁlm consists of a transparent acetate base (the shiny side), which supports an emulsion, layers of gelatin containing light-sensitive
The strip is perforated along both edges. During exposure and development. it triggers a chemical reaction that makes the crystals cluster into tiny specks. and 70mm (1. With color negative ﬁlm. amateur ﬁlmmakers use color reversal ﬁlm. which is the normal commercial gauge. or complementary. the silver halide crystals create an image by reacting with the dyes and other organic chemicals in the emulsion layers. you can see what enables it to run through a camera. each one sensitive to a primary color (red. On a black-and-white ﬁlm strip the emulsion contains grains of silver halide. You also notice that the strip reserves space for a sound track. these specks form a latent image which corresponds to the areas of light and dark in the scene ﬁlmed. Looking at the scrap of ﬁlm in your hands.6
The projector.7–1. yellow. so that small teeth (called sprockets) in the machines can seize the perforations (sprocket holes) and pull the ﬁlm at a uniform rate and smoothness. Billions of these specks are formed on each frame of exposed ﬁlm. Most professional ﬁlmmaking uses negative emulsion so as to allow better control of print quality and larger numbers of positive prints to be made. from which positive prints can be struck. which yields a positive image with colors conforming to the original scene. When light reﬂecting from a scene strikes them. The strip you are holding is a piece of 35mm ﬁlm. Sometimes. Usually image quality increases with the width of the ﬁlm because the greater picture area gives the images better deﬁnition and detail. blue shows up on the negative as yellow. So too has the width of the ﬁlm strip. Color ﬁlm emulsion has more layers.12).
. All other things being equal. which is called the gauge and is measured in millimeters. however. The resulting image is either a negative one.11). to the original color values: For example. 35mm provides signiﬁcantly better picture quality than does 16mm. but other gauges also have been standardized internationally: Super 8mm. The size and placement of the perforations and the area occupied by the sound track have been standardized around the world. Taken together. The ﬁnest image quality currently available for public screenings is that offered by the Imax system (1. a printer. or a positive one (called a reversal image). Extra layers ﬁlter out light of other colors. or blue). the developing process yields an image that is opposite. Three of these contain chemical dyes. 16mm.
materials. and 70mm is superior to both. and a projector.Mechanics of the Movies
1. Chemical processing makes the latent image visible as a conﬁguration of black grains on a white ground.
so revivals are shown in 35mm. Most ﬁlms shown in cinema courses on 16mm were originally shot on 35mm.
1.9 35mm is the standard theatrical ﬁlm gauge. was shot entirely on Super 8. several ﬁlms were produced and shown on 70mm.
1. may not be in the gauge of the original. quality deteriorates when a ﬁlm shot on one gauge is transferred to another one. The stripe along the left edge.7 Super 8mm has been a popular gauge for amateurs and experimental ﬁlmmakers.8 16mm ﬁlm is used for both amateur and professional ﬁlm work.10 In this 35mm strip from Jurassic Park. Distribution. A variable-area optical sound track runs down the right side.
Film Production. runs down the left alongside the images. a concert ﬁlm featuring Neil Young. note the optical stereophonic sound track. encoded as two parallel squiggles. however. During the 1950s and 1960s.
. the Morse code–like dots between the stereophonic track and the picture area. Often. The Year of the Horse. The sound track. and Exhibition
The print we see of a ﬁlm. but few venues are equipped to show them in that gauge today. a variable-area one. A 35mm print of Keaton’s The General will almost certainly be
1. and the speckled areas around the sprocket holds indicate that the print can also be run on various digital sound systems.
has often been used for historical spectacles and epic action ﬁlms. allowing each image to be 10 times larger than 35mm and triple the size of 70mm.
1.11 70mm ﬁlm. another theatrical gauge. a stereophonic magnetic sound track runs along both edges of the ﬁlm strip.
.Mechanics of the Movies
1. The Imax ﬁlm can be projected on a very large screen with no loss of detail.12 The Imax image is printed on 70mm ﬁlm but runs horizontally along the strip. In this strip from The Hunt for Red October.
photographically superior to a 16mm print. and hospitals. You were a customer. Magnetic tracks are rather rare in theaters today. Columbus .8
Film Production. In the magnetic type (1. director. During production.8). which encodes sonic information in the form of patches of light and dark running down along the frames. You’ve already noticed the sound track running down the ﬁlm strip you’re examining. and retailing it. chieﬂy experimental and documentary ﬁlms. are made for nontheatrical showing. the most visible sector of movie exhibition remains the ﬁrst-run theater. When the ﬁlm is projected. Your trip behind the scenes reminds us that movies. The sound track may be either magnetic or optical. . . In each the sound is encoded as variable-area. During projection. libraries. interviewing Derek Jarman. Stereophonic optical sound is registered as a pair of squiggles running down the left side (1. depend upon some very tangible materials and machines. participating in a business transaction. Most commercial theaters show mass-entertainment movies. with all their appeals to our emotions and imagination. we must return to the theater lobby. or close to the very left edge of the frames provides the soundtrack information (1. the three phases are known as production. And now they go on through video.10). electrical impulses from a microphone are translated into pulsations of light which are photographically inscribed on the moving ﬁlm strip. distribution. the optical track produces varying intensities of light that are translated back into electrical impulses and then into sound waves. ﬁlmmaking involves creating the product.
— Gus Van Sant. was developed. it is only part of the story. Your ﬁlm strip has an optical sound track. are considered nontheatrical. between the perforations. though. The dynamic images and sounds we experience are conjured up from a strip of perforated celluloid carrying certain kinds of information. While some ﬁlms. Independent ﬁlmmakers who work in 16mm face the problem that blowing up their negative to 35mm will decrease photographic quality. independent ﬁlmmaker
.9) have monophonic optical tracks. I never really feel shut out. 1.9. The 16mm ﬁlm strip (1. you were not thinking of critical fusion frequency or ﬁlm gauges.
Minneapolis in particular. the ﬁlm’s track is “read” by a sound head similar to that on a tape recorder. one or more strips of magnetic recording tape run along the ﬁlm’s edges.
BRINGING THE FILM TO THE SPECTATOR
When you went into the movie theater.
Theatrical and Nontheatrical Exhibition
We are most familiar with the exhibition phase. while all other presentations.11). To get a fuller sense of how ﬁlms reach an audience. A ﬁlm’s sound track may be monophonic or stereophonic. That’s where the ﬁlms have actually had their life. and exhibition. Distribution. the moment when we pay for a movie ticket or rent a videocassette or watch a ﬁlm on television.10). Important as technology is. For digital sound. Commercial movie houses showing current ﬁlms constitute theatrical exhibition sites.
GUS VAN SANT : Your ﬁlms have dominated the museum circuit in America—Minneapolis.10). while 35mm puts an optical track on the left (1. Like most businesses. while others specialize in foreign or independent ﬁlms.8) and the ﬁrst 35mm ﬁlm strip (1. a string of dots and dashes running along the ﬁlm’s perforations. distributing it. The projector scans these marks as if reading a bar code. They’ve crept into the student curriculum— which is a life. DEREK JARMAN: Yes. such as home video or screenings in schools. It was largely to solve this problem that a higherﬁdelity 16mm format. In this business. called Super 16. a wavy contour of black and white along the picture strip. The optical sound track of 16mm ﬁlm is on the right side (1. whereas a ﬁlm shot on Super 8 will look fuzzy and grainy if printed and projected in 35mm.
Blockbuster action ﬁlms. boasting videogame arcades and snacks adjusted to local tastes—popcorn and candy around the world.Bringing the Film to the Spectator
Far more people will see a Hollywood ﬁlm on video than in its initial release. which specialize in foreign or independent movies. people ﬂock to theaters during June. Only a small part of the population visits theaters regularly. In Europe. because that is when the ﬁlm industry is considering candidates for its spring Academy Awards. Multiplexes have also raised the standard of ﬁlm presentation. Elsewhere in the world. and most
. and raunchy comedies are the “tentpole” or “locomotive” ﬁlms that distributors hope will pay for the less successful ones. In the United States. theater chains have tried to standardize exhibition and minimize costs. usually accompanied by splashy parties and chances to meet stars. Theatrical hits may account for as much as 80 percent of a video store’s rentals. Theatrical exhibition is seasonally driven. television programs publicize it. The multiscreen cinemas of today testify to both these aims. Columbia. habitual moviegoers—who make up less than 20 percent of the audience—account for 66 percent of total ticket sales. and they can cut costs through centralized projection and concession sales. and people tell others about it. Paramount. autumn has traditionally been the heavy moviegoing period. By offering a variety of programs. July. often with only a single screen. determining how successful it will be in other markets. pp. and August. the summer audience is dominated by teenagers looking for light entertainment. 14–15. The major ﬁlm distributors—Warner Bros. You probably watch more ﬁlms on video than in theaters. science-ﬁction tales. American distributors tend to save their most prestigious adult-oriented ﬁlms for the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. but also beer (in Europe) and dried squid (in Hong Kong). Some multiplexes have become entertainment centers. multiplexes can lure more people than a single-screen cinema. offering stadium seating and multichannel sound. The distributors sponsor trade shows where exhibitors are treated to screenings of forthcoming releases. The most heavily patronized theaters belong to chains or circuits. The ﬁlms released by the majors attract 95 percent of ticket sales in the United States and Canada and more than half of the international market. Twentieth Century Fox. (See Box. These giant distributors all belong to multinational corporations devoted to leisure activities. To be efﬁcient businesses. distributors may practice blind booking (forcing exhibitors to rent a ﬁlm without seeing it) or even block booking (forcing exhibitors to rent a package of ﬁlms in order to get a few desirable items). There are also theaters. Studios earn much more from home video than from theatrical release. and these are in turn controlled by relatively few companies. while in North America.) The major distributors have won such power because large companies can best endure the high risks of theatrical moviemaking. exhibitors bid for each ﬁlm a distributor releases. In the United States. Filmmaking is costly.. So why is the movie theater still important? The theatrical screening focuses public interest: Critics review the ﬁlm. Distributors link ﬁlmmakers to audiences and supply exhibitors with a reliable stream of material to show. and these form the core of economic power in the ﬁlm industry. Disney/Buena Vista. The theatrical run is the ﬁlm’s launching pad. As we would expect.
Distribution: The Center of Power
Exhibitors rent ﬁlms from distribution companies. horror movies. and in most states they must be allowed to see the ﬁlm before bidding. and Universal—provide mainstream entertainment to theater chains around the world.
If lit by an experienced cinematographer. there are many areas of convergence. but bright areas still tend to burn out or blow out into pure white patches. Sony has recently developed a 24p HD camera. while saturated colors look even more saturated. as well as smooth gradations from one color or light level to another. even consumer-format video can look very attractive. Video. preserving moving images on ﬁlm is preferable to digital tape or disk. disk. Digital video (DV). captures light reﬂected from the scene on a computer chip behind the camera lens.de. Because video accentuates contrast. which offers many more lines of resolution than conventional U.
relation between the brightest and the darkest areas of the image. Wim Wenders used mini-DV cameras to follow Cuban musicians around Havana. and this often yields blocky breakup during movement and “aliasing”— jagged edges where straight lines should be. from an archival point of view. It could also be adjusted to the frame rates suitable for North American or European television broadcast. It replaces interlaced arrays (as on a typical television monitor) with progressive-scan arrays (as on a computer monitor). which yields a cleaner image. or European video. when a ﬁlm is transferred to video. The Sony 24p DV camera can produce a contrast ratio of up to 150:1. the
1. pale colors look brighter. A frame of 35mm motion-picture ﬁlm can contain the equivalent of over 12 million pixels. A broadcastquality video frame can display about 350. Atanarjuat:
. In analog video. Low-budget ﬁlmmakers have been attracted by the comparatively low costs of digital video cameras and tape. The Anniversary Party. Video steps up contrasts. ﬁlmed by Ellen Kuras.13). while 35mm ﬁlm negative can reach 1000:1. Perhaps most important. phosphors in the camera’s tube pick up light from a scene. The highest standard of digital video is the high-deﬁnition (HD) format. in contrast.S. DVDs. Strong plots and performances helped carry Chuck and Buck. see www. DV cameras are easy to set up. translates light waves into electrical pulses and records those on magnetic tape. Film stock can convey ﬁne details of light. the information is encoded as a string of ones and zeros. No pictures can capture the vast range of light intensities that our eyes can detect. Image artifacts are particularly apparent in long shots of landscapes or densely packed architecture. the dominant production technology and coming to be the preferred consumer format. The widest range of color possible in video is about 17 million hues. a scene including both sunlight and deep shade—will lose more textures than a ﬁlm image will (1. which deteriorates much more rapidly. a staggering number until we realize that ﬁlm can display over 800 million. while Sony’s 24p video frames currently have around 2 million pixels.000 pixels (picture elements). or hard drive. video is with cinema in several ways. color. as in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. but cinema comes closer than video. Digital storage also requires that picture information be compressed. As of 2002. A video image shot in mixed lighting conditions—say.Film and Video: Crossing Paths
Although Film and videoisare both moving-image media. pure black and pure white. As in a music CD. so shooting moves more quickly than in a ﬁlm-based project.converging our concern primarily with ﬁlm.13 For The Buena Vista Social Club. Finally. its colors are likely to look warmer. Yet even a high-deﬁnition video image carries signiﬁcantly less information than motion-picture ﬁlm. audiences do not notice shortcomings in image quality if the story is engrossing. There is a fundamental difference of materials and technology. which provides 24-frame video compatible with the rate of motionpicture ﬁlm. For more on the ﬁlm’s production.buenavistasocialclub. the Sony system was digital video’s closest approximation to cinema. and takes can be reviewed immediately for errors. or Internet transmission. Light reﬂected from the scene creates an image by triggering chemical changes on the ﬁlm emulsion. Cinema is a photographic medium. The high contrast and blown-out light areas (note the top of the hat) are characteristic of video. This means that ﬁlm more faithfully renders extremes of bright and dark. Despite the differences between the two media. High-deﬁnition digital video is less contrasty and can preserve details in dark areas. and texture because of its robust contrast ratio.
