Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Explaining the Filmmaking Process

Compare the process of building a home to that of making a film. There are finishing touches that make it more aesthetically pleasing, like paint on a wall, base boards, shoe mold, and polished hardwood floors.

Recently I've explained the filmmaking process to the people in my life who are not familiar with it. This is an interesting position to be in, having no formal training in the art and business of making a film. I can only relate my personal experiences to help people in my life understand what I'm doing.

There are a few analogies that have helped me explain the process. The most successful, thus far, has been the comparison of making a film to building a single-family house. A home is a familiar concept. Lots of people have seen a home under construction, visited an existing home, or live in one of their own. So the comparison is a visual, familiar one that works relatively well--even if none of us are home builders.

There are many steps to building a house. Similarly, there are many steps to making a film. There are also lots of people involved, each with their own special set of skills. These people join the effort to do certain jobs, and when their part of the film making process is finished they move on. There's someone providing direction to everyone's efforts, overseeing the entire process, and making sure the work meets their standards.

Turns out, this comparison works pretty well. I spend a lot of time trying to explain what I'm doing to others because this part of the process is not often "seen" by audiences. I mean, when you watch a movie you don't often think about the editing, color, or sound--unless you're obsessive, in the business, or it is unsettling to you.

Since we're finalizing post-production, I say that we'd be working on things like baseboards, shoe mold, and paint if it were a house. These are all finishing touches that make the aesthetics of the home (or film) more pleasing. Once we have picture lock, we'll improve sound, correct color, and finalize motion graphics. Each helps tell the story and makes watching the film more pleasing--so that audiences can put their energy toward taking in new information, instead of being distracted by the quality of production.

Tangential info: This is similar in graphic design. People don't often "see" design, just as audiences don't often pay attention to color or sound unless it is unsettling. A person complains about design when it doesn't meet their needs: a menu that's illegible, road signs that mislead drivers, voter forms that fail, etc. There's a caveat, of course, because not all design is mean to be functional or even legible. David Carson, for example, said, "Don't mistake legibility for communication."

I've also found that by explaining the filmmaking process I'm getting a better understanding of it, and how I can make it more efficient. Working with my composer, for example, has taught us both that he should see the finished film so he can score certain segments.

What do you think? Does this comparison make sense, or do you have a better one? How do you explain your work so that it is more easily understood?

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