After months of shooting, you're finally done. You’ve got all the footage you need. Time to relax. Hah. Kidding. You’re not even close. You’re just about ready to start the post-production process. It’s time to head back to the lab, and make something special. Your team is waiting for your signal. What’s your first step? What tools will you use? Who will manage what? Should you have Chipotle or Qdoba catered on Fridays? Stop. Before you dive in, check out these tips to insure that your post-production journey can go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
1. Support the director’s vision.
Richard Linklater told his producers he would need 12 years to make Boyhood. Would you have called him crazy? Or would you have taken that risk? Every director is unique. Every director is unpredictable. Every director sees something differently. Your job is to give them the freedom and the resources they need to run with their vision. During post, let them dictate who will be editing what and when. They will be over the editor’s shoulders the entire time, pointing out changes or scenes to scrap. You want to make the post-production environment the most comfortable it can be for the director to do their job. Allow them to piece the puzzle together, at their own pace. The director believes in the project; they need to carry the reigns. Give them that immunity.
2. Edit in a way that best suits your film.
The rise of digital technology has revolutionized the film editing process. You need to find an editor that shares the same vision as the director, or can understand it and interpret it, to cut the film and make the story better. Normally, editing a feature takes about 8-10 weeks. The editor will create multiple drafts of the film, or Rough Cuts, that you and the director will either accept or reject. This means your editor must know which editing software will benefit the footage and the mission most. Avid? Adobe Premiere Pro? Final Cut? Each have unique features. Find someone with the expertise and ability to edit your film so that it sends your message and resonates with your audience.
3. Scoring is as important as editing.
Both source music and score should not be left until the last minute. A composer needs time to write, rewrite, practice, perform, repeat. Screening sound in the Rough Cuts can be very useful because it can make the process of editing faster and easier. If sound is being added during each cut, it gives the director more content to work with and a more realistic foreshadowing of the end result. With that said, there are composers and sound editors/mixers that prefer to add sound once the visuals are locked in. If that’s the case, give them ample time to do what they do best. Also, beware of licensing issues, securing music for a festival is different than securing music for release. Remember to purchase full rights to your music, or you can be in serious legal trouble.
4. Have a great post supervisor throughout the entire process.
This one’s obvious. Your post-production supervisor needs to be able to handle the ins and outs of the post process adequately and appropriately. They will have to communicate with the editors and directors on a day-to-day basis and give updates to the executives above them. They must have good negotiating skills to get better rates from vendors and distributors and save your movie money. Post supervisors also manage the budget and should monitor and modify work schedules that best fit your studio’s strategy. Overall, a great post-production supervisor enhances work flow and is a major player in a successful film.
5. Communicate with everybody, all the time.
Communication during the post-production process can’t be stressed enough. Share information with every level to make the post-production process completely transparent. This includes updating financiers on the progress of your film. The more people feel like they have a grasp on what’s going on behind the scenes, the less they will worry or question having stake in your movie. It will also allow you to request more resources from financiers. If they know exactly where there money is going, they are more likely to give more if need be. Budgeting a movie involves constant contact with distributors. Both domestic and foreign companies will need a budget and a timeframe during the post-production process. Your post supervisor should be in conversation with these parties answering questions and talking potential delivery packages.
6. Screen the movie safely.
In our article, Oscar Films Lose Big Due to Piracy, we mention how 31% of illegal pirated downloads are leaked by award voters. Our follow up piece, Can Streaming Screeners Save the Film Industry?, we address how screening films online as oppose to on DVDs may significantly decrease the amount of pirated movies per year. The point is, be careful. We know you want to prematurely showcase your movie to friends and family and financiers, but it may cause problems if not done correctly. DO NOT give people free copies of your film before it’s release. DO NOT print a bunch of DVD samples to give out during the post-production process. If you can, try to bring people in for private screenings, on your own terms, to eliminate any chance of your content getting out into the world. As for awards and festivals, screening online is your best option. Don’t be careless.
7. Don’t be a cheapo.
You want to save money during the post-production process. We understand. You want to lock in the budget ASAP and say no to additional expenses. But making a movie just doesn’t work that way. There will be inevitable costs when an editor needs more time or needs to hire another team member to hit a deadline. Purchasing and maintaining technology, whether it be for editing, screening, or sharing, will empty your pockets time after time. DO NOT try to avoid this. Yes, be realistic, financiers aren’t just going to keep the money flowing. But be reasonable too. Don’t settle for insufficient technology or leave your staff shorthanded. Negotiate with vendors, but expect to make a sacrifice. Post-production and distribution is about taking risks to make the best film possible, don’t jeopardize that by being stingy.
The post-production process is a challenge. But it’s also one of the best parts of being a filmmaker. Watching the movie piece together, bit by bit, until your vision becomes a reality. Remember these 7 tips when working in post, and you may find yourself just a tad less on edge. Good luck.