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What Do Filmmakers Do in Pre-Production?


Student in Mass Communication with a keen interest in Production process.


Pre-production is the early planning of many media productions where it is often known as the early stage of a production shoot where it involves drawing the skeleton of the production scale, storyboards, location scouting, scripting and assembling the crew.

Pre-production is important because it allows the Director and Producer to understand what will go on the shoot and what mistakes can be overturned. Also, it gives everyone a head-start on what the production scale will be like, what scenes do they want to take and what does the director and producer want for the shoot.

The Director's vision


One of the few key people when it comes to a production is the director of the production where he/she will be directing the whole film, from creating the camera angles to proofreading the script-writing while at the same time, guiding the crews to fulfill the vision from a director.

The Director plays a key role in:

- Assembling the crew members.

- Choosing the cast members.

- Overseeing the production design and the creative aspects of the film.

- Assembling the structure of the film

In the European Union law, directors are often classified as the author of the film, basically the one who created the film from his/her vision.

The Key people in production & their roles



As said in the paragraph above, the director is responsible for creating the whole backbone or in some cases, the skeleton of the film/shoot with the help from every member of the production team.


The screenwriter can be often described as the right hand of the director where his/her role is to provide the design of the film in terms of camera angles, script and cast members.

Production designer

The production designer is often described as the left hand of the director where his/her role is to design the set (if any) or the location of the set (if shoot takes place in a public space) based on the screenwriter and directors guidance.

Sets in pre-production

A picture of a production set

A picture of a production set

Definition: Sets is a place or a site for a scene to film determined by the screenwriter.

As important as the roles of people are, finding the right set for the script is crucial when it comes to film-making, but what are sets for and where are they located?

Well, a set can be in an interior or an exterior, interior sets are often done in a studio where the production designer will need to set up the area based on the script with an extra touch from the designer to make a good set while in exterior however, a set is typically in a public setting therefore, there is a need to make bookings prior to the shooting days to secure the set.

Sets are normally constructed based on the view of the 3 key people in the pre-production. Sets need to be exactly like what the director has in his/her mind and constructed by a crew. For instance, the director wants the place to look like a crime scene, therefore, props like police cars, blood stains and etc must be in the set.


Picture of what seems to be a house environment

Picture of what seems to be a house environment

Scenery can vary when it comes to pre-production, for instance, the director wants to have a forest in the background of a camping scene or the director wants to have a forest in the background of a kissing scene.

Scenery are based on the type of film that one is making, its important to remember that scenery play a crucial part in a production in terms of audience attention. If the scenery is nice at the background, the audience may see both the scenery and what is happening at the front.


Picture of props

Picture of props

A film with no props is just very dull, props are essential to a film, for instance, who watches a Michael Bay film without explosions. Explosions are considered a prop too using pyrotechnics and it is an extremely technical and dangerous prop.

Other than explosions, in a zombie movie setting for instance, the audiences want to see a "post-apocalyptic" background when it comes to most scenes, this gives a survival perception of the protagonist for the audience.


Picture of furnishings in a pre-production set up

Picture of furnishings in a pre-production set up

What is sleeping if there is no bed? by the way, a bed is also considered a prop. This is important especially in an indoor studio filming, something like Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, the furnishings of a set is important, to show that the place looks like a real life apartment, as seen in the 2 series mentioned previously.

Lets say the director of the film chose to have an apartment setting where the scene is that the characters have a discussion in, the apartment needs to be fully furnished just like an actual apartment to give the audience a feeling that its not done in a separate place.


A scene from Back To The Future where it points out the small elements to the movie.

A scene from Back To The Future where it points out the small elements to the movie.

As the saying goes, "Small things do matter in life", this applies to pre-production as well because many audiences, when they tune into a show or a film, they want to see a fictional reality as a form of entertainment.

Even a small attention to detail, like a cracked brick in the wall or a flowery bed sheet, can wow the audience into thinking that this show or film really gives a lot of attention to detail.

Its the little things that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

— John Wooden


A picture of Ryan Reynolds in the Deadpool Costume

A picture of Ryan Reynolds in the Deadpool Costume

The way a character dresses determines how the character will be during the show or film, for instance, Barney Stinston from How I Met Your Mother dresses in a full suit which makes him a character that is wealthy, young and handsome at the same time.

In the case of a show or film about aliens like Star Wars, some of the characters of this film wear a "Stormtrooper" costume which shows that they are soldiers of the "empire" in the film. This costume has gained a cult following in reality although they are the main antagonist of the film.


Heath Ledger's Joker getting his makeup done before going on set

Heath Ledger's Joker getting his makeup done before going on set

To determine the makeup of the actors during pre-production is not the easiest part of the job, not every actor needs the same makeup, some may need excessive and some will not. For instance, The Joker, his character will need an excessive amount of makeup, from face paint design to his hair, which needs to be either a wig or dyed green.

In some cases, like romance movies or shows, minimal makeup is required as there is no in-depth character writing in these movies and rather, it is just a painting about reality, therefore, the lesser need for excessive makeup like costumes, hair dye and etc.


Pre-production is considered the planning stages of an event for. Therefore, although there are importance in production and post-production as well, pre-production is the backbone of the film, its important to take note of pre-production before starting any film or shoots.

Next i will take on the Article "Production in Digital storytelling" and "Post-Production in Digital Storytelling". Stay tuned for these 2 articles.

While you're here, lets move on to the video production process in Digital Storytelling!

© 2020 Nigel Koay