Planning Your Independent Movie Post Production

RGB video cables in the recorder

Scheduling Tips for a Successful Indie Film Post-Production Cycle

Filmmaking is all about careful planning. While it is possible for a small crew of people to create a lucky masterpiece of filmmaking genius by winging it, the odds of failure at some stage of production are high. In the end it is those who take the time to plan during every phase of their movie’s production that will reap the rewards of a well produced film. This is important because a well produced film is like a calling card for a filmmaker which can open doors to film festivals (especially the larger, more important ones), increase the opportunities for making money with their movie, and ultimately increases the odds that there will be another movie to work on after the current project is complete.

Failing to Plan. Planning to Fail.

Careful planning in the post production phase of an independent film is just as important as planning during pre production and production because on average, nearly half of a films total production budget will be spent during this phase. To bring the project in on-time and on (or under) budget requires attention to detail in cost areas that can balloon out of control quickly, without even realizing it.

Whether a filmmaker is hiring others, or doing the work themselves, there is a ‘cost’ to everything during post production. The cost may be more obvious when someone has been hired to perform a task, but a critical mistake that many independent filmmakers make is assessing any work they do themselves as ‘free.’ Technically this may be true in that the filmmaker doesn’t need to reach into the wallet and hand someone a stack of twenties, but everyone’s time has a cost. There are other things that a filmmaker could be doing with that time, and in post production there is almost always something else that needs to be done!

The trick is in knowing how much money your time is worth. It may seem like a no-brainer to not hire an editor, but if it takes the filmmaker 200 hours to assemble a rough cut and an experienced editor can do the same job in 100 hours, is doing it yourself really saving money? What else could be done with that time? These are the sorts of tradeoffs that every filmmaker must think through during post production.


It’s all About the Answers

Some questions that need to be answered before post production begins:

  • Who will be logging all the footage that has been shot and how long will logging take?
  • Who will be editing the movie for a rough cut? How long will it take?
  • Who will be editing the movie for the final cut? How long will it take?
  • Are there reshoots that must be done? When will those happen and how much time will they take?
  • Are there additional collateral materials to be produced (trailers, promotional materials, DVD extras, etc.) that need to be produced during this time? What are they? How long will each one take? Who will be doing the work?
  • Who will be producing the music for the movie? What about foley? Are there any sections of dialog that will need to be redubbed?
  • Does the film have any visual effects or CG that need to be added? See more about this on VFX Los Angeles.
  • What about color correction? How long will it take?
  • What formats will be produced for festival screening? DVD? Film print? Something else?
  • Who will produce the DVD product (either screeners, or final product to be sold)? How long will that take?
  • How long will a lab take to process film footage for each cut of the movie?


Every project is different and the above question may only be a sampling of the issues and tasks that need to be taken into consideration as post production begins. In the end a filmmaker only has so many hours in a day, and ultimately unless the film being produced has no deadlines (relatively unlikely, even if the only deadline is the entrance deadline in a film festival), the hours that are put in planning and answering the above questions will be the difference between a project being completed on time or missing deadlines. Sometimes answering these questions can even mean the difference between a project being completed or not.