15 The chase through the airways of Coruscant in Attack of the Clones. Lucas claimed that if an actor blinked at the wrong time. It’s like trying to go back to vinyl after you’ve got recordable DVD. George Lucas ﬁlmed Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones entirely with Sony’s 24p HD cameras. pixels and grain create a unique texture.
. Texas. and the high contrast exaggerates pure colors and shapes (1. transferring low-ﬁdelity video to ﬁlm creates hallucinatory images. bypassed the time-consuming process of cel animation (see p. If movies could be sent to theaters on hard drives or via satellite links.
The Fast Runner. Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark uses highly saturated DV imagery to suggest the fantasy world of a young mother going blind. Most exhibitors have resisted converting. but some distributors have been pressing exhibitors to install video projectors.000 (compared with $30. 163) and created cartoon characters directly on computer.80). saving millions of dollars. he would digitally erase the blink.14). Series 7: The Contenders poses as a reality-TV program in which contestants compete in a murder game. computer-generated imagery (CGI) made it possible to create vast futuristic landscapes full of dynamic movement (1. In Attack of the Clones. He is convinced that the lower cost and greater ﬂexibility of digital video will make it the format of choice for most ﬁlmmakers. Other directors seek to explore the distinctive look of video imagery. Rodriguez agrees: “I’ve abandoned ﬁlm forever. Bigger-budget ﬁlmmakers have taken advantage of the economies offered by digital video. Lucas intended Attack of the Clones to be screened widely in a digital format. mix sound. and any model is likely to become obsolete quickly. and other independent ﬁlms shot on digital video. In the ﬁnal result. Sometimes the video format ideally suits the subject the ﬁlmmaker wants to present. A string of animated
feature ﬁlms. Harmony Korine shot julien donkey-boy with mini-DV consumer video cameras and then blew up the footage several times to ﬁlm. although only a few theaters screened it electronically. which director Robert Rodriguez claimed cost far less than if it had been made on ﬁlm. The same system was used for Spy Kids 2. with backgrounds and motion created through CGI. trailed by camera crews recording the killings on video.000 for a ﬁlm projector). launched by Toy Story (5. studios would save hundreds of millions of dollars in laboratory costs. but not just because the quality of projection still leaves much to be desired.15).14 In julien donkey-boy. The chief incentive for
1.1. The digital format allowed him to edit. Electronic projectors can cost as much as $200. You can’t go back.” Most digital features shown commercially have been screened from ﬁlm transfers. Lucas also embraces digital cinema for the control it offers. and create special effects in his garage in Austin.
16 Extreme tonal contrast. is that the public might pay higher prices to see ﬁlms in that format. many exhibitors believe. Russell’s Three Kings manipulate ﬁlm stock and printing to suggest the harsh contrasts and blown-out skies that digital video can yield (1. washed-out colors. sound. and special effects. and an overbright sky evoke video reports of the Persian Gulf War in the 35mm feature Three Kings. Experiments with achieving a “video look” on ﬁlm point up another way in which the two media are converging.
. Digital technology has made its widest impact on postproduction.” but at the same time some ﬁlmmakers work-
ing in 35mm have given their footage a rawer quality. Those who shoot on video sometimes try to match the “ﬁlm look.1. Finishing a ﬁlm now depends heavily on software for editing.16). Both Steven Soderberg’s Trafﬁc and David O.
perhaps years. they try to attract distributors’ attention by showcasing their ﬁlm at festivals. and Shakespeare in Love earned even bigger box-ofﬁce receipts. Other major companies. which may deliver up to 70 percent of the theater’s proﬁts. Once the grosses are split with the exhibitor. major U. actors. rent foreign and independent ﬁlms to art cinemas. and investors who have negotiated a share of the rental returns. distributor typically takes 35 percent of the rentals as its distribution fee. satellite. This arrangement isn’t favorable to the exhibitor. Hidden Dragon was successful enough to break out of art-house screens and win large grosses at multiplexes. Alternatively. So great is the distributor’s bargaining power that the movie theater gets a surprisingly small percentage of total box-ofﬁce receipts (known as the gross or grosses). or home video. when the exhibitor gets less of the revenue. In addition. Once the salaried workers have been paid. it takes another percentage off the top. A major U. Bowling for Columbine. such as Sony. What remains comes back to the ﬁlmmakers. sold to several European distributors after winning a prize at the 2002 Cannes festival. Sony Classics’ release. executives. the producer and other major players must wait. a ﬁlm breaks even or shows a proﬁt only after it has been released on cable. Because of this delay. Independent and overseas ﬁlmmakers usually don’t have access to direct funding from major distribution companies. With the beneﬁt of Disney’s funding and wider distribution reach. so they try to presell distribution rights to ﬁnance production. The independent Miramax generated enough low-budget hits (My Left Foot. the exhibitor gets all the cash from the concession stand.S. If the distributor helped fund the ﬁlm. In addition. Specialized distributors. Without high-priced snacks. meaning their share will derive from the earliest money the picture returns to the distributor. The most popular 30 percent of ﬁlms account for 80 percent of receipts. Michael Moore’s documentary on gun control. Scream.)
“Selling food is my job. the share returning to the distribution company (the rentals) is further divided. One standard contract guarantees the distributor a minimum of 90 percent of the ﬁrst week’s gross. 16–18. Worldwide. distributors bought rights to the French Jet Lag and the Chinese Together. the cost of prints and advertising (currently around $30 million for a high-end ﬁlm) are deducted as well. Out of the proceeds the producer must pay all proﬁt participants—the directors. Crouching Tiger. the amount returned to the production company is relatively small. I just happen to work in a theater. movie houses couldn’t survive. a long-running success will yield no more than 50 percent of the gross to the theater. major distributors acquired specialized distribution companies.”
— A theater manager in upstate New York
. while at that year’s Toronto International Film Festival. pp. the top 10 percent of all ﬁlms released garner 50 percent of all box-ofﬁce receipts. and even a successful ﬁlm will make most of its money in the ﬁrst two or three weeks of release. (See Box. such as the New York ﬁrms Kino and Milestone. to receive their share from video and other ancillary markets. and museums. have subsidiaries to handle ﬁlms aimed at the art-house market. Miramax movies like Pulp Fiction.S. the most powerful actors and directors have demanded “ﬁrst-dollar” participation. the distributor allows the exhibitor to deduct from the gross the expenses of running the theater (a negotiated ﬁgure called the house nut). Averaged out. As audiences for these ﬁlms grew in the 1990s. For most ﬁlms. and the suspicion that the major distributors practice misleading accounting. dropping gradually to 30 percent after several weeks. To make up for this drawback.Bringing the Film to the Spectator
ﬁlms do not make proﬁts in theatrical release. The Crying Game) to be purchased by the Disney corporation. Typically. colleges. A failure that closes quickly will yield almost nothing to the theatre.
17).’s Twentieth Century Fox Television subsidiary produced the series and broadcast it on Fox’s U. a ﬁlm released in 1998. music CDs (from Fox Music). News Corp. grew out of a brand launched on television ﬁve years earlier.S. Although synergy sometimes proves unsuccessful.” The X-Files. cable channel. Touchstone. books (from HarperCollins. Walt Disney Pictures. opening. owned by News Corp. The Hollywood studios have planted distribution subsidiaries in most major countries. With strong marketing units in every region.. largely because the region’s widespread video piracy tends to erode the audience. the majors can distribute non-U.
Film production and distribution
Warner Bros.’s international satellite platform BSkyB.
tion to take advantage of it. another Warner Bros. Just as important. usually one that is “branded.). For example. CastleRock. and many earn more abroad than at home. ﬁlm (released four months after Lethal Weapon). A ﬁlm may be released in Europe many months after the U. Century Fox.
.Putting the Pieces Together
By belonging to powerful multinational conglomerates. Working Title. and clothing. The prominence of Pepsi-Cola in this shot is an example of product placement—featuring well-known brands in a ﬁlm in exchange for payment or cross-promotional services. but it is likely to be released in Asia much sooner. Sony Pictures Fox Searchlight Classics
Universal. These branch ofﬁces arrange for prints to be made in the local language (either dubbing in the dialogue or adding subtitling) and schedule the ﬁlm’s release. One ﬁlm can even advertise another within its story (1. notebooks. Fine Line
Buena Vista. Local circumstances dictate when a Hollywood ﬁlm opens. ﬁlms as well as Hollywood products. When the ﬁrst season was released on video in Japan and Europe. stock issues.S. Universal Focus
American ﬁlms have long been the world’s most popular. it became a huge success. Vivendi Universal
Columbia Pictures. multimedia distributors can build synergy—the coordination of sectors within the company around a single piece of content. The theatrical ﬁlm was only one more link in synergy’s “value chain. Twentieth TriStar. and each part of the parent corporation gets a bit of the business. and other merchandise (via Fox Licensing and Merchandising). Mandalay.S. New Line. The series spawned video games (from Fox Interactive).” Synergy and branding work together. Kazuo Miyazaki’s popular animated ﬁlms (My Neighbor Totoro. and other media markets. they pass in front of a movie theater advertising The Lost Boys. Spirited Away) are now distributed on video by Disney’s Buena Vista arm— even in Japan itself. multimedia giants are in the best posiSix Major Media Companies and Some of Their Holdings
AOL Time Warner Disney Viacom Sony News Corp.17 Lethal Weapon: As Murtagh and Riggs leave a hot-dog stand. Hollywood Pictures. Every product promotes the others. and the series was soon programmed on News Corp. ﬁlm distributors gain access to bank ﬁnancing.
Turner Classic Movies. Westview Press
Penguin. America Online Internet service Six Flags theme parks. Universal Interactive
Merchandising. Comedy Central
Loews Cineplex Entertainment
Broadcast. the costs of which are shared by the exhibitor. Putnam
Columbia. real estate. Star TV
Universal Television. Nickelodeon. consumer electronics (Walkman.). Atlanta Braves.” the previews of coming attractions. Sky TV. The theater will be supplied with “trailers. Turner Network Television. Life. Still. Webster’s Dictionary
Newspapers. it costs an additional $30 million to distribute. Time. Atlanta Hawks
Sony Pictures Television
Twentieth Century Fox TV. MTV. People. Free Press.)
Selling The Film
Distributors make prints. The distributor provides not only the movie but also a publicity campaign. distribution can be efﬁcient because the costs can be spread out over many units. ESPN. Great America and Kings Dominion theme parks
Video games. HarperCollins. DC Comics Warner Music. and launch advertising campaigns. Warner Books. A poster design can be used in various markets. etc. Cinamerica (50% with AOL Time Warner) ABC network. and a distributor who orders a hundred prints from a laboratory will pay less per print than the ﬁlmmaker who orders one. schedule release dates. For big companies. Disney Channel. USA Network (partial ownership)
Capital City newspapers.Six Major Media Companies (continued)
AOL Time Warner Disney Viacom Sony News Corp. airlines Beverages. TV Guide. when the average Hollywood ﬁlm is estimated to cost around $50 million to make. Today. PolyGram Sheep farming. Prentice-Hall. magazines. UPN. professional electronics (highdeﬁnition video. Fox Broadcasting Company. Sony Classical
Music Corporation of America. A & E. Showtime. Trinitron. Hyperion Books
Simon & Schuster. VH1. the Mighty Ducks
Blockbuster video stores. Atlantic. Lifetime. local TV stations CBS. Brown. Epic. Vivendi Universal
Cinamerica (50% with Viacom)
Famous Players. Elektra. Universal theme parks. and satellite TV
CNN. WB TV. distribution costs have risen dramatically in recent years. etc. Cartoon Network Little. Sports Illustrated. Disney theme parks and resorts. HBO. There may be a music video to build
. cable. largely because of greater ﬁlm output and increased competition.
