Guide to “principal photography” in film

What is Principal Photography?

The creative execution phase of film production is principal photography. It’s sandwiched between post-production and pre-production. This is when the actors arrive on set, call sheets are handed out, lights are turned on, and the cameras can start rolling. B-roll is the only type of filming that is not considered principal photography. It is typically filmed by a smaller crew.

Producers and investors are at a loss when filming begins on the first day. If an actor leaves or funding is not available, a project may lose its pre-production green light. However, once filming begins, there is no way to recoup expenses without it being completed. Cinematography typically takes between one and three months for a full-length movie. However, it can take as little as a few days depending on the size of the project.

Principles of Principal Photography

Principal photography is the first phase of film production. It’s also where the action takes place. However, it can be the most costly. It is important to ensure that you have a solid plan and run a tight ship. Margaret Kurniawan, filmmaker, says that production is very different to the other phases because of the time and stress involved. You should consider the production time as money. You can’t just sit back and enjoy it. It’s a pressure cooker when it’s on. You need to be prepared.

Reshoots can be costly and time-consuming. The pre-production phase is crucial for both the filming stage as well as the final product. It takes anywhere from three to one year to complete a full-length motion movie. As much as possible, break down the cost of specific shots, work with concept artists to pre-visualize CGI and special effects, and plan for additional material. It’s better to have more material than not enough.

Hiroshi Hara, filmmaker, says, “The idea of it being a smooth process where all of the kinks are worked out in preproduction so that once we start shooting, you just have to stick to the schedule and tackle your shots and move on.”

  • An average day at the set.
  • The producer or assistant director sends the call sheet the day before filming.

The Production crew is usually the first to arrive on set. They are responsible for setting up the set and preparing it. Lighting crews are usually called earlier. The crews will be at work while the talent prepares with the make-up and costume teams. The crew will then test the lighting using substitute cast members called stand-ins. This allows the crew to make adjustments to the lighting and set before the arrival of the lead actors.

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