Every week, millions of people go to the movies. Many millions more watch movies that are broadcast on television or are played on a videocassette, videodisc, compact disc, or DVD player. But movies are much more than just entertainment. The motion picture is a major art form, as are, for example, painting and drama. Artists express themselves by using paint and dramatists by using words. Filmmakers express their ideas through a motion-picture camera. By using the camera in different ways, the filmmaker can express different points of view. A filmmaker may film scenes for a picture in a desert, on a mountain, and in a large city. Filmmakers can also film scenes from different angles. Later, through a process called editing, they can select the angle that most effectively expresses a dramatic point. Through editing, the filmmakers can also show events happening at the same time in different places. Movies have become a gigantic industry. A typical feature-length film costs millions of dollars to make and requires the skills of hundreds of workers. Highly technical devices, including cameras, sound-recording equipment, and projectors, are needed to film and show movies. In fact, motion pictures could not exist without many of the scientific and technical discoveries made since the late 1800's. For this reason, movies have been called the art form of the 20th century. We can enjoy many forms of art and entertainment by ourselves. We can enjoy reading a story or looking at a painting alone. But films are intended to be viewed in theaters. As a result, we usually enjoy a motion picture the most when we watch it as part of a large audience. Although many people watch movies at home on television or a video entertainment system, most films deliver their strongest impact on viewers in theaters. The movies have a brief history, compared to such art forms as music and painting. Movies date back only to the late 1800's. By the early 1900's, filmmakers had developed distinctive artistic theories and techniques. Motion pictures received little scholarly attention, however, until the 1960's. Since then, thousands of books have been published about every aspect of filmmaking and film history. Many universities and colleges offer degrees in motion pictures, and many more offer film courses. Movies have many uses in education, especially as teaching aids, in addition to their artistic and entertainment values. Teachers use such films in classes on geography, history, mathematics, and the physical and social sciences. Movies use slow motion, animation, and other special techniques to demonstrate processes that otherwise could not be seen or studied thoroughly. For example, a film can show the formation of crystals at fast speed so a class can study this process. Television stations use motion pictures to inform as well as to entertain their viewers. TV stations frequently present documentaries. A documentary is a nonfiction movie that tries to present factual information in a dramatic and entertaining way. Documentaries deal with a variety of subjects, such as environmental pollution and the history of presidential elections. Made-for-TV movies may deal with sensitive social issues within the framework of a regular entertainment movie. Millions of people enjoy taking their own motion pictures with small motion-picture cameras or with video cameras, also known as camcorders. Home movies began to develop as a hobby during the 1920's, following the invention of low-cost film that could be used in small cameras. The popularity of home movies has increased over the years with the improvement in cameras and projectors, the introduction of color and sound film, and the development of home video recorders that play back on TV sets. This article deals mainly with feature-length motion pictures made for exhibition in theaters and on videocassettes and television. For information on equipment used in making home movies, see the articles on CAMCORDER and VIDEOTAPE RECORDER. Motion picture/How motion pictures are made Making a feature film calls for a special blend of art and business skills. A motion picture may take less than six months to more than two years to create. The film can cost less than $250,000 or more than $100 million. A big-budget film will employ several hundred people. Although the film cast and crew may include hundreds of members, the people who perform two key functions remain at the center of the filmmaking process: the producers and the director. The producers are the chief business and legal managers of the film. Usually, one or more executive producers from the film company supervise the work of the producer of the specific motion picture. By choosing the director and other key members of the creative team, and by supervising the budget, the producers exert great influence over the creative part of the film production. The director is responsible for guiding the creative efforts of the screenwriters, cast, and crew. By influencing the film's shooting schedule and the equipment and personnel needs of the film, the director plays a major role in shaping the budget. Each film presents a different set of problems for the producers and director. Some movies call for extensive traveling to distant locations. Others call for complicated special effects. Some need elaborate sets or an intimate and delicate acting style. Regardless of the particular challenges, each film will pass through five stages to reach its audience. These stages occasionally overlap, but they occur in the following order: (1) development, (2) preproduction, (3) production, (4) post-production, and (5) distribution. This section describes the first four stages. The fifth stage-distribution-is discussed in the section The motion-picture industry. Before the late 1940's, almost all American motion pictures were produced by major studios in or near Hollywood, California. Today, most movies are made by independent film producers. The following section describes chiefly how a motion picture is made by an independent producer. The key personnel and many of the steps also apply to films made by the major studios. For information on