How long does it take to make a movie?

There is no exact answer on how long does it take to make a movie. It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks up to a couple of years, sometimes even a decade. For example, Albert Hitchcok’s 80-minute movie Rope was filmed in just 100 minutes, but that doesn’t mean the movie was made in just under two hours. He spent months of planning and perfecting every detail. Once everything was ready and according to his vision, the movie was shot in just 10 takes. It probably could have been shot in one take, but the reels could only hold enough film for 10 minutes of shooting. Most movies need hundreds, thousands of takes.

It takes much more to make a movie than what we just see on the screen.  The movie needs to go through several stages before it’s ready for the audience. Each of these stages needs time, some more, some less. This is very dependent on the movie genre, the budget, the cast, etc. It’s pretty simple, the more resources you have, the more you can shot, edit and rewrite. These are the stages that define how long does it take to make a movie.

How long does it take to make a movie

The Announcement

The announcement is considered as the date when the movie is publicly announced. It could be either when the industry announces that the script has been optioned, or it could be when the mainstream press are told the film will be made.

Why do studios announce movies so early?

Studios announce movies a lot in advance, usually years in advance. One of the major reasons is to beat the competition. They want to let know the others about their idea. It helps them secure a sweet spot in the calendar for release.  And make sure there is no competition with a similar topic or theme. Movies about legends, fairytales, and true events are always announced very far in advance. Because these stories are public domain, they want to let everyone know what is already in development. Early announcements also help marketing and social media teams to create a “buzz” about the movie. They create fan bases and promote the movie. Some pictures from the set on Instagram or trailers on YouTube can really hype up the crowd. However, these things can sometimes backfire if the movie fails to live up to the expectations.

Pre-production

After few main components are in place, like the director, the producer, and the top few actors, the movie will be greenlighted and moves into the pre-production stage. Of course, the most important component is the money, without it, none above are available. During pre-production, every detail of the movie should be researched and planned. This stage can really make a difference in how long does it take to make a movie.

Once pre-production starts, the project gets real. The director hires department heads, and the crew assembling begins. All people associated with their respective roles must sit down together and get on the same page. It’s a stage of preparation for shooting. Things that must be done are location scouting, actors casting, setting the budget, shooting schedule, etc. Even the release date is discussed during this period. Almost never things go exactly as planned, and some improvisations need to be done along the way. But the more time and effort is put into preparation and planning, the easier the whole project runs. The success of the project can depend on the harmony of the crew. Sometimes it is good to choose teams that work together for a long time and understand each other. The average time for pre-production is anywhere between 3 and 6 months.

What is development hell?

The development hell is the stage when the movie is stuck in pre-production. This can take up to years, even decades. Movies go into the development hell stage for various reasons. One of the main reasons issues with funding. Funding issues vary anywhere from not having enough money to begin with, running out of money, getting funding pulled out, or even being shuffled between studios. Script rewriting, crew recasting, are also some of the top reasons for development hell. This stage is surprisingly much more common with movies including big directors, producers, actors. Issues with agreements to the rights or contracts are the main reason for this. However, the development hell isn’t exclusive for pre-production. Many movies reach this point in various stages of production.

How long does it take to make a movie - scene shooting

Principal Photography – how long does it take to film a movie?

This is the period when the project/production is filmed. The best indication of how long filming the movie will take is to look at the screenplay. In Hollywood, the creation of screenplay is very strict. Margins, indents, and font are all standardized. The script is broken into pages, and pages are broken into eights. That’s because usually, the page is eight inches long. Because everything is standardized, it usually means that one page of screenplay equals one minute of screen time. However, one minute of screen time does not mean one minute of shooting. The average time spent to get one minute of usable shots, multiplied by the number of pages, plus the average setup and teardown of the scenes can give you a rough estimate of how long filming lasts. A good rule of thumb is that one hour of shooting produces one minute of footage.

Filming teams/units

The shooting can take place on a location or in a studio. Once the shooting starts, it is very important that it goes by schedule. The crew usually shoots 12-16 hours a day, 5 days a week. If on location shooting extends to 6 days a week, for efficiency. To make things run smoothly and nothing is missed, the filming crew is divided into units:

  • Main unit is managed by the director of the movie. It also includes the main actors. The main unit always shoots main scenes and dialogue scenes.
  • Second unit is the smaller crew that works alongside the main unit. The second unit also has its own director. They usually shoot action and pick-up scenes.
  • Model unit films miniatures. This helps with special and visual effects.
  • Special effects unit shoots extreme things. They usually shoot stunts and special effects like weather changes.
  • Aerial unit shoots from the air. These are usually very wide shots, which can also include driving sequences.
  • Visual effects unit task is filming things that the post-production crew will use while editing the movie.
  • Other units film in special situations, like underwater filming.

