beginners question (the movie puzzle)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by DarrinH, Nov 27, 2002.

  1. DarrinH

    DarrinH Second Unit

    Aug 28, 2000
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    I have been a fan of film for a while but really never understood the complete "picture" for one coming together.
    You see so many different company names during the opening credits that makes me wonder, what exactly is the entire process? For example, what is an executive producer?
    I take it that some writer sells the original script to a company which usually changes it. Do studios front the money for most productions? Is there usually a different studio that takes on the cost of releasing a movie to theaters?
    I pretty much know what the director does. What does the producer really do? Executive producer...was does he or she do? The editor, its pretty obvious what he or she does.

    Can anyone take on the challenge of mapping it out for us, along with all the possible options or changes to the process. Please point me in the direction of another thread on this if one exists. A search for one would be difficult.
  2. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    May 19, 2002
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    You might want to read William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting. Among other things, he lists what he considers to be the key contributors to the filmmaking process: writer, director, etc. IIRC, he devotes a chapter or section to each one.

    Also found in this book is the single most insightful statement that I’ve ever read about filmmaking: “Nobody knows anything.”
  3. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

    Jul 14, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Chad Rouch
    the exact route a movie takes is different from movie to movie. But, basically:

    A writer writes the script either on spec (with no attachment or direction from anyone) or is hired to mold a conept into a movie. The concept can come from anywhere (old TV show, producer's thought, book, play, etc.) the script will be rewritten based on notes from the studio, director, actors, neighbor's banker's mother, etc. If the original writer isn't making the changes that are wanted, new wrtiers are brought in. To get credit the writer must contribute 50% of the script. So if like on a Bruckheimer picture where there's practically a different writer for every scene, the writer who had the original story mapped out will get credit even though not one word uttered was written by him/her.

    A production company takes the property to a studio for funding. the executive who buys the idea can be the exec producer, or the head of the production company. It's just a title for someone who had a hand in getting it made but wasn't there from beginning to end to supervise it.

    The producer takes care of the money, making sure the crew gets paid, arranges for equipment, locations, etc. Sometimes will have creative input but the main function is to take care of teh business.

    The director of course plans the shots, directs the actors and supervises the creative aspects of the movie.

    A gaffer hangs the lights, plugs them in (more complicated than it sounds) and focuses the lights where the Director of Photography tell them to. he has a small crew underneath him.

    Key Grip takes care of the rigging and placing flags (to shape shadows) in front of the lights and gels (to color the light) in front of the lights. Also head of the department with other grips below him.

    Threw those last two in since most people ask about those. By the way, a best boy is the second in charge of either the grip or electric (gaffer) departments.
  4. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

    Nov 4, 2000
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  5. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

    Apr 4, 2002
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    "on a little street in Singapore"
    Real Name:
    Yee Ming Lim
    I always thought of it as the producers hire everyone else to make the movie, e.g. they hire the scriptwriter, the director, the cast, the crew, and then oversee everything in the "making of" the movie.

    hence, they get the best picture Oscar since they were overall responsible for getting the movie made.

    one could dispute this and say the director has the most impact on how the movie turns out. on the flip side IMHO nowadays editors also have a huge impact on how a movie ends up, as they assemble the footage and takes shot by the director into a coherent final movie.

    back to producers, if I'm not mistaken producers are also referred to as "line producers", as contrast the so-called executive producer who usually is either the guy who put up the money, or some big cheese responsible for getting the money from some source or other.

    nowadays the roles aren't always so clear-cut. e.g. Shymalan is always the writer, director AND producer of his movies (at least the three big Hollywood productions that made megabucks).

    Lucas is even more confusing. he's exec producer (in this case he literally put up the $100-110M each to make TPM and AotC), writer and director, but I don't think he's the line producer as well, that's Rick McCallum. but I think it would be a fiction to say that he has no input on areas traditionally handled by the producer, since SW is so intrinsically his baby. heck, in most movies I'm sure the director gets involved in other areas as well, in particular casting and production design.

    one example I can think of where the producers might hold real clout as compared to the director might be the Bond franchise, which has always been tightly controlled and guided by EON Productions, which today means Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. they literally hire a scriptwriter, then a director to shoot the script, and everyone else needed to make the movie. not sure who is exec producer on DAD (or the earlier recent Bonds) though.

    (BTW, in settlement of his claim to be entitled to ownership of Thunderball (since he co-wrote the script, which was the first Bond script ever written), Kevin McClory was granted exec producer credit on Thunderball. based on all that, he claimed the right to make Never Say Never Again, whose story is a re-hash of Thunderball, and later on wanted to make Warhammer 2000, yet another re-hash. Sony took on the project, but later settled with MGM and I suppose that should be the last we hear of McClory's attempts to make a Bond movie.)

    edit: just re-read Holadem's post asking about ownership. this depends. by ownership we are usually talking about the copyright in the movie that has been made. usually, as part of the price for putting up the money to make the movie, the studio will want to own the copyright in the movie -- at the end of the movie look to see who's name follows the (c) logo. in cases where the producers, or director, or even star, have sufficient clout and the studio is keen to make the movie, this could vary.

    since copyright is simply an asset which can be bought and sold (look at Turner buying MGM's old back catalogue as an example), I can see why the academy doesn't give the Oscar to the "owner", since it celebrates achievement in movie-making, not buying and selling.

    as an example, when Lucas made Star Wars, Fox owned the copyright. in order to get him to make Empire, Fox had to agree to allow Lucas to retain copyright of Empire, and later RotJ. when the time came to make TPM, Lucas was so rich he didn't need a studio to put up any money, all he needed was a studio to help him distribute it. Fox got first dibs based on their past association, and as a sweetener Fox agreed to give him back copyright of SW:ANH. (I may have mixed this up though, and Fox might have given it back to him as part of the deal regarding the Special Editions.) hence now all Star Wars movies are said to be copyright Lucasfilm, Lucas' company.

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