Hidden Dragon. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994). The ﬁlm. Good Machine gained even greater prominence with an unexpected foreign-language hit. Distribution. and during the decade many independent ﬁlms became substantial hits. Good Machine’s partners quickly assumed a high proﬁle. including teenage girls. By 1993. The latter two were to remain among the most respected American independent ﬁlms of the decade. The Ice Storm won Schamus the prize for best screenplay at Cannes. but the negotiations came to nothing. The pair sought to match a project’s potential income to a reasonable budget. David Linde. Viewers unaccustomed to foreignlanguage ﬁlms found themselves willingly reading subtitles. The Wedding Banquet was proportionately the most proﬁtable ﬁlm of 1993— exactly what made independent ﬁlms attractive to the big studios. which was founded in New York in 1991 by Columbia University ﬁlm professor James Schamus and producer Ted Hope. Schamus and Hope took four ﬁlms to the Sundance festival. and audiences interested in Asian culture (1. One company that exempliﬁes the rise of the independents is Good Machine. whose ﬁrst feature. These ﬁlms seldom made as much as the summer “tentpole” ﬁlms. was successfully marketed to a broad spectrum of niche audiences beyond the usual action-ﬁlm fans.16
Film Production. and he continued to play this dual role as producer and scriptwriter on other Lee ﬁlms. Crouching Tiger. including Joan Chen’s Xiu Xiu the Sent-Down Girl (1999) and Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000). Good Machine’s consistent success attracted increasing attention within the mainstream industry. staged by veteran Hong Kong ﬁghts choreographer Yuen Wo-ping. With the major Hollywood ﬁrms increasingly concentrating on widerelease blockbusters. Crouching Tiger. Disney started a trend by buying the prestigious independent ﬁrm Miramax. In 2000. women. Schamus produced prominent Chilean émigré director Raoul Ruiz’s The Golden Boat and executiveproduced Todd Haynes’s Poison (winner of the Grand Prize at Sundance. Aside from Schamus’s screenplay award. GMI began to import ﬁlms. Pushing Hands (1992). the pair participated in an American–Hong Kong–Taiwanese co-production. In 1993. With Schamus again co-scripting and producing and Lee directing. made on a modest budget of about $15 million. Miramax continued to operate as a largely autonomous ﬁrm.000. as a subsidiary. Paramount expressed interest in making Good Machine its “classics” division. Schamus collaborated on the screenplay.18). and The Ice Storm (1997). Good Machine was expanding its foreign interests and in August formed Good Machine International. Its president. independent ﬁlm production and distribution companies achieved more prominence. The Brothers McMullen (1995) and She’s the One (1996). but they attracted the attention of big producers because they were relatively cheap to make or acquire and hence could be proﬁtable with minimal risk. gave the martialarts genre a new respectability among mature audiences. The ﬁrm also produced two ﬁlms directed by actor Edward Burns. was produced on a budget of $400. however. could be fairly large. Its strong plot and balletic swordplay scenes. the premiere ﬁlm festival for independents. Hope produced Hal Hartley’s Trust (winner of the Sundance screenplay award). had formerly run Miramax’s foreign sales and had marketed Pulp Fiction (1994) abroad. while Good Machine executiveproduced Haynes’s Safe (1995). and videotape (1989) and Reservoir Dogs (1992). given its small budget. lies. which had successfully distributed such ﬁlms as sex. Variety claimed that. smaller ﬁrms could target ﬁlms toward more speciﬁc audiences. Niche audiences. Hartley continued working with Ted Hope for Simple Men (1992) and Amateur (1994). and Exhibition
Independent Production and Mainstream Hollywood: The Case of Good Machine
During the 1990s. including The Wedding Banquet (1993). Hidden
. The ﬁlmmaker most closely linked to Good Machine was Ang Lee.
which had recently released several major independent ﬁlms. buys a majority stake in October Films. Also in 2000. In the Bedroom. Good Machine made a hit of a modest romantic comedy by Jenniphr Goodman. and it became a date movie for the art-house set. maintaining a considerable amount of control. and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (2001).
Dragon ultimately grossed over $200 million and won four Oscars. For Vivendi Universal. the roughly $10 million paid to acquire Good Machine brought it both prestige and the potential for profitable ﬁlms made on modest budgets. Good Machine distributed Todd Field’s ﬁrst feature.Bringing the Film to the Spectator
1. which had been picked up by USA Films. a director who could move between independent ﬁlms and popcorn movies. which already owns a share of the Sundance Channel. Hidden Dragon made the ﬁlm appealing to women as well as to male action fans. 2001: Universal buys USA Films back from Diller. Good Machine followed a major trend of the 1990s independents by becoming the “art” or “niche” wing of a much larger company. It also planned a larger. 1999: Universal sells October to Barry Diller. creating a new company.18 The prominence of two female characters in both the swordplay and romance storylines of Crouching Tiger. its last year as a small independent ﬁrm. The Tao of Steve.
May 2002: Vivendi Universal buys Good Machine and merges it into USA Films and Universal Focus. who renames it USA Films. 2000: Universal forms a subsidiary. most notably Steven Soderbergh’s Trafﬁc (2000). editing. October 1997: Universal. rather than needing to ﬁnd support for each individual project. Other talented directors could be attracted to a company with a successful track record. It also brought in Ang Lee. Vivendi Universal: September 1997: Good Machine International becomes the exclusive foreign sales company for another successful American independent ﬁrm. During 2001. Focus Features. Focus continued distributing Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2002). Hope struck out on his own as an independent producer. Schamus and Linde stayed on to head Focus. While Good Machine prospered. though he enjoyed a “ﬁrst look” deal with
. It was bolstered by the combination with USA Films. and acting belied its low budget. a series of events occurred that resulted in the small company’s being absorbed into one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. as he did with The Hulk. October Films. Universal Focus. Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001). The ﬁlm’s cinematography. to distribute independent ﬁlms such as Billy Elliot. USA Films becomes a production wing within Focus. popularly oriented production for Lee: The Hulk. They also now had a ready source of funding.
directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez ﬁlled a website with fake documents about the legend of the Blair Witch and the mysterious fate of the students who had disappeared while investigating her. and a cable channel may run a “Making of . Manufacturing companies buy the rights to use the ﬁlm’s characters. Yet Schamus and Linde had declared their intentions to continue supporting the small. The movie was an extension of the Web site.18
Film Production. Distribution. strictly speaking. and Exhibition
1. industry trade journal Variety remarked. screensavers. The Net proved crucial in marketing The Blair Witch Project to its target audience of young summer ﬁlmgoers. complete with photos and background information. The Blair Witch Project became one of the most profitable ﬁlms ever made. updating the webpage and leaking the trailer to other movie-related sites.
“This was a Web site that was an entertainment experience in itself. “this freshly minted indie with deep studio pockets stands as the hottest go-to shingle for a top-ﬂight indie project. . star visits to the Oprah Winfrey show. In May. Later that year the company returned to its Good Machine roots by taking over the American distribution of Todd Haynes’s award-winning Far from Heaven (1. Distributors have also learned the power of the Internet. winner of the 2002 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. . which premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Webpages entice potential viewers with plot information. For print journalists the distributor will provide press kits. earning over $130 million in North America alone.19). title. and links to merchandising. The small distribution ﬁrm Artisan Entertainment committed $15 million to promoting it.” program.
Focus. Merchandising is one form of promotion that pays back its investment directly. While cutting their $35. ﬁlms that had made Good Machine attractive to Vivendi Universal.19
The suburban couple in Far from Heaven. Fan sites sprang up before the ﬁlm had been screened. and promotions in thousands of bookstores and beauty salons. since. Even a modestly budgeted production like Waiting to Exhale had heavy promotion: ﬁve separate music videos.” The comment points up how loose the term “independent” had become by this point. Focus’s ﬁrst acquisition for distribution was Roman Polanksi’s The Pianist. often prestigious. My Big Fat Greek Wedding cost $5 million to produce.”
— A studio marketing executive on The Blair Witch Project
interest in the movie and its soundtrack album.000 movie. Local TV outlets will get “electronic press kits” containing star sound bites and clips of splashy scenes. star biographies. already starting to fracture. Good Machine was now wholly owned by a conglomerate. and that kind of ﬁlm had come to be thought of as “independent”—whatever its source. or im-
. games. “infotainment” TV programs will build audience awareness. but the distributor spent over $10 million publicizing it.
A release appears ﬁrst over hotel television systems and airline ﬂights. Distribution companies also undertake exit polling to gauge whether ﬁlmgoers will recommend the picture to their friends. and the American Academy of Periodontology (“Don’t Forget to Floss.) Distribution companies carefully plan their video “windows” to widen the ﬁlm’s availability gradually. Baby!”). the $5 million romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding rose in box-ofﬁce ranking largely on the strength of word of mouth. Most ﬁlms achieve their largest audience on the opening weekend. and the press. Even less mainstream fare has relied on cross-promotion: The documentary Hoop Dreams was publicized by Nike and the National Basketball Association. movies permeate world culture as never before. Yet ﬁlms now appear in so many guises that it is hard to recapture a sense of the way the original looked. By 1992.) A ﬁlm can continue its life in other media. Beetlejuice turned into a TV cartoon.” which allows both a ﬁlm and a product line to be advertised at once. and these typically return more money than the original release. but a few build an audience more slowly as viewers tell their friends about them. Universal’s theme park offers a ride based on Back to the Future. Philips Electronics. if only of a novelization or a sound track CD. Nearly all major motion pictures rely on merchandising. The marketing of the ﬁlm does not end when it starts playing theaters. lunchboxes. Children’s ﬁlms are released accompanied by toys. U. Smirnoff.6 billion—more than the ﬁlms themselves had earned.”
— Rupert Murdoch. then on cable television and DVD or videocassette.S. 21–23. Visa. Die Hard and A Bug’s Life became video games. and Ericsson. Across the spring and summer of 2002. Grease and The Lion King were adapted as Broadway shows. The ﬁve companies spent nearly $100 million on the campaign. clothing. and Twentieth Century Fox
. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me had advertising partnerships with Mitsubishi. Major ﬁlm companies are experimenting with websites that deliver movies on demand. (See Box. pp. Thanks to the enormous number of video distribution channels and exhibition sites. Video has proved a boon to smaller distributors as well: Foreign and independent ﬁlms usually yield slim theatrical returns. The ultimate extension of video distribution may be cyberspace. but video markets can make these items proﬁtable. Star Wars spawned bestselling paperback novels. Such spin-offs can be immensely proﬁtable. and tie-ins with fast-food outlets. Distribution executives track the box-ofﬁce receipts of a ﬁlm’s opening weekend and report them to their superiors. and eventually on network broadcast and cable reruns. In 2002. and hundreds of sites offer bootlegged versions of studio releases. It eventually surpassed $210 million in North American ticket sales. its life is far from over. the ﬁlm included scenes prominently featuring the products. games. which publicized the ﬁlm around the world. BMW. the production company. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was spun off as a comic book and TV series. Virgin Atlantic.
Ancillary Markets When a ﬁlm leaves theatrical exhibition. Since the late 1970s. to lower production and distribution costs and to provide new proﬁt centers. A common practice is “cross-promotion. home video has generated more than twice the income of domestic theatrical box ofﬁce. schoolbags. Because distribution
“Our underlying philosophy is that all media are one.Bringing the Film to the Spectator
ages on products. Star Wars merchandise had racked up sales of $2. MGM arranged for the stars of the James Bond ﬁlm Tomorrow Never Dies to appear in advertisements for Heineken. (Since 1988. Already digital versions of some independent ﬁlms are available on the Internet. Starbucks. video has created a vast array of ancillary markets. owner of News Corp. Heineken. buccaneering fans uploaded pirated video copies of Signs and Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones. Visa. then on pay-per-view television. As payback.
the Middle East. book and magazine publishers. In addition. Japan comes in second. The ﬁlmmaker also records sounds. together they contributed only about $700 million to the 2001 global total—less than Germany did. The United States is by far the most lucrative market. Sylvio Berlusconi. Assembly. The Japanese electronics ﬁrm Sony owns Columbia Pictures.20
Film Production. The underdeveloped economies of these regions cannot sustain high admission prices. ﬁlms often serve as “content” fed to the company’s other media outlets. Distribution. By nation. and the country’s top commercial TV broadcaster. executing special effects. ﬁlmmakers around the world aim for distribution in the United States. Many regional and national distributors acquire ﬁlms from each other. owns Universal. theatrical grosses were $17. consisting of dialogue. Shooting. China and India have huge populations. The process of ﬁlm production involves not only technology and funding but also people working together. The sources of income are distributed very unevenly. The idea for the ﬁlm is developed and committed to paper in some form. 2. Western Europe (including the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries) emerges as the most important regional market outside North America. in Latin America. Western Europe. as does the newspaper chain Nippon Herald. and adding titles.
MAKING THE MOVIE: FILM PRODUCTION
The movie that is distributed and exhibited to us must ﬁrst be produced. or music. Vivendi. a movie ticket averages $3. currently prime minister of Italy. As the French director Robert Bresson puts it. and Japan. This involves cutting picture and sound. Here the ﬁlmmaker creates images in the form of shots. A shot is a series of frames produced by the camera in an uninterrupted operation.13). Asahi Broadcasting of Japan invests in ﬁlm studios. and the material that is shot takes on new signiﬁcance in the process of assembly. At this stage. and Africa. The ﬁlmmaker also begins to acquire funds to support the ﬁlm. Providing about 25 percent of global box ofﬁce. The idea for the ﬁlm may be radically modiﬁed when the script is hammered out. mainland China. India. “A ﬁlm is
. and Exhibition
companies belong to multinational conglomerates. the script’s presentation of the action may be drastically changed in shooting. 3. its ticket prices are the highest in the world (averaging $10 in 2001). but because of low ticket prices (an average of $0. Western European and Asian–Paciﬁc countries follow. owns Twentieth Century Fox. 1. For all these reasons. Every phase changes what went before. many of the world’s top media companies are European and Asian. and a French ﬁrm. adding music or extra dialogue. The less signiﬁcant market regions are Latin America. runs a conglomerate consisting of ﬁlm production and distribution companies.
Beyond Hollywood: International Distribution and Exhibition The major production and distribution companies are identiﬁed with America. Most ﬁlms go through three phases of production. Worldwide. Preparation. Australia’s News Corp. contributing over 40 percent of the total. which may overlap with the shooting phase.5 billion dollars in 2001. Eastern Europe. but many belong to international companies. noises. the images and sounds are combined in their ﬁnal form.