the "studio era," see the History section of this article. Development Developing the story. All feature films begin with an idea for a story. The idea can come from a newspaper article, from someone's imagination, or from an existing book or play. The idea may be as complicated as a 30-page outline or as simple as a single sentence. No one person is responsible for finding an interesting source for a film story. Movie ideas come from screenwriters, producers, directors, actors and actresses, agents, and friends of the filmmaker. After a good idea has been identified, the producer or director must find a screenwriter with the ability and sensitivity to turn that idea into a story that will work as a movie. Once commissioned, the screenwriter works closely with the project's originator to develop the characters and to construct the story based on the original idea. The screenwriter's job is to create the document that will serve as the blueprint for producing the film. This document is the screenplay. When looking for a property (story) to film, producers also review scripts prepared by screenwriters working on "spec." "Spec" means that the screenwriter has not been contracted-or even informally asked-to write a script based on someone else's idea. Instead, the writer is speculating that his or her own idea will be sold to a producer or studio. A writer working on spec sends an original script to an agent who will market it. The agent shows the script to producers and studio executives who may be interested in purchasing and producing it. If they are interested, they can purchase the script outright or-for a reduced fee-they can option it. By taking an option on a script, producers acquire the exclusive rights to the script for a limited time. During that time, they explore the possibility of producing the script. If they decide to produce it, they then buy the script. If they want more time to decide, they can renew the option. If the option is not renewed, the screenwriter keeps the option fee and has the right to sell the script to another producer. Acquiring financing. After obtaining a property, most independent producers must secure financial backing for the project. As a first step, they usually try to interest a successful director or a recognized actor or actress in the film. Associating a proven director or star with the project helps assure investors that the movie will have box-office appeal. Choosing the director and leading performer is one of the most important steps in the production of a film-not only because it helps in obtaining financing, but also because each star-director-producer team will interpret a script differently. In another major step before approaching potential investors, the producers prepare an estimated budget and a shooting schedule. They consider the expected size of the film's audience, the amount of money realistically required to create the film, and the amount of money they can expect to raise from investors. After the producers are satisfied with the estimated budget and shooting schedule, they put together the film's "package." The package consists of the budget, script, shooting schedule, and key creative people who will make the film. Based on the package, the producers seek funds from banks, studios, or private investors. The money will be raised if the creative team's experience and "name recognition" value are strong and the budget seems low enough for the film to make a profit. In some cases, the package will be so strong that the producers will also be able to sell the project to a distributor at this stage. Once the funds are secured, the actual planning of the production can begin. Preproduction During the preproduction stage, the producers, the director, and other key crew members create a detailed plan of action for turning the script into a motion picture. This involves planning for all the creative decisions, personnel choices, equipment, and material necessary to make the film. The goal is to anticipate and solve all problems likely to be encountered in producing the motion picture. The preproduction period can take as little as two weeks to six months or more. By the end of this period, the crew is a well-organized group with a common goal. They understand the deadlines they face to complete the film, and they have all the major materials ready so they can execute their plan smoothly. The preproduction period is the beginning of intense collaboration among the members of the production team. At the center of these collaborations are the producers and the director. They develop and carry to the members of the crew their overall vision of the film. Through a series of meetings and discussions with the cast and crew, they decide upon the specific interpretations of the look and sound of the script. Reviewing the script. All phases of preproduction start with a careful reading and analysis of the script. The director examines the script to understand the story and to develop a vision of the most effective way to translate the script into film and sound images. Suggestions from members of the creative team often lead to further revisions of the script. The director also develops ideas on casting, costuming, set design, photography, and editing. Assembling the production team. Working closely with the producers, the director hires a crew. The director will try to choose craftworkers who, because of their experience and understanding of filmmaking, will develop and enhance the director's idea of the film. The production manager is one of the key positions in the team. The production manager develops the actual budget and shooting schedule. Working under the producers, the production manager will supervise the production and authorize all expenditures. The director of photography, or cinematographer, is responsible to the director for achieving the best possible visual look for the film. The director of photography supervises the camera crew, and designs and executes the lighting pattern of the movie. The art director is responsible for designing and creating the sets. He or she makes blueprints and sometimes models of the sets. Once the