What Now? The Film Post Production Process For First Time Indie Producers
It's over. The set's cleared, the cast has said their goodbyes and you've recuperated roughly 3678 years of sleep. Hopefully.
We've worked through the steps of film production, from script, our film pre production checklist, all the way to the final scene. And now, you might say, the real work begins. Here are our tip and tricks on nailing film post production process.
When the filming is wrapped and the editing of the visual and audio materials begins, the bulk of your work is done. You now take on a new role. It's now a myriad of the tasks associated with cutting your raw footage together. Plus anything else you need, like adding music, dubbing, sound effects, visual effects. All the scary, exciting stuff that makes it really real.
Depending on the size of your team and your budget, this can be done by a very small or very large team. For most low budget shorts it's either done by the director or with the help of an editor. The post production steps are a highly collaborative and lengthy process, across a few months, maybe even a year, depending on the size of the piece.
Here's a rough breakdown of how the post production workflow works. This gives you the basics to know what direction to steer your ship in.
1. Reliable storage - making sure your files are safe and secure, no one wants to loose expensive hard-earned footage! Make sure your team have backups and that everyone knows where said footage is. Hardrives have a way of getting lost...
2. Picture editing - post production editing involves using the storyboard to cut together the film’s images - to create your story. This is a collaborative process, and may change a lot from what was originally planned. Be open to this. It's exciting to let the project evolve and morph on its own. Usually, this means a few drafts until yourself and the director is happy. Remember, it's ultimately their decision! And also remember, sometimes shots you obsessed over just arent possible. Sometimes something went wrong, or the boom was in the shot. It happens. Be open to letting things go. That's indie filmmaking after all.
3. Sound editing and mixing — this is where any ADR and/or Foley you recorded is added and perfected. This may require a sound professional - if your budget allows. But providing your sound op was on point you should be fine.
4. Secure Music - there's a hell of a lot of great copyright-free music. If you are willing to give credit, it's a great budget option. It's also worth checking out friends who are musicians and ply them with praise and gifts. I managed to snag the incredible S.A.A.R.A - a sound designer I knew, by buying her a lovely glass of wine. She made some incredible work for The Dinner Party, completely transforming it. Flattery gets you far in low budget film folks. Alternatively, you can pay for a composer to make you a personalised score. This will undoubtedly make an incredible partner to your film. Find someone who has done similar work before, and is familiar with the style you are after. And remember. FLATTER.
5. Visual effects - if you need something removed or added, this is where VFX comes in. This stuff is tricky and very technical, it can also take a while. Hopefully, if you stuck to your budget limitations when choosing your script, you shouldn't need much. But if you need someone on a budget - it's a good idea to try and find a student. Look at some film effects courses and see if you can get in touch with any. A credit already under their belt is a great way for them to graduate!
6. Colour correction - this can really shape and massively benefit the final film but is so often overlooked. Your director should think carefully about what feel they want for the film. Think about examples from films that fit your vision. It's a great way to work towards an achievable goal, rather than getting stuck playing around with saturation...
Just look at the difference between these three examples and how they massively complement the very different styles of narrative. (P.S - all 3 of these are a banging watch by the way...)
It's also a good idea to consider a professional if you can afford it. If you have a small budget you could always try and contact someone who does exactly what it is you want. My partner Howard did this with someone who worked on a slightly obscure Netflix series. By being really specific about how that person could do exactly what they needed, and a small bit of begging - they agreed. Flattery - I told you!
7. Titles and credits - These can again be really informative to the effect the piece has on an audience. Do you want titles straight away, a few minutes in - or not at all? Think about the audience's journey here. Where they need information and when to enhance the experience. For your credits - triple check all names are correct. Nothing pisses someone off more than their surname spelt wrong... Plus - don't forget your wonderful supporters! And any business that helped you out with discounts or food!
8. Gather distribution materials - get yourself some lovely posters. Not only for sentimental value but also for a future screening - which you should definitely have! (More on that next time). You can find some wonderful and not too expensive poster designers on webistes like Upwork or Task Rabbit.
If you have a budget, I recommend Emily Poulter. She designed my partner Howard's Poster and it. Is. Epic.
Or have a go yourself if you have an eye for design. Get some feedback on it from different sources to make sure it does the film justice and grabs the eye of those who haven't seen your footage. Need some inpso? Check out this video on the importance of colour schemes.
Make a trailer too - This could also be done by your editor. Or, this can be cut together yourself if you feel able. I made ours for The Dinner Party, and it worked well for us!
9. Think about film festivals - these can be pricey to enter. So be realistic. Not every short film is ready for Raindance yet! Especially your first film. But if you think it is - then go wild. But think about your film's niche. For example, we definitely knew we would enter the Northampton Film Festival, as ours was shot there. Or if the theme or style is particularly pertinent to a particular festival, make those your aim. A great way to peruse possible festivals is to use Film Freeway.
Have a clear deadline - it can be hard when on low or no budget to hassle people for work. You feel bad and in their debt, despite them agreeing to work on the project. This is why having a clear deadline right from the off is key - so drafts can't drag on for years. Try and think of a reasonable and poignant deadline. Halloween - for a horror. Valentine's day for a romance. You get the gist. Something to really get people in gear!
Trust - You have to learn to let go. As a producer control is your biggest tool. But in p[ost you have to learn to relax this. Trusting others to do their jobs well is a major requirement of the post. Post workflow is highly collaborative and involves many different people. Find hires or friends with proven track records if possible. And once post begins, the more freedom they each have to do what they do best, the better the film will come out.
Be flexible - Your project may not require every one of these steps. And some steps may be moved around depending on your time, budget. This stage in filmmaking may be exhausting, but I promise, it’s manageable. And has way fewer surprises than production. Or at least it should...
Keep people updated - it can be tempting to slide into the black hole of the editing room. But don't forget to keep your supporters in the loop This can be a lengthy process, and they still want to know what's going on. Plus it's exciting to build up to a screening or release, so keep the momentum strong!
Have your own festival - we created Chalkfest, a festival celebrating first-time filmmakers. And it was a fantastic way to shout about our work, and support other emerging artists. It was also a great way to grow the film's audience and thank all our supporters, cast and crew. There's a guide on how to start a film festival coming your way soon!
Film post production can be tough. It can feel laborious, deflating and technical. But once completed you have something really special. Your first short film! Something you should be immensely proud of. Because by making it, you’ve proved that you have something to share with the world. And you had the bravery to give it a go. So share it! Let us know how your project goes, and let us know when it’s done. We love sharing our community’s work. We promise to clap very hard at any screenings too.
This is a series on the film production process, with filmmaking tips for beginners.
Part 5: What Now? Post production Tips For First Time Indie Producers
Author: Olivia Foan