Songs are often replaced in video release. but these are still not as wide as many theatrical ﬁlms made since the 1950s. Broadcasters also use “time compression. 7 percent on DVD. and slightly more letterboxed than full-frame DVDs were purchased. It has been formatted to ﬁt your television. And. 1. DVDs offer the additional attractions of better visual quality and.” where as much as 50 percent of the image can disappear. No video version of a ﬁlm wholly replicates the ﬁlm image as it appeared on the theater screen. There have been a number of approaches to creating full-frame images. nearly all videocassette copies of ﬁlms made in the past 40 years alter the compositions intended by the ﬁlmmakers. Many viewers. though the practice remains more common with DVDs than with VHS cassettes. ﬁnd letterboxing distracting. In 2002. Even letterboxed images do not necessarily show absolutely the entire image. DVDs are rapidly gaining on VHS in popularity. One older method is called “pan and scan. Sometimes it’s a matter of nical differences between the (See Box. the ﬁlmmakers recomposed the original widescreen shots to ﬁt household TV monitors. dark horizontal bands at the top and bottom of the TV screen that approximate the ﬁlm’s original shape on theater screens. Such versions often begin with the enigmatic warning. One solution has been to release some video copies of ﬁlms with letterboxing. not squarish TV monitors. however. High-deﬁnition televisions (HDTV) with wider screens are slowly gaining a share of the market. a “controller” watches the ﬁlm and decides what portions of the widescreen image to eliminate. as Sam Raimi did with The Evil Dead by eliminating a crudely animated shot of lightning striking a tree (and depriving many fans of their favorite shot). As a result. James Cameron shot Titanic with an eye to successful video sales. This practice became widespread on home video in 1985. If the controller decides that important action is taking place at opposite ends of the frame. In preparing the video version. 10– 12. Directors occasionally revise ﬁlms for video release.” a device that speeds up the ﬁlm slightly so more commercials can be squeezed in. some directors “shoot for the box” and try to keep all the important action in an area that will survive the transfer to video (1. with some ﬁlms selling more copies on DVD than on VHS. In 1986. when Woody Allen. since very wide ﬁlms are often cropped slightly at the sides. using Super 35mm ﬁlm stock. What about a rental video? Doesn’t that conform to the original theatrical release? Often not. the original ﬁlm is altered. a computercontrolled scanner moves across the image—hence the name for the process. 12 percent on DVD.) But ﬁlms are also deliberately altered for video exhibition. pp. Since the mid-1950s virtually all ﬁlms have been designed to be shown on wide theater screens. and this type of video formatting has grown in popularity. “This ﬁlm has been modiﬁed from its original version. insisted that the ﬁlm be released letterboxed.23. video rental copies alter the image to ﬁt the TV screen. Sometimes the controller decides to make separate shots out of what was originally a single shot (1.” Today many ﬁlms are released in letterboxed video versions. Some DVDs contain both the letterboxed and full-frame versions of the same ﬁlm. Those
. Sometimes TV versions are created during production: The broadcast version of The Silence of the Lambs contains different footage than the theatrical release. Some video rental chains force distribution companies to prepare softer versions of R-rated ﬁlms. Whatever choice is made. Because A Bug’s Life was made in digital animation. thus providing both letterboxed and full-frame versions where the entire original image is visible. especially if their television screens are relatively small. Versions for airline video projection and for broadcast television trim sex and violence and eliminate potentially offensive dialogue from sound tracks. The most apparent difference between a rental video and the original ﬁlm involves the shape of the screen. Compare this with the sales of the two best-selling video titles of 2000: Tarzan.versions don’ttechlike their ﬁlms.22). In this process. Accepting the inevitable. the Criterion company started a series of letterboxed laser discs. Even “premium” cable channels snip out nudity and use redubbed lines of dialogue. They may hope that letterboxed versions on DVD and some cassettes will be faithful to their original images. additional image area is exposed above and below the widescreen composition.24). The changes in the pictures in full-frame versions. extra features like voiceover commentaries by ﬁlmmakers and documentaries on the making of the ﬁlm.20–1. in many cases.Film and Video: Where Did the Picture Go?
often that video look Filmmakersoriginalcomplain two media. as in broadcast and cable exhibition. and Toy Story 2. are more dramatic. however. panning and scanning. often drastically. a record 70 percent of the video sales of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring were DVDs. who controlled the video release of his ﬁlm Manhattan (1979). largely because the rights could not be negotiated. where the image has no black masking. they often opt for the full-frame video versions of ﬁlms.
and one nearly vanishes in the full-frame video. .27–1. while important parts of the horizontal composition may be lost (1.24 . so that the video version can concentrate on it. loses the sense of actors simultaneously reacting to each other. however.22 . . Note.1.25. the loss of compositional balance and the change of scale.
parts of the image are not included in the theatrical versions. . . . . however.21
1.20 In Otto Preminger’s Advise and Consent. . . .26). the upper and lower areas tend not to include much of interest. .29). 1.23 Many widescreen compositions try for only one center of interest . a single shot in the original .
1. Often. Here two characters have been balanced at opposite sides of the frame.
As a ﬁnal example.
. but they are put into full-frame videos to give a TV-shaped picture.
1. . the actor dominates the frame in a way she does not in the original (from Aliens). becomes a pair of shots and . consider a shot from Paul Thomas Anderson’s widescreen ﬁlm Magnolia (1.
the strongly horizontal composition emphasizes her outstretched arms as “wings” against a wide horizon.
1. and one of Rose’s arms is largely outside the frame.
1.26 Nearly all sense of the horizontal composition has disappeared in the video version. as more of the sky is visible.27 This framing from Magnolia keeps both the patient and nurse visible through much of their conversation and also balances the light bedclothes and the darkness around the nurse.1. the heroine of Titanic.
. the framing selects the nurse and holds the framing on him. feels the exhilaration of “ﬂying” on the ship’s prow.29 In the full-frame VHS copy.28 The letterboxed DVD image largely preserves this balance. while only the patient’s covered legs and feebly moving hands are visible. though the very edges of the wide frame have been cropped out.25 As Rose.
who submits it to a production company. Often the director or star will want changes in the script. a synopsis of the action. the producer usually acts as the liaison between the writer or director and the company that is ﬁnancing the ﬁlm. But the director. The screenplay will go through several stages. unearthing ﬁlm projects and trying to convince production companies or distributors to ﬁnance the ﬁlm. Sometimes the writer will send a screenplay to an agent. and assemble large-budget movies. Some directors allow actors to modify the dialogue. then one or more full-length scripts. The ﬁrst scene of Robert Altman’s The Player satirizes pitch sessions by showing celebrity screenwriters proposing strained ideas like “Pretty Woman meets Out of Africa. and writers have resigned themselves to seeing their work recast over and over. Shooting scripts are constantly altered too. Distribution. The executive producer is often the person who arranged the ﬁnancing for the project or obtained the literary property (although many ﬁlmmakers complain that the credit of executive producer is sometimes given to people who did little work). A single producer may take on all these tasks. two roles are central: that of producer and that of screenwriter. A studio may also hire a producer to put together a particular package. and problems on location or in
. Most ﬁlms that we see in theaters culminate from dozens of specialized tasks carried out by hundreds of experts. wanted to emphasize the clash between paciﬁsm and violence. The producer nurses the project through the script process. and crew. but in the contemporary American ﬁlm industry the producer’s work is further subdivided. in the original screenplay of Witness the protagonist was Rachel. and Rachel’s confused feelings about Book. These stages include a treatment. The romance. shoot. the shooting script.24
Film Production. Extensive rewriting is common. Or an experienced screenwriter meets with a producer in a “pitch session. It is brought back to life by the actors and then killed in the camera. the producer will often have the task of arranging the distribution. and Exhibition
born in my head and I kill it on paper. Once the production is under way. Peter Weir. and marketing of the ﬁlm and of monitoring the paying back of the money invested in the production. the line producer oversees the day-to-day activities of director. the preparation phase is known as preproduction. For example. the Amish widow with whom John Book falls in love. The line producer is assigned by an associate producer. and a ﬁnal version. cast.” Alternatively.
The Preproduction Phase
In professional ﬁlmmaking. She or he may be an “independent” producer. So William Kelley and Earl Wallace revised their screenplay to emphasize the mystery plot line and to center the action on Book. It is then resurrected into a third and ﬁnal life in the editing room where the dismembered pieces are assembled into their ﬁnished form. formed the central plot line. who acts as a liaison with laboratories or technical personnel.” where the writer can propose ideas for scripts. Or the producer may work for a distribution company and generate ideas for ﬁlms. At this point. This course of action is common if the producer has bought the rights to a novel or play and wants it adapted into a ﬁlm. The tasks of the producer are chieﬂy ﬁnancial and organizational. During shooting and assembly.” These three phases include many particular jobs. and arranges to hire the personnel who will work on the ﬁlm. sometimes the producer has an idea for a ﬁlm and hires a screenwriter to develop it. obtains ﬁnancial support. This ﬁne-grained division of labor has proved to be a reliable way to prepare. promotion. After the ﬁlm is completed. The chief task of the screenwriter is to prepare the screenplay (or script). who brings urban crime into the peaceful Amish community.
30). He or she has sought out a director and stars to make the package seem a promising investment. this often leads to conﬂicts about which writer or writers deserve onscreen credit for the ﬁlm. other writers may be hired to revise it. A producer must also plan to shoot around actors who can’t be on the set every day. the main characters’ arrival on the island and their departure at the end of the ﬁlm were both shot at the start of production. Most Hollywood screenwriters earn their living by rewriting other writers’ scripts. producers usually prefer to shoot all the scenes taking place in one location at one time. Many producers try to schedule the most difﬁcult scenes early. showing a scene that was eliminated from the ﬁnal ﬁlm. can be glimpsed in only one other scene. As the screenplay is being written or rewritten. insurance. scriptwriter.
a set may necessitate changes in the scene. For Jurassic Park. in the most convenient order for production—and put in proper order in the editing room. these disputes are adjudicated by the Screen Writers’ Guild. The producer must also prepare a daily schedule for shooting the ﬁlm. during the three weeks of location in Hawaii. The sum of above. before cast and crew begin to tire. secondary cast. the total cost of producing the ﬁlm’s master negative). This will be done with an eye on the budget. rearranged. script scenes that have been shot are often condensed. director.and below-the-line costs is called the negative cost (that is. the average Hollywood negative cost ran about $50 million. If the producer or director ﬁnds one writer’s screenplay unsatisfactory. apparently given a prominent part in this sequence. The actress sitting next to Cary Grant. As you may imagine. In the assembly stage. Since transporting equipment and personnel to a location is a major expense. In the American ﬁlm industry.30 A publicity still for Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious. The producer assumes that the separate shots will be made out of continuity—that is. In 2001. or dropped entirely (1. and major cast) and below-the-line costs (the expenses allotted to the crew. The producer must prepare a budget spelling out above-theline costs (the costs of literary property.Making the Film: Film Production
1. and publicity). the producer is planning the ﬁlm’s ﬁnances. the shooting and assembly phases. For Raging Bull the
Working with the production designer. Hollywood ﬁlmmakers also use it to refer to the shooting phase (as in.
“If you wander unbidden onto a set. monitoring safety conditions. a jack-of-all-trades who. That’s the AD yelling. such as details of performers’ appearances (in the last scene.31). who serves as messenger for director and staff. with the director. but action sequences and shots using special effects or complicated camerawork tend to be storyboarded in detail.
The Production Phase
Although production is the term for the entire process of making a ﬁlm. but he or she is primarily responsible for overseeing the shooting and assembly phases. we go into production next week”). The second assistant director. and keeping the energy level high. the director has already begun to work with the set unit.
1. an art director supervises the construction and painting of the sets.31 A page from the storyboard for Hitchcock’s The Birds. Production is also known as principal photography. you’ll always know the AD because he or she is the one who’ll probably throw you off. During the preparation phase. e. The dialogue coach. known in the classic studio era as a “script girl. including notations about costume. and the running time of each shot. ‘Places!’ ‘Quiet on the set!’ ‘Lunch— one-half hour!’ and ‘That’s a wrap. 1. at once grating and oddly comforting. camera position. c. with the dialogue scenes shot later.26
Film Production. and other matters (1. This unit creates drawings and plans that determine the architecture and the color schemes of the sets. Within most ﬁlm industries. people!’ It’s all very ritualistic. Under the production designer’s supervision. and the electricians’ crew. camerawork. lighting. lighting. the director is considered the single person most responsible for the look and sound of the ﬁnished ﬁlm. who is the liaison among the ﬁrst assistant director. “Now that we’ve got a ﬁnished script. This includes a. The director is often involved at various stages of preproduction. or production design unit.” (Today one-ﬁfth of Hollywood script supervisors are male. the director orchestrates the contributions of several units. and even seasons and geography most efﬁciently. while keeping track of the actors. The third assistant director. props. headed by a production designer. the camera crew. Distribution. modiﬁes the sets for speciﬁc ﬁlming purposes.) The script supervisor is in charge of all details of continuity from shot to shot. often someone with experience in interior decoration. on assistant directors
. movement. The set decorator. b. was the carnation in the left or right buttonhole?). who feeds performers their lines and speaks the lines of offscreen characters during shots of other performers. independent producer. The storyboard gives the cinematography unit and the special-effects unit a preliminary sense of what the ﬁnished shots should look like. Because of the specialized division of labor in large-scale production. Most directors do not demand a storyboard for every scene. the producer comes up with a schedule that juggles cast. the director will rely on what is called the director’s crew. plans out each day’s shooting schedule and sets up each shot for the director’s approval. The costume designer is in charge of planning and executing the wardrobe for the production. supervising a staff who ﬁnd props and a set dresser who arranges things on the set during shooting. locations. Keeping all such contingencies in mind. 2. d. During the shooting. The script supervisor. The ﬁrst assistant director.”
