Posted by: Mariano | August 10, 2009

Before the Making of the Missionary Movie

preproduction of a movie

preproduction of a movie

Camera? Check! Concept? Check! Video editing software that does not require a degree in nuclear physics to figure out? Check!

It seems that an HD camera and a laptop are the only tools you need in order to make a home movie these days. However, even for a home movie, there are degrees of quality and effectiveness. In other words, just because you plan on editing your movie on the 16 hours of flight-time and the 8 hours of layovers back to North America does not mean that your home movie should look…well, home-made. There are three basic stages to movie-making that all professionals follow and all amateurs should follow. This post will focus on the first.

Find out more after the jump.

The three basic stages to making any movie or TV show or corporate video are: Preproduction, Production and Post-production. This post will focus only on Preproduction otherwise it would be interminable.


1. Determine the audience-This is the planning stage. The very first thing you need to do is figure out who the primary audience is for the piece you are about to create. A kid’s video will look and sound very different from an teenager’s video, for example. So, figure it out.

2. Write the Script-Odds are you don’t have a big budget to pull off that feature-length film you had in mind. So, consider that your church or support group will likely have between three and ten minutes to watch your video. After that, they will want to move on to something else. It is easier and more manageable to write a series of short scripts than to write an effective, long script. I usually suggest scripts that run 3-5 minutes. I posted a format for presentations that is just as applicable in videos click here.

3. Equipment prep-We established that you have your camera and your laptop with video editing software. Will you need a microphone? (the answer is always yes) Can you get a microphone? That varies. Do you have enough battery power to shoot what you need? Will you have access to power if you don’t? What kind of light will you have available? (sun, shade, light bulbs, spot lights, professional lighting gear, etc.) Will you need a tripod? The answer is almost always yes. Will you need another person to help you? Will you need to have pen and paper to keep notes on takes or simply write down time codes? etc.

4. Location-Professional studios take scripts and hand them to location scouts, people whose entire job it is to find the places that best capture the environment that particular scene requires. Since you are probably making a movie about your ministry and context, you should find out what locations will tell the story best. That said, consider the following location challenges:

4.1 Depending on your microphone setup, background noise could interfere with the audio you planned for.

4.2 Daylight is great for scenery but terrible for interviews or any type of head shots. Shade in daylight does work.

4.3 Sparse interiors create echo in your audio, if you are not using a lapel mic.

4.4 Make sure that your background does not distract viewers from your forground.

4.5 Make sure you and your interviewees or actors are safe and that you have permission to shoot there.

5. Budget. Even a simple interview video incurs costs. Most cameras use mini-DV tapes or memory cards. How much will these cost? I will have to download and store the footage I take. Will it fit into my computer? If not, who much will it cost to get an external or internal hard drive where it will? Will I need to carry water with me? Will I need to provide lunch or dinner for anyone. Will I have to drive anywhere? Will I have to spend the night somewhere? etc.

6. Characters/subjects. You have to make sure that if you are writing about the president of the country you live in that you have footage of him or can get it without too much effort or expense. If your script requires an interview, make sure their plans allow for you to sit down and record that person speaking to you. Make sure that you are not endangering or disrespecting your interviewees by video taping them. Make sure that the video you make of them is respectful of them. Show them your final product or your images before you use them to make sure. CRWRC uses the term “poverty porn” to refer to images that exploit the misery and poverty of others in order to sell/tell our stories.  So please avoid this at all cost.

7. Storyboard-This simply means that you visualize the whole project. Then you draw simple sketches (or stick-figure drawings) of where people, props, buildings, etc will be located in each scene. You do this so that you can have an intermediate step between the script and the actual shoot. Believe me it helps. Here’s a link to a format.

8. Schedule everything ahead of time and make sure everyone knows what their role is.

9. Get ready for the next phase: production.

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