designs are approved, the art director oversees their construction. The costume designers and their crew are responsible for designing and making the costumes. They may also purchase costumes for the production. In preparing their work, the designers must consider the work of the director of photography and the art director. The colors and patterns used on walls and in the lighting will affect the work of the costume designers. They can create a feeling of harmony by designing costumes that blend with the background. If the costumes clash with the sets, the audience can be subtly informed that the characters are out of place with their surroundings. Through a series of meetings, the director and the heads of the various production departments discuss their understanding of the script and how to translate it into props, costumes, hairstyles, color, lighting, compositions, and camera movements. This close collaboration and exchange of ideas will lead to the planning of the film's design. During the preproduction period, a crucial decision faces the producers, director, director of photography, and the art director. They must decide whether to film each scene on a sound stage-an artificial set constructed in a building-or on location-a real place that resembles the one depicted in the story. This decision affects both the look and the budget of the film. Most films combine both location and sound stage filming. The advantages and disadvantages of each technique are discussed under Production. Developing the shooting schedule is the job of the production manager. Knowing how the director wants the film to look gives the production manager a feeling for how long and how difficult the filming will be. A number of variables help determine how many days the crew will need to shoot the film. These variables include traveling to distant locations, construction of elaborate sets or lighting setups, and planning long and complex camera movements. By knowing how many days will be needed, the production manager can plan a schedule for shooting the motion picture. To save time and money, the production manager plans a schedule in which most of the scenes will be shot out of the order in which they appear in the script. For example, if scenes one, five, and nine all take place in the same living room, it will save time and expense to shoot them all at once. This way, the crew only has to set up the lights once and the production manager only has to organize the materials needed on that set once. If the scenes were shot in the order in which they appear in the script, the crew would have to set up its equipment three separate times. Preparing the final budget. With the shooting schedule prepared, the production manager can begin laying out the actual cost of the film. The manager must stay within the guidelines of the estimated budget and the amount of money raised from the investors. The manager can specify what equipment to use and how much it will cost, and can decide how much time will be needed to edit the film. A shorter time will be required if the director plans the film carefully in the preproduction stage. More time will be needed if the director improvises on the set. Improvising means that, as the film is being shot, the director works to discover the best way to play a dramatic moment or find the most appropriate camera position. The production manager makes a final budget after reviewing the script for its costume, location, and acting needs, and after identifying the necessary equipment and size of the crew. The final budget includes above the line costs and below the line costs. The above the line costs are the salaries for key actors and actresses, the fees for the producers and director, and the purchase of the script and other creative fees. Below the line costs include crew salaries, equipment rentals, insurance costs, film and sound stock purchases, and rent for editing rooms. The producers and the director then review the budget and shooting schedule. They may request adjustments to figures they feel are unrealistic. During the preproduction period, the producers and production manager refine the budget. They plan how the budget will be spent day by day until the film is completed and ready for distribution. The production manager and the assistant director work with the heads of the various departments so they can plan their work to meet the needs of the schedule and the budget. Assembling the cast. As the budget and shooting schedule are being completed, the director works with the producers and casting director to complete the cast. The casting director's job is to screen the applicants. He or she sometimes considers hundreds of actors and actresses for each major role in a film. Through a series of auditions and interviews, the selection is narrowed down to a few candidates for each role. At an audition, a performer may be asked to read from the script or to act in a scene previously prepared. The director and producers select the final cast from the pool of performers identified by the casting director. Actors and actresses are chosen for their talent and their ability to blend with other performers to create a team performance. The actors and actresses are also selected for how appropriate they are for the role, based on their appearance, temperament, and the director's interpretation of the role. Holding rehearsals. If time permits and the performers are available, rehearsals take place before shooting. During rehearsals, the director and the cast explore the characters and script together. They read through the script and discuss the story and the role each character plays in it. They then act out the scenes and rework them to fit their talents and interpretations. They may use improvisation to explore each character and the possible ways to play a scene. Not all directors hold preproduction rehearsals. Some only discuss the story and characters with performers at this time. They prefer to wait until the actors and actresses are actually on the set to rehearse each scene. Performers with small parts usually meet the director for the first time the day their scene is shot.