— Christine Vachon. a graphic artist may be assigned to produce a storyboard. a series of comic-strip-like sketches of the shots in each scene. crew. like reveille and taps on a military base. The production designer is in charge of visualizing the ﬁlm’s settings. and Exhibition
complex prizeﬁght sequences were ﬁlmed ﬁrst.
and actress Dorothy Comingore kneels at the left. or performers in secondary roles.
1. lighting. The cast may include stars.
. who runs the machine and who may also have assistants to load the camera. and ﬁll distant desks in large ofﬁce sets. The cinematographer consults with the director on how each scene will be lit and ﬁlmed (1. If animals join the cast. those anonymous persons who pass by in the street. There have been pig wranglers (Mad Max beyond Thunder Dome). This leader is the cinematographer. The most visible group of workers is the cast. cinematographer Gregg Toland crouches below the camera. One of the director’s major jobs is to shape the performances of the cast. come together for crowd scenes. push a dolly. and camera technique. and extras. or DP. 4. 3. The second unit director. adjust and follow focus. The female script supervisor can be seen in the background left. The ﬁrst assistant director usually works with the extras and takes charge of arranging crowd scenes. also known as the director of photography. Most directors will spend a good deal of time explaining how a line or gesture should be rendered. they will be handled by a wrangler. The cast also includes supporting players. snake wranglers (Raiders of the Lost Ark). The camera operator. and the like. action scenes. reminding the actor of the place of this scene in the overall ﬁlm. there are still more specialized roles.32 On the set of Citizen Kane. Another unit of specialized labor is the photography unit. On some productions.Making the Film: Film Production
f. who ﬁlms stunts. location footage. and helping the actor create a coherent performance. The cinematographer is an expert on photographic processes. and spider wranglers (Arachnophobia).32). Stunt persons will be supervised by a stunt coordinator. at a distance from where principal shooting is taking place. Orson Welles directs from his wheelchair on the far right. and so on. The cinematographer supervises a. minor players. well-known players assigned to major roles and likely to attract audiences. professional dancers will work with a choreographer.
The recordist will also attempt to tape some ambient sound when no actors are speaking. 5. The recordist’s staff includes a. The model was scanned into a computer for digital manipulation. lays sound cables. and Exhibition
b. who places other microphones. The boom operator. Typically the recordist will use a portable tape recorder. the director and the production designer will have determined what effects will be needed. Parallel to the photography unit is the sound unit. and a console to balance and combine the inputs. props. The third man. These bits of room tone will later be inserted to ﬁll pauses in the dialogue. the person who supervises the grips.
1.33 Sculpting a model dinosaur for Jurassic Park: The Lost World. and elements of the setting and lighting. who manipulates the boom microphone and conceals radio microphones on the actors.
.and model-makers to specialists in digital compositing. A miscellaneous unit includes a makeup staff. These workers carry and arrange equipment. Some productions also have a sound designer. b. miniatures. and other technical shots (1. several sorts of microphones. plans a sonic style appropriate for the entire ﬁlm. 6. and the specialeffects unit consults with the director and the cinematographer on an ongoing basis. On a contemporary production. the special-effects unit can number hundreds of workers. from puppet. a costume staff. During the planning phase. Distribution. The gaffer. A special-effects unit is charged with preparing and executing process shots. 7. computer-generated graphics. hairdressers. and drivers (who transport cast and crew).28
Film Production. This is headed by the production recordist (also called the sound mixer). In Hollywood production the gaffer’s assistant is called the best boy. like the production designer. The recordist’s principal responsibility is to record dialogue during shooting. who enters the process during the preparation phase and who.33). The key grip. matte work. and is in charge of controlling ambient sound. the head electrician who supervises the placement and rigging of the lights. c.
actors will be ﬁlmed against neutral blue or green backgrounds so
1. This person will manage daily organizational business. When special effects are to be included. and only one of those becomes the shot included in the ﬁnished ﬁlm. the shooting phase must carefully plan for them.34 A slate shown at the beginning of a shot in Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise. the director and crew must have some way of labeling each take. and each one may require many takes. The master shot typically records the entire action and dialogue of the scene. For instance. There may be several takes of the master shot. While crews set up the lighting and test the sound recording. During shooting. Newcomers to the ﬁlm industry often start out working as production assistants. a production secretary coordinates telephone communications among units and with the producer. the director and the camera unit will use two or more cameras.Making the Film: Film Production
8. hoping to capture unexpected spontaneity in the performance. often by using two or more cameras ﬁlming at the same time. involving perhaps hundreds of workers. if the ﬁnished ﬁlm requires one shot of an actor saying a line. makes a sharp smack that allows the recordist to synchronize the sound track with the footage in the assembly phase (1. such as arranging for meals and accommodations. Not all takes are printed. All this coordinated effort. one of the cinematographer’s staff holds up a slate before the lens. the producer is represented by a unit often called the producer’s crew. On the slate is written the production. an arrangement that can capture two actors in alternating shots. These shots are called coverage. while 13 cameras were used for stunts in XXX. Scenes in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled were ﬁlmed with as many as 11 mini-DV cameras. also known as the production coordinator or the associate producer. The lower cost of digital video cameras has allowed some directors to experiment with shooting conversations from many angles at once. of that shot. which was moved to different points for different setups. For every shot called for in the script or storyboard. There are also electronic slates which keep track of each take automatically and provide digital readouts. crashes. As soon as the camera starts. and take. most directors and technicians follow an organized procedure. This consists of the production manager. The battles in Gladiator were ﬁlmed by 7 cameras. results in many thousands of feet of exposed ﬁlm and recorded sound-on-tape. Extra footage can be used in coming-attractions trailers and electronic press kits. and explosions are difﬁcult to repeat for retakes. scenes were ﬁlmed with a single camera. The script supervisor checks to ensure that continuity details are consistent within all these shots. Thus every take is identiﬁed for future reference. some scenes in Dancer in the Dark employed 100 digital cameras.
. the clapboard. or varying versions. According to director Lars von Trier. The director then supervises the ﬁlming of a master shot. Because shooting usually proceeds out of continuity. a common tactic is to ﬁlm with an A camera and a B camera. the director may make several takes of that speech. For most of ﬁlm history. each time asking the actor to vary the delivery. In many cases.34). Action scenes are often shot from several angles simultaneously because chases. scene. More recently. shot. A production accountant (or production auditor) monitors expenditures. and production assistants (or PAs) run errands. with pressures to ﬁnish principal photography as fast as possible. A hinged arm at the top. the director usually makes several takes. Then portions of the scene are restaged and shot in closer views or from different angles. Today most directors shoot a great deal of coverage. the director rehearses the actors and instructs the cinematographer. In ﬁlming a scene. For dialogue scenes.
the director or producer has probably hired an editor (also known as the supervising editor). dailies are often shown to the producer and director on video. which amounts to about 9000 feet of 35mm ﬁlm. the editor will call to inform the director of how the footage looks. Because each shot usually exists in several takes. Before the shooting has begun. For this reason. From the dailies the director selects the best takes and the editor records the choices. may have been carved out of 500. The unused shots constitute the outtakes. because the ﬁlm is shot out of continuity. A 100-minute feature. From the rough cut the editor. or the rushes. someone may promise to “ﬁx it in post.
The Postproduction Phase
Filmmakers call the assembly phase postproduction. (If something goes wrong.35 For the climax of Jurassic Park.35). Postproduction staff members work behind the scenes throughout shooting. but the velociraptors and the Tyrannosaurus rex were computergenerated images added later. This footage is known as the dailies. the editor’s job can be a vast one. The editor inspects the dailies. This person catalogues and assembles the takes produced during shooting. Typically. or if the production is ﬁlming far away. To save money. Rough cuts tend to run long. the actors were shot in the set of the visitor’s center. Since retaking shots is costly and troublesome. leaving it to the assistant editor to synchronize image and sound and to sort the takes by scene. postproduction on major Hollywood pictures often takes ﬁve to seven months. Or the director will ﬁlm performers with the understanding that other material will be composited into the frame (1. that of Apocalypse Now ran seven and a half hours. a second unit may be shooting inserts. the editor assembles it into a rough cut—the shots loosely strung in sequence. footage to ﬁll in at certain places. but since video can conceal defects in the original footage. exposure. framing. constant checking of the dailies is important for spotting any problems with focus. These are typically
. Sometimes several editors and assistants will be brought in. editors will check the original shots before cutting the ﬁlm.
that their ﬁgures may be inserted into computer-created settings. Distribution. The editor will meet with the director to examine the dailies. or other visual factors. and because the master-shot/coverage approach yields so much footage. without sound effects or music. While the ﬁnal cut is being prepared.”) Yet this phase does not begin simply after the shooting is ﬁnished. The editor also works with the director to make creative decisions about how the footage can best be cut together. and Exhibition
1. builds toward a ﬁne cut or ﬁnal cut. As the footage accumulates.30
Film Production. in consultation with the director. the editor receives the processed footage from the laboratory as quickly as possible.000 feet of ﬁlm.
abbreviation for the American Cinema Editors. shrubs. ASC: After the name of the director of photography. and so on). Matte artist: Member of special-effects unit who paints backdrops that are then photographically incorporated into a shot in order to suggest a particular setting. Meanwhile. a pioneer in postproduction sound. Loader: Member of photography unit who loads and unloads camera magazines. and other factors have led producers to credit everyone who worked on a ﬁlm. as well as logging the shots taken and sending the ﬁlm to the laboratory. Casting director: Searches for and auditions performers for the ﬁlm. Unit publicist: Member of producer’s crew who creates and distributes promotional material regarding the production. Timer. Optical effects: Laboratory workers responsible for such effects as fades and dissolves. In this way. Property master: Member of set crew who supervises the use of all props. or movable objects in the ﬁlm. These photographs may be used to check lighting or set design or color. a professional association.
. Lead man: Member of set crew responsible for tracking down various props and items of decor for the set. (2) Member of the special-effects unit who fabricates scale models of locales. Dialogue editor: Sound editor specializing in making sure recorded speech is audible. Some of the most colorful terms (gaffer. Dolly grip: Crew member who pushes the dolly that carries the camera. Still photographer: Member of crew who takes photographs of scenes and behind-the-scenes shots of cast members and others. the specialization of large-scale ﬁlmmaking has created its own jargon. vehicles. Video assist: The use of a video camera mounted alongside the motion-picture camera to check lighting. Additional photography: A crew shooting footage apart from the principal photography supervised by the director of photography. the director and the cinematographer can try out a shot or scene on tape before committing it to ﬁlm. either from one setup to another or during a take for moving camera shots.Some Terms and Roles in Film Production
The rise of packaged productions. Color timer: Laboratory worker who inspects the negative ﬁlm and who adjusts the printer light to achieve consistency of color across the ﬁnished product. Greenery man: Crew member who chooses and maintains trees. abbreviation for the American Society of Cinematographers. Scenic artist: Member of set crew responsible for painting surfaces of set. Will suggest actors for leading roles (principal characters) as well as character parts (fairly standardized or stereotyped roles). glass. The publicist may arrange for press and television interviews with the director and stars and for coverage of the production in the mass media. best boy) are explained in the text. Named for Jack Foley. Here are some other terms that you may see in a ﬁlm’s credits. a professional association. framing. and grass in settings. Clapper boy: Crew member who operates the clapboard that identiﬁes each take. Publicist. pressures from unionized workers. or performances. ACE: After the name of the editor. Foley artist: A sound-effects specialist who creates sounds of body movement by walking or by moving materials across large trays of different substances (sand. Model-maker: (1) Member of production design unit who prepares architectural models for sets to be built. and many will be used in promoting and publicizing the ﬁlm. earth. or characters to be ﬁlmed as substitutes for full-size ones. The British equivalent is the BSC.
Sound-effects technicians have sensitive hearing. footage printed from the camera negative. sound editing relies on computer technology. Some systems allow special effects and music to be tried out as well. Sound editors routinely manufacture footsteps. then to a hard drive. accompaniment pulled from recorded songs or classical pieces. editors were obliged to rearrange the shots physically. and of course all of the sound for everything had to be redone. equalization. a taped series of metronome beats synchronized with the ﬁnal cut. Don’t just put in any door. drawing on the library of stock sounds or creating particular effects for this ﬁlm. One veteran notes the differences among doors: “The bathroom door has a little air as opposed to the closet door. The editor enters notes on each take directly into a computer database. and Exhibition
long shots of cities or airports or close-ups of objects. In Terminator 2 the sound of the T-1000 cyborg passing through cell bars is that of dog food sliding slowly out of a can. Such electronic editing systems. you have to hear the latch sound. The front door has to sound solid. Distribution. In trying out their options.” Like picture editing. The composer writes the score. music. paste it alongside any other shots. Until the mid-1980s. The boom and throb of underwater action in The Hunt for Red October were slowed down and reprocessed from such mundane sources as a diver plunging into a swimming pool.32
Film Production. or speed.” During the spotting of the sound track the ﬁlm’s composer has entered the assembly phase as well. or sound effects.
