International entrepreneur Rocky Shi literally has been on both sides of a movie camera—and the sometimes-divergent view through the lens as an actor, writer, director, and producer has given him a unique perspective on the creative and commercial sides of show business.
Founder and CEO of London-based Rise Entertainment, a startup media company that helps industry creatives and studios connect and share content, Rocky Shi says the basics of producing a film can be broken down into five distinct phases: development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution—and each phase can see enough twists and turns to qualify as its own mini-drama.
The Development Phase
This is the first stage in film production when all the work that goes into breathing life into a film before actual production takes place. Fleshing out story ideas, adapting intellectual property, writing and revising the script, pitching the project to studios or investors for financing, and outlining plans for locations and overall costs happens here. This phase alone can take years to complete, especially if one is trying to obtain the rights to a popular book or play and transform it to film.
The Pre-production Phase
This step occurs after a movie is green-lit (when investors or studios agree to financially back the film) but before principal photography starts. Gearing up for a film requires detailed decisions on the “who, what, where, and how” of making the movie. For a major film, this phase can last several months while those involved itemize budgets, secure filming locations, make and coordinate production schedules, hire the crew, storyboard scenes, audition, cast and rehearse actors, and more.
The Production Phase
Now it’s time for “lights, camera, action!” The talent and crew actively shoot the film scenes at the various locations called for in the shooting schedule.
The Post-production Phase
In this stage, the film literally comes together. All the film footage is edited and woven together with the visual effects, sound effects, music score, and titles into the final edit that becomes the theatrical release.
The Distribution Phase
The final phase is essential to the success of a film as the more eyes that take in a movie, the more money it will make. However, booking a movie into 3,000 theaters nationwide doesn’t just happen, it depends in part on the clout of the filmmaker and/or studio.
Rocky Shi notes that many studios have changed their distribution strategy—either releasing movies directly to home-streaming services instead of or in tandem with theatrical releases, or much earlier than usual. The creative community is divided on this business management decision, he says, with some believing that early or in-tandem home release diminishes the prestige of the film and its overall earnings, while others say the strategy is an effective way to ensure their movies are seen by as wide an audience as possible.
Drawing upon his creative experience along with skills honed in his role as Managing Director at Beijing Topwin Investment Group, a real estate management, and development corporation, Rocky Shi says that applying solid business management practices to multimillion-dollar film projects is essential to ensuring that good-quality movies can continue to be produced for the enjoyment of audiences around the world.