Filming usually lasts anywhere between three and four months.


Recommended reading:


Post-production – how long does it take to edit a movie?

Until this point, the movie is just a lot of raw footage without any connections, whatsoever.  This is the longest period in movie production. The average time for post-production is ten months, but it can go over a year if there were some problems during shooting. This is why it is so important to have a strong producer and good pre-production. Producers keep things according to plan. They stick to the schedule and keep up to the budget because otherwise, the movie won’t be realized as expected and planned. Principal photography ends with a “wrap”. After the shooting is finished, it’s time to shape the final product. During post-production editing takes place. It is very common that some shots are re-taken. Special effects are added, sound effects, music, and everything else that goes into it. The more movie is VFX dependent the longer post-production takes.

Being a good editor means being a good director. Editors have their own vision of the movie, and they need to work closely with the director. The editing process is actually the process of creating a movie. Editors set styles of scene transitions and try to transfer emotions to the audience. After all the desired editing is done, the movie then is sent to the colorist. Directors prepare color references in which they see a movie for colorist. They fix the defects and make necessary color corrections. This process is very important for the visual representation of the story. The next step is creating music. Music can play a big part in movie interpretation. With certain sounds, you can emphasize certain emotions and atmosphere in the movie. Also, the whole movie is fully voiced in the studio.

Theatrical or digital release – how long does it take for a movie to be released?

Movies cannot be released to screens as soon as the production is done. Finding the distributors for each country where the movie will be released would be the next step in the process of movie-making. During this period, the marketing team is working really hard to create good content and attract the audience to the movie.

Release dates are chosen carefully when it’s best suitable for the movie to be released. That can be a combination of viewership data and competition releases. So, moving a release date is almost never an option. Because of this, there needs to be a big gap between the production and theatrical or digital movie release. There are a million things that can go wrong in making a movie. Producers need to make a room for fixing errors and unpredictable situations. Movies are screened with focus groups to spot any mistakes, that may require re-edits or re-shots. There needs to be a large amount of time to make everything right, without harming a release date. However, sometimes release dates are postponed on purpose. The reason for this lies in the market. If it’s not the right time for the movie release, the production finds a good reason to postpone it.

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, finished the production on July 14, 2017. The movie hit the screens in the United States on April 27, 2018. That’s over nine months between the production and the release date.

How long does it take to make an animated movie?

Full animation movies are totally different from other studio movies. Animation movies don’t have standard production phases like others. This is because there is no real shooting. The script is written and developed. This usually takes years, but it’s the essential component. The script is then broken down into scenes and drawn into panels. The storyboard allows the director to see his idea, and to decide what goes in, and what needs a rework. Director works closely with artists, to make sure his ideas are brought to life. When storyboards are done and ready, the animatic is created. This is the rough blueprint of what the movie should look like. After scrip and animatic are complete, everything else then is about tweaking and polishing the movie.

The process of making an animated movie very much depends on the complexity of the design, and the level of details. For example, Pixar animated movies take anywhere between four and seven years to create. In DreamWorks Animation, around 200 people work for about three years to make a 90 minutes animated movie. That means that it takes 600 person years, to make a 90 minutes high-quality animated movie.

How long does it take to make a movie - shooting

Longest movie ever made

The average movie length is between 70 and 90 minutes. The longest movie ever made is a Swedish experimental film, Logistics. This movie is 857 hours long which is equal to 35 days and 17 hours. This is not a film with dialogue and actors. Erika Magnusson and Daniel Andersson were curious about where modern technological gadgets come from. So they decided to film a movie in real-time, in reverse chronological order. The movie follows the pedometer, from the store in Stockholm, back to its origins, in Bao’an where it is manufactured. Watching a movie for over 35 days straight is physically impossible, so the movie is also broken down into 2-minute clips, one for each day in the pedometers journey from the factory to its latest owner.

The longest cinematic movie is Amra Ekta Cinema Banabo (The Innocence). Bangladesh production movie talks about revolution, politics, dreams, and love after the Bangladesh liberation war. The movie is 21 hours long.

Conclusion

Thousand of pieces need to fall into the right places for the movie to be made and be successful. It takes months and years to complete the whole project. Every stage needs time, and it needs the right people in the right places to have a successful project. Having a great script, and clear idea speeds up every other process in the production. Quentin Tarantino spent 5 years on the idea and the script for Kill Bill, and that turned out to be a classic.

Author: Haris