“[ADR for Apocalypse Now] was tremendously wearing on the actors because the entire ﬁlm is looped. The director. One technician on the ﬁlm calls digital sound editing “sound sculpting. Surprisingly little of the sound recorded during ﬁlming winds up in the ﬁnished movie. a process known as spotting. make sure it’s right. The editor can call up any shot. A sound’s qualities can be modiﬁed digitally—clipping off high or low frequencies. the sound editor records actors in the studio speaking their lines (called dubbing or looping). the composer. usually known as nonlinear systems. and pacing. details. a ﬁst thudding into ﬂesh (often produced by whacking a watermelon with an axe). The composer compiles cue sheets that list exactly where the music will go and how long it should run. very few of the noises we hear in a ﬁlm were recorded during ﬁlming. Although nonlinear systems have greatly speeded up the process of cutting. water bubbling from a garden hose. The editor can store recorded sounds in a database. Similarly. A sound editor adds sound effects. classifying and rearranging them in any way desired. With the on-set recording serving as a guide track. changing pitch. Nonsynchronized dialogue such as the babble of a crowd (known in Hollywood as “walla”) will be added by ADR as well. So the actors were locked in a room for days and days on end shouting. permit random access to the entire store of footage. and the hum of Disneyland’s airconditioning plant. editors cut and spliced the work print. or they’re shouting over the noise of the boat. trim it. cars crashing.”
— Walter Murch. . reverberation. Either they’re shouting over the noise of the helicopter. ADR usually yields better quality than location sound. . or junk it. The dailies are transferred to videotape. the editor usually asks for a work print of key scenes in order to check for color. At this point titles will be prepared and further laboratory work or special-effects work may be done. the sound editor takes charge of building up the sound track. for short). the rough cut will be synchronized with a temp dub. sound designer
. Once the shots are arranged in something approaching ﬁnal form. Musicians record the score with the aid of a click track. and the sound editor view the ﬁlm and agree on where music and effects will be placed. the picture editor. While the composer is working. using a process known as automated dialogue replacement (ADR. The sound editor may have a staff whose members specialize in mixing dialogue. . Now virtually all commercial ﬁlms are edited electronically. although she or he will probably not orchestrate it personally. pistol shots. Often half or more of the dialogue is rerecorded in postproduction.
Organized as efﬁcient businesses. This internegative is assembled in accordance with the ﬁnal cut. Singin’ in the Rain follows a single ﬁlm through the entire process. Often there will need to be equalization. with a gigantic publicity billboard ﬁlling the ﬁnal shot. then sound effects are balanced with that. Often the dialogue track is organized ﬁrst. The most famous studios ﬂourished in Hollywood between the 1920s and the 1960s— Paramount. the master track is transferred onto sound recording ﬁlm.38. and they retained most of their workers on long-term contracts (1. Many ﬁctional ﬁlms have been made about the process of ﬁlm production. release prints are made for distribution. and so on. and cinematographer have approved an answer print. the postproduction staffs prepare airline and broadcast television versions. and each bit of sound may occupy a separate track. Each studio’s central management planned all projects. is called the answer print. The work of production does not end when the ﬁnal theatrical version has been assembled. which in turn furnishes an internegative. Once fully mixed. These are the copies shown in theaters. The action of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out occurs while a low-budget thriller is in sound editing. and sound editor put dozens of such separate tracks together into a single master track. reports were
MODES OF PRODUCTION
The ﬁne-grained division of labor we’ve been describing is characteristic of studio ﬁlmmaking. the source of future versions. These companies owned equipment and extensive physical plants. A studio is a company in the business of manufacturing ﬁlms. in which some naked couples were blocked by digital ﬁgures added to the foreground.Modes of Production
Dialogue. Federico Fellini’s 81⁄2 concerns itself with the preproduction stage of a ﬁlm that is abandoned before shooting starts. ﬁltering. The ﬁrst positive print. 36). p. different versions may be prepared for different countries. producer. This video transfer process often demands new judgments about color quality and sound balance. editor.. In consultation with the producer and director. Columbia. The ﬁlm’s camera negative. the director. Then the master sound track is synchronized with it. each is copied to a master videotape. which was used to make the dailies and the work print. In some cases. which encodes the magnetic sound as optical or digital information on 35mm ﬁlm. during shooting. and music are recorded on different magnetic tapes. At the start there were versions of the script. Warner Bros. then delegated authority to individual supervisors. The sound specialist who performs the task is the rerecording mixer. the studios created a tradition of carefully tracking the entire process through paper records. Scenes in Sergio Leone’s Once upon a Time in America were completely rearranged for its American release. Instead. At a ﬁnal mixing session. François Truffaut’s Day for Night takes place during the shooting phase of a project interrupted by the death of a cast member. After the director. and ﬁnally music is added to create the ﬁnal mix. and other adjustments to the track. effects. Once the various versions are decided upon. European prints of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut featured more nudity than American ones. from the negative footage the laboratory draws an interpositive. is normally too precious to serve as the source for ﬁnal prints. who in turn assembled casts and crews from the studio’s pool of workers. complete with picture and sound. and it will be the primary source for future prints.
Other phases of postproduction have been transformed by computer-generated imagery (CGI). again and again. with all takes stored on the hard drive.36
For The Matrix a ring of still cameras captured all aspects of ﬁgures in ﬂight . The arrival of digital. the pace of movie editing has picked up. . which are then digitally erased. until he pared the shots down to mere ﬂashes. Cinematographers can previsualize complicated camera movements in “virtual sets. Now that fast cutting is easy. to clone a character (as in Multiplicity). because Travis would have had to order many reprints of the shots and to keep track of dozens of bits of ﬁlm. Now. shots of the hero’s sailboat in a studio tank were blended with a vast seascape created digitally. Neil Travis. prepare set designs. all phases of have Over helppast 20screenplays. editor of Patriot Games. test makeup. The natural home for CGI is fantasy and science ﬁction. By transferring photographed ﬁlm to a digital format. or to build crowds out of only a few spectators (in several scenes of Forrest Gump). or nonlinear.3 seconds. Composers can prepare ﬁrst drafts of scores directly on digital synthesizers and send the results to the director for fast synchronization with edited sequences. In the days when editors cut directly on ﬁlm. still photographs were digitized to create
1. draw storyboards. In Armageddon. To do all this by hand would have been discouragingly slow. Flying characters are ﬁlmed suspended from cables. which has nearly 4000 shots.” software programs that can put performers into artiﬁcially composed settings that automatically change the angle of sunlight or the texture of rain or fog. the average shot lasts only 2. For the ﬁnal storm in The Truman Show. prepareﬁlm production softbeen changed by computer technology. as in Saving Private Ryan’s Omaha beach assault. Travis began trimming two frames off every shot. prepared the sequence in which Jack Ryan watches in horror as a satellite transmits infrared images of a commando raid on a terrorist camp. With the aid of digital editing. Digital compositing can construct virtual characters like Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace and create wounded soldiers. There is ware to draft budgets and schedules. editing has drastically changed the assembly process.” Filmmakers speak of the “digital backlot.
. . they had to splice and resplice the footage if they wanted to try out different arrangements. Databases enable editors to keep track of every take and bit of sound. it is now easy to delete distracting background elements. and diagram camera placement.Making Movies in the Digital Era
the years. shots can be rearranged in seconds. For The Matrix.
The ﬁlmmakers had already previsualized the ﬁghters’ movements on computer and were able to provide the system with information about every twist and leap. and even ﬁlm grain. so that the shot could vary the speed of the action at will. as if ﬁlmed by a moving camera.virtual sets seen in smoothly changing three-dimensional perspectives. The result was larger-than-life movement in a virtual world (1. Directors Larry and Andy Wachowski wanted midair combats in which the camera could glide rapidly around gunmen who are frozen in place or ﬂoating in slow motion.
1. 1. The software then created synthetic in-between images based on the frames on either side.
. light ﬂare.37). color shifts.36. The effect was achieved through surrounding the wiresuspended actors with 120 still cameras and feeding the sep-
arate images to a high-speed computer’s motion-capture system. Software added lens distortions. . permitting the ﬁnal shot to move around characters hovering in space. .37
and oversee the making of the ﬁlms they distribute. The centralized studio production system has virtually disappeared. special-effects work. though now it is done for the most part on computer. front row center.36
Film Production. so the same group of people might work together on ﬁlm after ﬁlm. MGM studio head Louis B. and technicians brought together for this project alone. Each ﬁlm is a unique product. and chaotic than turning out cars or TV sets. shows off his stable of contract stars. and laboratory results. catering. This sort of record keeping has remained a part of large-scale ﬁlmmaking. special effects.38 In a World War II–era publicity photo. in the assembly phase there were logs of shots catalogued in editing and a variety of cue sheets for music. sets. Now each ﬁlm is planned as a distinct package. In studio ﬁlmmaking. not a replica of a basic design. looping.
. the detailed production stages remain similar to what they were in the heyday of studio production. and ofﬁces for the project. In fact. Although studio production might seem to resemble a factory’s assembly line. skilled specialists collaborated to create such a product while still adhering to a blueprint prepared by management. and title layout. fund. The studio may provide its own soundstages. The old studios had stars and staff under long-term contracts. but in most cases the producer arranges with outside ﬁrms to supply cameras. Distribution. Mayer.
written about camera footage. ﬁlmmaking has become vastly more complicated in recent years. although they often initiate. with director. Still. it was always more creative. collaborative. actors.400 names in its ﬁnal credits. locations. and everything else required. sound recording. and Exhibition
1. staff. Titanic listed over 1. mixing. largely because of the expansion of production budgets and the growth of computer-based special effects. The giants of Hollywood’s golden age have become distribution companies.
if the breaks fall their way. still photographer. and foul-ups. Woody Allen. Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi as an exploitation ﬁlm for the Spanish-language video market. coproduced.
Exploitation and Independent Production
Not all ﬁlms using the division of labor we have outlined are big-budget projects ﬁnanced by major companies. the picture editor might cut sound as well. certiﬁed public accountants. scriptwriter. independent productions face many obstacles (1. these industry-based independents organize production in ways very close to the full-ﬂedged studio mode. videocassette rentals. and the precise division of labor created by the studio tradition is largely responsible. Examples would be Edward Burns’s The Brothers McMullen and Victor Nuñez’s Ulee’s Gold. loosely known as “independent” ﬁlms. maker of The Toxic Avenger. everybody in the United States has a desperate need to believe that some day. in such circumstances people often double up on jobs: The director might produce the ﬁlm and write the script. good or bad. Filmmakers may have to ﬁnance the project
“Deep down inside. and sound recordist and mixer. because these projects require less ﬁnancing. for instance. the director’s role. distributors buying the rights if the project seems to have good prospects. exploitation ﬁlmmakers usually divide the labor along studio lines. they can quit their jobs as claims adjusters. do. Troma Films. Sometimes the independent ﬁlmmaker is a well-known director. Otherwise. now. The category of independent production is a roomy one.000 or even less. turning out horror movies and teen sex comedies for $100. fringe theatres and drive-ins. who prefers to work with budgets signiﬁcantly below the industry norm. with major U. accidents. and the production tasks are parceled out in ways which roughly conform to massproduction practices. David Cronenberg. or Alan Rudolph. Nonetheless. such as Jane Campion. The lower scale of investment allows the ﬁlmmaker more freedom in choosing stories and performers. David Lynch’s low-budget The Straight Story was ﬁnanced by French and British television before it was bought for distribution by Disney. most exploitation ﬁlms don’t enter the theatrical market. and coscripted. The 21-year-old director also functioned as producer. Weary ﬁlmmakers admit that at any moment the whole enterprise could run out of control. Every major ﬁlm that is released. True. Last-minute script changes or poor reactions in a test screening may require that some scenes be reshot. and go out and make their own low-budget movie. The director usually initiates the project and partners with a producer to get it realized. critic and independent ﬁlmmaker
. is remarkable to the extent that it got ﬁnished at all. is probably the most famous exploitation company. he also served as unit production manager and grip. is allowed by his contract to rewrite and reshoot extensive portions of his ﬁlm after he has assembled an initial rough cut. Unlike El Mariachi. Weather may throw the shooting off schedule. Nonetheless. Independent ﬁlms are made for the theatrical market but without major distributor ﬁnancing. As we would expect. legal secretaries. Rodriguez’s friend Carlos Gallardo starred. There is the producer’s role. and so on. For example. Every large-scale production is plagued by compromises. To take an extreme example.”
— Joe Queenan. and it also includes more modest projects by less well known ﬁlmmakers.S. cinematographer.Modes of Production
No division of labor can prevent all problems. the directors can demand more control over the production process. camera operator. the future is just too bleak. but other low-budget productions. There are also low-budget exploitation products tailored to a particular market—in earlier decades. or mobsters. Even though their budgets are much smaller than for most commercial ﬁlms. Disagreements may result in the ﬁring of a producer or a cinematographer.39). Gallardo’s mother fed the cast and crew. Financing often comes from European television ﬁrms. El Mariachi wound up costing only about $7000.
many people work on the ﬁlm. Consider Stan Brakhage. The 16mm and digital video formats are customary for small-scale production. no matter how low-budget.41 Meshes of the Afternoon: Multiple versions of the protagonist played by the ﬁlmmaker. Experimentalist Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon. Here instead of a single ﬁlmmaker shaping the project.
1. and put it all together. several ﬁlm workers participate
1. Some. she and a very small crew spent thirteen months living with miners during the workers’ strike. There is very little division of labor: The ﬁlmmaker oversees every production task and will perform many of them.42).
1. but they are central to experimental and documentary traditions. Here he examined the ceremonies of a Ghanaian cult whose members lived a double life: Most of the time they worked as low-paid laborers. Maya Deren. But many ﬁlmmakers believe the advantages of independence outweigh the drawbacks. Alexander Hammid. shoots. Similarly.
