An important part of movie-making begins when filming is over. A large number of frames must be put into an order that conveys a story, and the scenes may be reordered or shortened so that the finished product reflects the director’s vision.
Most films are shot out of sequence. During filming, it is the editor’s job to begin assembling the pieces of film into the order that they will be seen in the final film. The editor talks with the director about the previous day’s filming, known as rushes. The film shot may be transferred to videotape or digital format for ease in rearranging or selecting. The film construction made at this point is called the assembly. The bulk of the editing is done during post-production.
The film editor carries out many different stages of editing to shape the final arrangement of shots that makes a finished film. First, they work with the director to refine the assembly of all the different sections of the film into a rough
cut, the first fully edited work print. This includes the soundtrack for the film. But the individual shots are not completely determined at this stage. This version of the film is dominated by the director’s vision and is known as the director’s cut. During post-production, the DP and the director also work together to oversee the timing of the first print. Among the tasks in this stage are correcting density and color balance. Following repeated consultation with the director, the editor assembles the shots with visual effects into the fine cut. It runs to the length the director, editor, and producer have decided.
For the first hundred years of film-making, film editing meant physically cutting and reassembling the edited film reel itself. Today, however, much film editing is done electronically, using video and digital technology. Films are transferred to videotape and digital format, and are computer coded; this allows the editor to edit scenes on screen. Using the fine cut as a guide, the original negative is cut.
There are four post-production stages that go into creating the movie’s sound. These include dialogue and sound effects, composed music, the sound mix, and transferring the original sound mix on to the negative.
Firstly, the sound editor, or sound effects editor, works with the director and editor to create the soundtracks. Additional sounds are created by a foley artist or from film library stock.
A composer (such as John Williams or Danny Elfman) is used if the film requires an original score. A music editor will then edit the music to fit the film. For existing music under copyright, rights managers arrange fees for its use in the film. A recording or rerecording mixer works with the director to blend together the many tracks of different sound. The finished mix is transferred on to the original negative. The film sound is recorded with a digital system and reproduced as an optical sound track. It is then read as synchronized sound when it is sent through the loudspeakers during an audience showing.
Color testing follows the making of the original negative. Once all phases of the movie are completed, the movie is previewed with audiences; depending on their reaction, final cuts are made.
When the original negative is finalized, master prints are made from the original negative. Duplicate negatives are made from that to produce release prints.
DISTRIBUTION AND EXHIBITION
Once a movie is completed, the distributor gets it to cinemas and exhibitors make sure that it is shown. The distributor is usually the movie studio that financed the film. The distributor plans the release date, licenses movies to cinemas, arranges to have prints of the film sent to exhibitors, and creates a marketing and advertising programme for the film. The exhibitor negotiates a financial deal with the distributor for the financial take at the cinema on the film, including paying advance money to secure an expected hit.
The studio is also responsible for advertising and publicizing the film. This includes market research, advertisements (television, radio, newspaper, and online), “coming attractions” trailers in cinemas, posters, lobby cards, and stills.
Other aspects of publicity include press kits and press releases to the media, and booking stars for media interviews and general exposure.
Once the film is in the cinema, it has only a short time to earn its money as a theatrical release. After a few weeks or
(if the movie is a blockbuster or an Academy Award winner) months, attendance will diminish. The days of one film (such as The Sound of Music, 1965) playing at the same cinema for a year are gone, and unlikely to return. Therefore, distributors have to judge box office receipts carefully and recalibrate the number of cinemas showing a film. A movie with good word-of-mouth and sustained interest (such as March of the Penguins in 2005) will be
shown on more screens. If it is underperforming, it may need a different advertising campaign (as with Munich, 2005) or be withdrawn altogether.
After the domestic theatrical release, a film’s earning potential is extended by its release in overseas cinemas. There is also revenue to come from the home-video/DVD sales and the licensing to a variety of television rights, including pay-per-view, premium cable channels, basic cable channels, and terrestrial television. The distributor can also extend a film’s life by licensing merchandising rights to makers of toys, mugs, T-shirts, recordings, and video games. Since the release of the first Star Wars film in 1977, and the highly successful accompanying figurines and book tie-ins, merchandising has taken on a new importance. Many products relating to a film are now sold even before the release of the film.
THE ROLE OF THE FILM CRITIC
Good planning and deal-making does not ensure a movie hit. Neither does advance audience interest. Often, a film’s success begins (or ends) with the film critics.
Film critics are the first to slot a movie into its place in the film canon. They pre-screen the movie and tell the audience whether they believe it is worth the price of admission. Despite the critics, however, the strongest force for the popularity of a movie is the audience. Based on the film’s stars, subject matter, director, time of year, and the cultural atmosphere of the time, the public decides whether to go and see a film or not. Audiences are affected by timing: Jaws worked well as a summer blockbuster. They also want an element of familiarity: Shakespeare in Love works, but Marlowe in Love probably wouldn’t. Finally, the time has to be right culturally: the gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain was very successful when released in 2005; but 20 years ago, it may have been an art-house staple.