What Goes Into Making A Feature Film

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 A Sense Of Purpose Movie Poster, #ASOPmovie 

Practically every day someone asks Jillian Bullock “When will the movie (A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives) be available for the public to see?” People who are not filmmakers ask this question because they have no insight into how movies are made. Whether it’s a big budget movie like “Captain America” or an independent film like “Moonlight,” the process is similar. Depending on the movie it can take from two to ten years to get it made and into theaters. Here is Jillian's take on how the process usually works based on independent films.


When a screenwriter, who is oftentimes the director, has an idea for a movie, development begins. The writer will craft the script. Depending on the subject matter, like “A Sense of Purpose,” which deals with veterans, military sexual assault and PTSD, it can take years to complete due to the research that must be done to ensure accuracy. Since it is an independent film, which means the movie can be produced for $10,000 up to a few million, the screenwriter and/or director usually tries to keep the locations minimal as well as the special effects. If the budget is ultra-low (less than $100,000) the director will also usually stay away from period pieces, musicals, or working with animals or children. The decision to do the movie as a non-union or union project also affects the script. Working with the union, Screen Actors Guild, means the filmmaker must secure a bigger budget. Next comes hiring key people, or what it’s called in the film business – above the line people - individuals who have tremendous influence and add to the creative direction and process of the movie. A few of these roles include the screenwriter(s), producer(s), director, casting director, and principal actors.

(Front row – Producer Delayne Powe, Director, Writer, Producer Jillian Bullock, Lead Female Actor Tamara Woods. Back row - DP/Editor/Producer Lamont Fountain, Executive Producer/Actor Joe Hunter, Lead Male Actor John Quinlan)

  Pre-production is bringing people together – screenwriter, director, producers, executive producer, line producer, production manager, and more. Auditions for actors and interviews for cast, scouting and securing locations. Going after money for production. This can be done in several ways. For independent filmmakers that usually entails doing a crowdfund raising campaign, e.g. Indiegogo, fundraisers and/or seeking investors. After auditions for cast, the director must finalize the complete cast list, hire crew members, and have the script  broken down, so he knows what the budget should be, how many scenes there are along with how many locations, what make-up and wardrobe will be needed, what kind of props, cars, equipment will be needed, and much more. The shooting schedule will be completed so all involved know when he or she is required on set, the actors know what scenes they’re in, the head crew people, like the director of photography, will meet with the crew who works under them. The unit production manager handles the production budget and the production schedule. Many times the director will want the script storyboarded, but not always. Storyboarding – the script is illustrated, especially fight scenes, action scenes, car chase scenes or any difficult scenes. This visualization helps production run smoother. All contracts with cast and crew are completed at this time. Rehearsals begins for actors.  


Independent filmmakers try to get a movie done in thirty days or less. For production on A Sense of Purpose, it took little over a year. Part of the reason for this was money fell through and the script had to be re-written for a smaller cast, less locations. Since most of the cast and crew worked day jobs to pay their bills and feed their families, filming took place normally on weekends. Plus, the lead female actor, Tamara Woods, became pregnant two months into production. Instead of trying to work around her pregnancy,  Jillian rewrote part of the script to include her pregnancy in the storyline.

(Jillian, in black hat, directing a scene)

( Cast and crew look on at one scene)

(Lead female actor, Tamara Woods, two months pregnant, along with DP Lamont Fountain do a scene in 90 degree weather)

(Actors Sara Osi Smith, Joe Hunter and Tamara Woods filming fight scene)

(Actors Michael Pleasant and John Quinlan filming fight scene)

(Cast and Crew on break)

(Director Jillian Bullock, also acted in the film as Jessica Winters, the wife of Captain Jake Nixon, portrayed by actor John Quinlan)

(Award winning Director of Photography Lamont Fountain and Award winning Director Jillian Bullock work as a team)


 On an independent movie the film editor, who usually still works a 9-to-5 job, has this restriction that is her biggest obstacle. This determines how long it will take to get the film completed. If there is post production money allotted for an editor to not work a job, but to focus entirely on editing, that’s ideal. Promotion should be done during production, but it kicks into high gear in post in order to prepare the movie to start hitting film festivals. Of course every filmmaker would love for his movie to hit the bigger festivals, like Sundance and Cannes. However, it is difficult to be selected for these major festivals because thousands of entries from around the world are submitted. Independent filmmakers usually enter their movie into small film festivals and if the film wins that makes it easier to get selected at the major festivals.    


Independent filmmakers normally do the festival route when their film is completed. This could go on for a year to two years after post-production. Winning at festivals helps to secure a distribution deal, which could be with a major company, like Sony or Lions Gate, to place the movie in theaters or on TV with companies like Amazon, HBO or Netflix. It is the ultimate goal of any filmmaker to get a distribution deal so they can move on to the next project. This is just a small glimpse into how a film goes from an idea to completion and why the process is so long. Film making isn't for the weak at heart. It is a long and arduous process, but a very rewarding one when millions of people see the end result of a filmmaker's movie on the big screen or on TV.

#JillianBullock #ASOPmovie #JohnQuinlan #TamaraWoods #LamontFountain #JoeHunter #PTSD #FilmMaking #Veterans #Military #Films #Movies