. Brakhage prepares. record the sound. Although technicians or performers may help out.A. with the help of relatives and friendly investors. still relies on the basic roles and phases established in the studio tradition. executing all the basic production tasks. A large crew was ruled out not only by Koppel’s budget but also by the need to ﬁt naturally into the community. such as 23rd Psalm Branch.39 In making Just Another Girl on the IRT. but she scripted.41). After eventually obtaining funding from foundations. are lyrical studies of his home and family (1.40 In The Riddle of Lumen. But it is also possible for one person to do everything: plan the ﬁlm. the ﬁlmmakers were constantly threatened with violence from strikebreakers (1. and edited it and performed in the central role (1. has made several ﬁlms alone or with a small crew in his efforts to record the lives of marginal people living in alien cultures. Brakhage has proved that the individual ﬁlmmaker can become an artisan. from grants. Barbara Koppel devoted four years to making Harlan County. Rouch wrote. directed. and photographed Les Maîtres fous (1955). and perhaps obliging friends and relatives. And the production process. directed. U. the creative decisions rest with the ﬁlmmaker.40). independent director Leslie Harris used locations and available lighting in order to shoot quickly. Funded by grants and his personal ﬁnances. Independent production can treat subjects that large-scale studio production ignores. Such ﬁlms are seldom seen in commercial theatres. working with cameraman Hart Perry and sometimes also a lighting person. During ﬁlming Koppel acted as sound recordist. whose ﬁlms are among the most directly personal ever made. Jean Rouch. ﬁnance it. Others. each one a specialist in a particular task. such as Dog Star Man. a French anthropologist. and edits his ﬁlms virtually unaided. and Exhibition
themselves. With over 150 ﬁlms to his credit. While he was working in a ﬁlm laboratory. run the camera. they must also ﬁnd a distributor specializing in independent and low-budget ﬁlms. No ﬁlm studios would have supported Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise or Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Distribution.. like Window Water Baby Moving.38
Film Production. Brakhage turns shadows and everyday objects into vivid distant patterns. but in their rituals they passed into a frenzied trance and assumed the identiﬁes of their colonial rulers. Financial backing often comes from the ﬁlmmaker. his ﬁrst widely seen ﬁlm.S.
In large-scale and independent production. still others. are mythic treatments of nature. it can be more personal and controversial. Sometimes small-scale production becomes collective production. Like the miners. was shot by her husband. he also developed and printed his footage. Such small-scale production is also common in documentary ﬁlmmaking. perform in it. she ﬁnished ﬁlming in just 17 days. Because the independent ﬁlm does not need as large an audience to repay its costs. a record of Kentucky coal miners’ struggles for union representation. are quasi-documentary studies of war and death.
A. Some had to relearn traditional skills for making tools and clothes from bone. with a central coordinating committee answerable to the complete membership. In the United States.com. Now that video. With funding from television and the National Film Board. but it retained certain policies characteristic of the collective mode.” Showcasing the strengths of professional digital Beta video (1.42 Harlan County.43 The hero of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner pauses in his ﬂight across the ice. The Cruise. murder. but also a community distribution network that would make Newsreel ﬁlms available for local activists around the country. through consensus and collaboration. second. After making several video shorts and a television series. third or fourth assistant director. and revenge. particularly the digital format. Tape. the political movements of the late 1960s fostered many efforts toward collective ﬁlm production.” Small-scale production allows the ﬁlmmakers to retain tight control of the project. the group composed a screenplay based on an oral tale about love. The group shares common goals and makes production decisions democratically. Barbara Koppel.Modes of Production
equally. The War Room. stone.” Cohn explained. “The Inuit process is very horizontal.
1. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner won the prize for best ﬁrst ﬁlm at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. small-scale production will probably become more visible. said Cohn. and Christine Choy have gone on to work independently. The Blair Witch Project. “We don’t have a hierarchy. Newsreel attempted to create not only a collective production situation. Three Inuits (Zacharias Kunuk. such as equal pay for all participants in a ﬁlm. convinced people “that a bunch of Eskimos from the end of the world could be sophisticated enough to make a movie. including Finally Got the News and The Woman’s Film. Paul Qulitalik) and one New Yorker (Norman Cohn) formed Igloolik Isuma Productions in 1990. camping in tents and eating seal meat.S. the Newsreel group was founded in 1967 as an effort to document the student protest movement. cast and crew spent six months shooting in the Arctic. Not surprisingly. We made our ﬁlm in an Inuit way. Paul Apak Angilirq. The Gleaners and I. During the late 1960s and early 1970s. the collective produced dozens of works. and animal skins. That. is easily transferred to ﬁlm. U. and other
1. We have a team of people trying to ﬁgure out how to make this work.” Because of the communal nature of Inuit life.
. the Igloolik team expanded the collective effort by bringing local people into the project. Startup. After the mid-1970s.43). Roles may also be rotated: The sound recordist one day may serve as cinematographer on the next. Newsreel moved somewhat away from purely collective production. Members of Newsreel such as Robert Kramer. “There’s no director.: The driver of a passing truck ﬁres at the crew. A more recent instance of collective production is the Canadian ﬁlm Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.
as in the television series The World at War and Biography. was one of the rare compilation ﬁlms to be released theatrically. lighting. staging. later phases of production can modify it beyond recognition. In interviewing an eyewitness to an event. it is often asked. For example. there was no script for the documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. Louis Lumière. David Wolper’s biography of John Lennon. cutting. So where does the studio-produced ﬁlm leave the idea of authorship? Most people who study cinema regard the director as the ﬁlm’s “author. it seems certain that some studio workers leave recognizable and unique traces on the ﬁlms they make.” the person responsible for the ﬁlm? In individual production the author must be the solitary ﬁlmmaker—Stan Brakhage. Cinematographers such as Gregg Toland. but does not tell the witness what to say or how to act. which is created frame by frame.
Production and Authorship
There is another implication of the way movies get made. yourself. if we consider not only control and decision making but also individual style. set designers such as Hermann Warm. Similarly. Is the producer the author? In the prime years of the Hollywood system. framing. Usually the documentary ﬁlmmaker controls only certain variables of preparation. he or she seldom controls moment-by-moment activity on the set. The compilation ﬁlmmaker may skip the shooting stage and create a story from archive footage. and Exhibition
recent releases indicate that the theatrical market has room for works made by single ﬁlmmakers or tiny production units. Imagine. whereas others (such as setting. Some variables (such as script. costumers such as Edith Head. is characterized by much more control over script and other aspects of the preparation and shooting phases. One more kind of ﬁlm is distinguished by the way it’s produced: the animated ﬁlm. more often. And although the producer monitors the entire process. In either case animation is characterized by unusual production work at the shooting stage. choreographers such as Gene Kelly—the contributions of these people stand out within the ﬁlms they made. the ﬁlmmaker typically controls camera work and editing. The writer? The writer’s script might be completely transformed in shooting and editing. lighting. rehearsal) may be omitted.
Implications of Different Modes of Production
We often categorize ﬁlms on the basis of how they were made. Distribution. Who. and assembly. Studio ﬁlm production assigns tasks to so many individuals that it is often difﬁcult to determine who controls or decides what. with group authorship? No. For example. So is this situation like collective production. we often distinguish a documentary ﬁlm from a ﬁction ﬁlm on the basis of production phases.40
Film Production. Collective ﬁlm production creates collective authorship: The author is the entire group. behavior of the ﬁgures) are present but often uncontrolled. on the other hand. the camera photographs a series of drawings or three-dimensional models. the producer might have had nothing to do with shooting. ﬁlmmakers Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick instead shot long interviews in which Chomsky explained his ideas. The question of authorship becomes difﬁcult to answer only when asked about large-scale production. or.” Although the writer prepares a screenplay. particularly in the studio mode. Either images are drawn on the ﬁlm strip itself. It is the director who makes the crucial decisions about performance. The ﬁction ﬁlm. because there is a hierarchy in which a few main players make the key decisions. a compilation ﬁlm assembles images and sounds that provide historical evidence on a topic. shooting. is the “author. Moreover.
directors learned how to blend the distinctive talents of cast and crew into the overall movie. 17]. 22. Still. Asia. and South America. On the whole. Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See (New York: Norton. The cinema machine is closely related to other machines of the period. advance. perforate. some platonic heaven” [What Is Cinema? vol. steel production.
NOTES AND QUERIES
The Illusion of Movement
A useful introduction to visual perception is Donald D. and editors. Today. John Huston in The Maltese Falcon. For example. chap. and the top ones select their own projects. but John Ford would often make only one take of each shot. engineers in the 19th century designed machines that could intermittently unwind. The 19-century origins of ﬁlm.. and the machine gun. Most studios did not permit the director to supervise editing. and other areas. “Sensory Processes and Perception” (New York: Wiley. chemistry (involving particularly the production of cellulose). as if in
. For the most part. since we’ve become accustomed to electronic and digital media. and wind up a strip of material at a constant rate. based on mechanical and chemical processes. the cinema became technically feasible only in the 19th century. In Europe. 1986). In the days of Hollywood’s studio system. Thomas. the telegraph tape. If a production runs into trouble. Precutting the ﬁlm “in his head. the production company will seldom ﬁre the director. eds. and James P. The drive apparatus on cameras and projectors is a late development of a technology that had already made feasible the sewing machine. A technical treatment of the illusion of movement in ﬁlm is offered in Julian E.Notes and Queries
and sound. p. the producer will get the blame. Both Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese dislike ADR and use much of the on-set dialogue in the ﬁnished ﬁlm. 1. Stuart Liebman uses the perceptual mechanisms of illusion to analyze an experimental ﬁlm in “Apparent Motion and Film Structure: Paul Sharit’s Shutter Interface. and directors often work habitually with certain actors. and Howard Hawks in The Big Sleep. composers. Handbook of Perception and Human Performance. On the history of ﬁlm technology. it is the director who shapes the ﬁlm’s unique form and style. In the days of studio moviemaking. Humphrey Bogart’s unique talents were used very differently by Michael Curtiz in Casablanca. and these two components are central to cinema as an art. well-established directors can control large-scale production to a remarkable degree. the director usually has most control over how a movie looks and sounds. 2 (Spring–Summer 1978): 101–109. In Hollywood. Hochberg. 1998). 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press. advance again.” Ford virtually forced the editor to put the shots together as he had planned. “Representation of Motion and Space in Video and Cinematic Displays. Gregg Toland’s cinematography was pushed in different directions by Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) and William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives).” in Kenneth R. precision machining. directors usually operate on a freelance basis.” Millennium Film Journal 1. cinematographers. the director is generally recognized as the key player. are particularly evident today. more often. Lloyd Kaufman. the control of light (especially by means of arc lamps). some directors exercised power more indirectly. The director can delegate tasks to trusted personnel. Motion pictures depended on many discoveries in various scientiﬁc and industrial ﬁelds: optics and lens making. Boff. This doesn’t mean that the director is an expert at every job or dictates every detail. Hoffman. whatever its antecedents in Greece and the Renaissance. vol. not digitally. Around the world. directors frequently initiate the ﬁlm and work closely with scriptwriters. see Barry Salt’s Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis (London:
The Technical Basis of Cinema
André Bazin suggests that humankind dreamed of cinema long before it actually appeared: “The concept men had of it existed so to speak fully armed in their minds. 1967). Steven Spielberg and Ethan and Joel Coen can insist on editing manually.
Distribution. eds. 1985).: Wadsworth. Script Supervising and Film Continuity (1986). More detailed accounts can be found in Jason E. Tiiu Lukk examines how Pulp Fiction.
Stages of Film Production
Several how-to-do-it books discuss basic stages and roles of ﬁlm production. On setting and production design. 1992) offers a history of U. see Robert C.. 1993) and What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line (New York: Bloomsbury. What an Art Director Does (Los Angeles: Silman-James. The most comprehensive reference book on the subject is Ira Konigsberg. 1987). Douglas Gomery’s The Hollywood Studio System (London: Macmillan. 1997). Lazarus III. 1992). Film Directing Shot by Shot (Studio City. see Paul N. and Kristin Thompson’s The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (New York: Columbia University Press. Assistant Directors. and Best Boys (New York: St. Janet Staiger. Squire’s The Movie Business Book. 1991) and Lynda Obst’s acerbic memoir. Film History: Theory and Practice (New York: Knopf. Barry R. see also Steven D. 1991). Martin’s. 1992). 1999) offers a detailed account of image and sound editing procedures. Welcome to the Dollhouse. pp. 2002). which controlled both production and exhibition. 1996). For the producer. has written two entertaining books about his role: A Pound of Flesh: Perilous Tales of How to Produce Movies in Hollywood (New York: Grove.. showing their roots in vertically integrated studios. Technologies and Practices (New York: Crown. 1999) and Mark Simon Storyboards: Motion in Art (Boston: Focal Press. including Pat P. Douglas Gomery’s Shared Pleasures: A History of Moviegoing in America (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 1985) traces the history of today’s major distribution companies. A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television (Berkeley: University of California Press.” in his The Size of Thoughts (New York: Vintage. Many “making-of ” books include examples of storyboards. Especially good are Kris Malkiewicz.: Silman-James. Allen and Douglas Gomery. An entertaining appreciation of ﬁlm technology is Nicholson Baker’s “The Projector.and computer-based methods are discussed in Steven E. Martin’s. and Dominic Case. Film Sound: Theory and Practice (New York: Columbia University Press. Art Linson. 1998). 1997). The Art of the Sound Effects Editor (1989). Norman Hollyn’s The Film Editing Room Handbook (Los Angeles: Lone Eagle. many essays in Elisabeth Weis and John Belton. Martin’s. and Michael Allen’s “From Bwana Devil to Batman Forever: Technology in Contemporary Hollywood Cinema. 1999). Nonlinear Editing Basics: Electronic Film and Video Editing (Boston: Focal Press. Newer video. and Exhibition
Cinematography. David Bordwell. and Edward S. Motion Picture Film Processing (1985). The World of Film and Video Production: Aesthetics and Practices (New York: Harcourt College. Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (London: Routledge. 2000). 1998). The Filmmaker’s Handbook (New York: Plume. Calif. The
Starword. Browne. The Focal Press publishes manuals for various specialties. parts 4 and 6. pp. Grips. 1993). Douglas Gomery has pioneered the economic history of ﬁlm technology: For a survey. Eric Taub. Working in Film: The Marketplace in the ’90s (New York: St. Kerner. 1967). On moviegoing see Bruce A. Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus. The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Global Capitalism (London: Cassell. see Benjamin M. 1983). Working in Hollywood: 64 Film Professionals Talk about Moviemaking (New York: Crown. Lazarus III. 2d ed. see Ward Preston. 2d ed.
