The creation of a motion picture has distinct stages: development, pre-production, principal photography, post-production and release.


Involves the initial process of securing the blueprint for the film, the screenplay. This can either be commissioned as a “spec” script based on wholly original material, an adaptation of an existing literary work, comic book, graphic novel, etc. or an adaptation of an existing film or television series. During this phase, the producer works with the writer to “develop” the material. The financial commitments and agreements also are found in this phase as well. A proposed production schedule and budget are prepared during this phase.


Begins upon completion of the screenplay and securing of all financial commitments. It is during this phase that the producers obtain insurance, minimum guarantees from distributors, all required permits, the budget and the shooting schedule are finalized and all locations and facilities are locked down for the commencement of principal photography or production.


Principal photography, or Production

Involves actually filming the screenplay in its entirety. This is where the biggest expense of a films budget is incurred, as each week of shooting burns up cash for the above-the-line talent and all of the below-the-line crew and physical production costs.



Begins upon completion of principal photography. This phase involves the editing of the picture, adding optical visual and sound effects and scoring the film, clearing music for the soundtrack, etc. This entire process creates a “negative” of the film, copied to answer print, from which all of the prints are struck that eventually end up in the theaters across the country.


Theatrical release / ancillary distribution

Tthe final stage of a film project’s life–cycle and from an economic view, the most important. Generally, the distributor will also put up the releasing the film, it is also likely that they will distribute the picture in the home entertainment market, the pay and pay-per-view television market and the free television market. The domestic distributor could also be the foreign distributor, where in the case of a major studio, it would distribute the film in all of the foreign markets (theatrical, home entertainment, pay and free television). If the film was pre-sold by a foreign sales agent, then it is likely that the company was paid a minimum guarantee for each territory and has a separate distribution deal on a territory-by-territory basis.