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Anatomy of a Media Arts Lesson: Elements of Pre-Production

Anatomy of a Media Arts Lesson: Elements of Pre-Production

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

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Pre-Production is the process by which students (and professional filmmakers) plan their film project. It can be one of the most creative moments in the filmmaking process because it is when the ideas are formed and developed, but it is also a time to be highly organized. Student filmmakers need to think through and plan each element of their projects—down to locations, props, timelines, etc—to make sure that they are well prepared for the challenges of production.

  • Story: Students determine what their project is about (this is often informed by a pre-selected theme or subject).
  • Plot: Students determine how their story will unfold, including what genre or style they will employ.
  • Pitch: Students get approval and feedback from instructors and/or peers by articulating and advocating for their project.
  • Production Design: Students find or create necessary resources. This includes costumes, props, sets or locations, and lighting.
  • Script: Students write voiceover or dialogue and instructions for their actors in each scene (see Sample Student Scripts).
  • Casting: Students audition actors for narrative projects or secure subjects for documentary projects.
  • Storyboard and Shot List: Students create a detailed outline of what scenes and shots are needed to represent their proposed story.
  • Equipment Introduction and Inventory: Students practice working with all equipment that will be used during production, including set-up and clean-up procedures.
  • Production Timeline: Students create a calendar, set deadlines, and (if applicable) a budget. Be sure to account for availability of actors/subjects and locations.
  • Crew: Students review and assign roles.
  • Introduction to Editing: While editing technically falls within the post-production phase, it is helpful for students to have an awareness and understanding of this crucial process from the beginning as it will inform their filming process.
Handouts and ready-made lessons to assist instructors in guiding students through the pre-production process can be found in the Lesson Exchange.

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