. and John Morgan Wilson. exhibition. 1985). ed. Calif. producer of The Untouchables and Fight Club. Compaine and Douglas Gomery.
Film Distribution and Exhibition
For comprehensive surveys of the major “content providers” today. 1994). 1997). eds. There are many informative discussions of the studio mode of production in the United States.: Wiese. 1991). Primary sources of technological information are included in Raymond Fielding.. Paul N. Miller.J. 1988). Who Owns the Media? Competition and Concentration in the Mass Media Industry (Mahwah. 1999). and Ken Dancyger. Katz. Litman. 1985). (New York: Prentice-Hall. 1989).: Erlbaum. He Lied (New York: Broadway. Inside Hollywood: A Writer’s Guide to Researching the World of Movies and TV (Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest. N. John Hart. A useful reference work is Harvey Rachlin’s TV and Movie Business: An Encyclopedia of Careers. (New York: Simon & Schuster.” in Steve Neale and Murray Smith. Entire books are devoted to particular jobs and phases of production. 2000).42
Film Production. 1994). McChesney. 109–129. and other ﬁlms were distributed in Movie Marketing: Opening the Picture and Giving It Legs (Beverly Hills. The Complete Film Dictionary (New York: Penguin. 1998). and All Filmmakers (Los Angeles: Silman-James. Hello. 1998). Marvin M. Austin’s Immediate Seating: A Look at Movie Audiences (Belmont. See Alexander Brouwer and Thomas Lee Wright. 1990). The Art of the Storyboard (Boston: Focal Press.S. Hoop Dreams. Herman and Robert W. Gaffers. The Film Producer (New York: St. The details of organizing preparation and shooting are explained in Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward’s The Film Director’s Team: A Practical Guide for Production Managers. Calif. The Motion Picture Mega-Industry (Boston: Allyn & Bacon. 36–50.
(New York: St. The Making of “The Wizard of Oz” (New York: Limelight. Since 1992. Aljean Harmetz. Miramax. The most wide-ranging are David Rosen and Peter Hamilton. John Sayles. 1998). Brown. Who the Devil Made It (New York: Knopf. Independent Feature Film Production: A Complete Guide from Concept through Distribution. 2000). Directing the Film: Film Directors on Their Art (Boston: Little. 1998). “Do The Right Thing”: A Spike Lee Joint (New York: Simon & Schuster. Future Noir: The Making of “Blade Runner” (New York: HarperPrism. 1998). 2002).000 to $500. Jeremy Kagan. 1990) and Gregory Goodell. 1998). 1996). Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of “Psycho” (New York: Dembuer.
Screenwriting and Rules
In mass-production ﬁlmmaking the screenwriter is expected to follow traditional storytelling patterns. Martin’s. According to most experts. Corman also supplies the introduction to Lloyd Kaufman’s All I Needed to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger: The Shocking True Story of Troma Studios (New York: Berkley. Off-Hollywood: The Making and Marketing of Independent Films (New York: Grove Weidenfeld. lies. A sample passage: “In the ﬁrst half of 1957 I capitalized on the sensational headlines following the Russians’ launch of their Sputnik satellite. Martin’s. documents the making of Todd Haynes’s Velvet Goldmine. a producer. Ronald Haver. sex. and others in the chapters on individual ﬁlm techniques. for example. America’s Favorite Movies: Behind the Scenes (New York: Ungar. . Roger Corman reviews his career in exploitation cinema. Interviews with Film Directors (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. Mike. see. Christine Vachon. “sex. Stephen Rebello. See Rudy Behlmer. 1982). Directors Close Up (Boston: Focal Press. 1976). 1967).Notes and Queries
techniques of special effects receive detailed discussion in a richly designed magazine. For several decades. See as well the interviews collected in Philip Gaines and David J. Emanuel Levy’s Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film (New York: New York University Press. No one even knew what the satellite was supposed to look like. Moviemakers’ Master Class: Private Lessons from the World’s Foremost Directors (New York: Faber and Faber. Cinefex. The early history of an important distributor of independent ﬁlms. and sold. 1997) is a memoir of eight years spent rewriting the script that became Up Close and Personal. Hollywood has called for scripts about strong central characters who struggle to achieve well-deﬁned goals. 1989). Laurent Tirard. so we list here some of the best interview books: Peter Bogdanovich. shares her insights in Shooting to Kill (New York: Avon. 1987). produced. The director. 1990). Thinking in Pictures: The Making of the Movie “Matewan” (Boston: Houghton Mifﬂin. 1995). . Paul M. sound technicians. Rhodes. Mike Goodrich. In How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (New York: Random House. Faber and Faber (London) has published an annual collection of interviews called Projections.000 (Los Angeles: Silman-James. John Pierson. Several books explain how independent ﬁlms are ﬁnanced. 44– 45).
Collections of interviews with ﬁlmmakers have become common in recent decades. Two important Hollywood directors have written books on their craft: Edward Dmytryk’s On Screen Directing (Boston: Focal Press. “A Star Is Born”: The Mak-
ing of the 1954 Movie and Its 1985 Restoration (New York: Knopf. Vachon’s Shooting to Kill. Billy Frolick’s What I Really Want to Do Is Direct (New York: Plume. 1984). a script ought to have a three-act structure. however. and videotape. lies and marketing: Miramax and the Development of the Quality Indie Blockbuster. “Vertigo”: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic (New York: St. and Dykes (New York: Hyperion. and Dan Auiler. distributor. the second-act climax appearing about three-quarters of the way through. 1995). She’s Gotta Have It. We can learn a great deal about production from careful case studies. editors. Directing (CransPrés-Céligny. Andrew Sarris. ed. 1990). and festival scout. 2d ed. producer of Boys Don’t Cry and Far from Heaven. Sammon. and other low-budget ﬁlms found success in Spike. .. traces how Clerks. John Gregory Dunne’s Monster: Living Off the Big Screen (New York: Vintage. Many of Spike Lee’s productions have been documented with published journals and production notes. cinematographers. I shot War of the Satellites in a little under ten days. Eric Sherman. 2002). For the independent scene. 1999) provides a historical survey.
. 1995). It was whatever I said it should look like” (pp. and the climax of the ﬁnal act resolving the protagonist’s problem. supervises the entire process of ﬁlmmaking. Slackers. 1984) and Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies (New York: Knopf. 1997). which details the making of such Troma classics as The Class of Nuke ’Em High and Chopper Chicks in Zombietown. is examined in Alissa Perren. with the ﬁrst-act climax coming about a quarter of the way into the ﬁlm. 1988). Micro-Budget Hollywood: Budgeting (and Making) Feature Films for $50. mentioned above. We will mention interviews with designers. 1997) follows seven ﬁlm-school graduates trying to make low-budget features.” Film Quarterly 55 2 (Winter 2001–2002): 30–39.
S. N. 1980). A historical overview is Tom Stempel. For information on other experimentalists. The
There are few studies of artisanal and collective ﬁlm production. Most movie photographs we see in books and magazines. Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton. the actors have been posed for the most balanced composition and the clearest view of all three. Collective production in ﬁlm and other media is discussed in John Downing. 1989).: Harvard University Press. In 1. images shot by a still photographer on the set. 1972) and Lewis Herman. see Mick Eaton. Mass. Anthropology—Reality—Cinema: The Films of Jean Rouch (London: British Film Institute. Maya Deren’s work is analyzed in P. A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1943– 1978.A. See her Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique (Cambridge. this is usually called a frame enlargement. 1979). from the University of California Press. FrameWork: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film (New York: Continuum. But they differ from the image on the ﬁlm strip. and they can be useful for studying details of setting or costume. Adams Sitney.
1. 1980) and Michael Renov. 1988) and David E. The photograph may be a copy of a single frame taken from the ﬁnished ﬁlm. but here are some informative works. The Technique of Screenplay Writing (New York: Grosset & Dunlap.” Film Quarterly 41 1 (Fall 1987): 20–33. The makers of Harlan County. 1979). 1984).44 and 1. 2d ed. Older but still useful books on screenwriting are Eugene Vale. depending on how the protagonist deﬁnes and changes important goals. 1988). are production stills. Newsreel: Documentary Filmmaking on the American Left (New York: Arno.45
A frame from The Rules of the Game. Stan Brakhage ruminates on his approach to ﬁlmmaking in Brakhage Scrapbook: Collected Writings (New Paltz. ed. Linda Seger.44 A production still from Renoir’s The Rules of the Game.
1. both 1. 1987). A Practical Manual of Screen Playwriting for Theater and Television Films (New York: New American Library. Frame enlargements therefore offer a much more faithful record of the ﬁnished ﬁlm. It is not. These formulas are discussed in Syd Field.
Writers will also be expected to include plot points. Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde. Usually the still photographer rearranges and relights the actors and takes the shot from an angle and distance not comparable to that shown in the ﬁnished ﬁlm.
.Y. however. Mead. Production stills are usually photographically clearer than frame enlargements.44. a production still. see Scott MacDonald. and other independent documentaries discuss their production methods in Alan Rosenthal.J. 1979). Kristin Thompson has argued that many ﬁnished ﬁlms have not three but four major parts. N. Pat McGilligan has collected reminiscences of screenwriters in a series of interview books called Backstory.: Princeton University Press. and Exhibition
Radical Media: The Political Experience of Alternative Communication (Boston: South End Press.. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (New York: Delta. Making a Good Script Great (New York: Dodd. On Jean Rouch. (New York: Oxford University Press. The Documentary Conscience: A Casebook in Film Making (Berkeley: University of California Press.44
Film Production.45 have been used to illustrate discussion of Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game. Collective ﬁlm production is the subject of Bill Nichols. 1999). 1974). “Newsreel: Old and New—Towards an Historical Proﬁle. and Michael Hauge. 1982). Distribution. U. James. faithful to the ﬁnished ﬁlm.: Documentext. 1988). twists that turn the action in new directions. Writing Screenplays That Sell (New York: HarperCollins. however. For example.
Production Stills versus Frame Enlargements
A ﬁlm may live in our memory as much through photographs as through our experiences of the movie.
Steven Spielberg. 2002). is that that tension. of course. is precisely what characterizes the work in a good ﬁlm” [Wajda. The boundaries between cinema and video have long been blurred. 43–44].45. 2001). video is a technique that offers no resistance. and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) began in music video. 1991). Rose Medina (New York: Holt. Ben Long and Sonja Schenk. the camera movement incredibly light and facile—too facile—and what is more. Technical Film and TV for Nontechnical People (NewYork: Allworth. 2nd ed.
.S. Martin Scorsese. . 1989). trans. Hollywood in the Age of Television (Boston: Unwin Hyman.: Charles River Media. if you don’t like what you just did you can simply erase it and start again from scratch. Double Vision: My Life in Film. while Spike Lee. The frame enlargement shows that the composition is looser than that of the production still. This means you work without tension. pp. ed.
On using video to help plan shots during production. Mass. The lighting is always sufﬁcient. On the relation between the U. Steven Spielberg began his career directing for television and returned years later with Amazing Stories. 2000). see Tino Balio. Collier. ed. Calif. David Lynch made the series Twin Peaks for network television. The Digital Filmmaking Handbook. Three contemporary ﬁlmmakers discuss the relation of cinema to video in Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. and Drew Campbell. Digital Moviemaking: The Filmmaker’s Guide to the 21st Century (Studio City. The frame enlargement also reveals that Renoir uses the central doorway to suggest action taking place in depth. without the familiar atmosphere of being on the edge. constantly at risk. The iﬁlm Digital Video Filmmaker’s Handbook. (Hingham. as often happens. and John Woo direct commercials and MTV clips. David Fincher (Se7en). and George Lucas (Kansas City. 2002). Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor). The Future of the Movies: Interviews with Martin Scorsese. Mo.: Andrews and McMeel. 1990).. the Polish director Andrzej Wajda remarks. Scott Smith (Hollywood: Lone Eagle. Virtually all of the photographs in this book are frame enlargements.: Wiese. a production still does not capture important features of the director’s visual style.
Film and Video
Detailed comparisons of ﬁlm and digital video as media can be found in Scott Billups. ﬁlm industry and television. “For a director who has grown up with and been formed by ﬁlm. Here. The problem. .Notes and Queries
actual shot from the ﬁlm is shown in 1. that sense of risk. Maxie D. .