Making Films

Flavio, via Flickr

Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin look at the many different parts that make up a film, and how every part works together.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In January 2010, James Cameron achieved a new record. Two of his films each made profits of over $1,000,000,000. In 1997, James Cameron made a film called Titanic. Titanic made more money than any other film in history. That is, until Cameron’s next big film! Cameron did it again in 2009 with his film Avatar. Both films also won many awards. This kind of success does not come easily. Films require a great amount of work from many different people. Today’s Spotlight is on the complex process of making films.

Voice 2 

Many people do not know that James Cameron started working on Avatar over 15 years before it was released in theaters. Making Avatar was a long and complex process. But the result was a film that created new technology, made a lot of money, and brought enjoyment to millions of people around the world.

Voice 1 

Avatar is an extreme example of filmmaking. Almost 1,000 people worked together to make this one film. And the process cost nearly $280 million dollars. Not every film is so huge. Nor do most films take 15 years to make. However, every film does take a long time to write, film, edit and produce.

Voice 2 

Making a film is always a complex process. The first step of the process is writing. The film’s writer is called the screenwriter. Often, the screenwriter creates a story with conflict. This keeps a film interesting. The screenwriter also needs to make the story seem real. And the words in the script need to sound natural - like people would really say them to each other.

Voice 1 

Writing a film script can take many months, or even years. This process ends when the film director approves the script. Next, the director must gather and meet with his crew. Together, they decide the places where they will film. They also decide which equipment and cameras they will use.

Voice 2 

James Cameron began forming his ideas for Avatar in 1994. Cameron imagined the film in a particular way in his mind. But at that time, film technology was not developed enough to produce what Cameron imagined. So, Cameron decided to wait for the technology to get better. But he also decided to start creating the technology himself.

Voice 1 

Cameron spent seven years creating a 3D or three dimensional camera system. Images from this camera look like they are a part of real life. This camera system is now the best of its kind. However, the 3D camera system produced a lot of digital, electronic, information. So, the computer company Microsoft made a new information management system just for “Avatar.” Finally, the technology was good enough to make Cameron’s dream for his film come true.

Voice 2 

After choosing the right equipment, a director needs to find good actors for his film. Choosing actors can be difficult. Actors are often busy. They may not have time when the director needs them. Other times, directors have difficulty finding the right actor to play a character.

Voice 1 

Training film actors is also very important. Their actions must look real and believable. Cameron brought together a team of experts to train his actors for Avatar.  The experts taught the actors to shoot bow and arrow weapons. They taught the actors to ride horses and how to safely fight each other. Language experts taught the actors to speak an imaginary language called Na’vi. This language is not a real language. However, it was the language actors spoke in the film.

Voice 2 

After preparing the actors, the director also chooses an art director for his film. The art director designs the sets for a film. A set is a room or other place where the director films the actors. The art director also makes the actors look good on film. He has workers who work with make-up. They use creams, face paint, and other supplies to change the way an actor looks. Other workers make costumes - special clothes for the film’s characters. Costumes can be simple. Or they can be very complex.

Voice 1 

After all this preparation, the filming process can finally begin. The cameraman operates the film camera. He stays with the director almost all day. He must find ways to record everything the director wants. The filming process is very busy and pressure-filled. Managers of different departments work closely together and try to communicate about every detail.

Voice 2 

After filming, an editor must work with the footage - the product of the filming. Each part of the film must fit together to create one story. Some films tell a simple story in present time and order. Other films may include parts that take place in the past or the future. Other films move back and forth between two separate events happening at the same time. Organizing the order of the film can be very difficult. The editor also helps to design the style of the film. She chooses the right music for each part of the film. When she is finished, she shows a rough-cut version of the film to the director.

Voice 1 

When the director is satisfied with the product, he will show it to the producer. Together, they will make necessary changes.  Finally, a company will color-correct the film. Changing the colors of a film can be a part of the story. For example, Cameron’s film Titanic begins with rich, warm colors. Then the Titanic boat begins to sink. At this point in the film, the colors begin to change. They slowly become darker. They make the film feel cold. Cameron wanted the colors to affect the people watching the film. He wanted them to see and feel how the story changed - from a happy beginning to a tragic ending.

Voice 2 

Finally, at the very end of the process, a film-distributing company releases the film to theaters. For big films there may also be a film release party.  Newspaper writers may also ask questions, or interview, the film’s producer, director and actors. The goal is to let as many people know about the film as possible. Then, hopefully, millions of people will watch the film all around the world!

Voice 1 

A person watching a film enjoys it for an hour or two. They may not understand how much work and planning made this film possible! But does all this work have a good result? Films have the ability to affect people. They can influence people to change. They can make people laugh, cry, get angry, and think. Have you ever watched a film that changed your life? Tell us about it! Leave a comment on the script page of this program.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was David Phelps. The producer was Ryan Geertsma. The voices you heard were from the United States. You can find our programs on the internet at This program is called “Making Films.”

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What is your favorite film? Do you think this film took a lot of time and money to make? How much do you know about making a film?


Avatar Spotlight
said on November 14, 2011

Many times i found something near to my character and my life in the movies who effected that behavior in me for long time and maybe ever!

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 15, 2011

James Cameron is one of my favorite directors. Titanic was the best. People who was facing the death in the sinking boat made me so sad. And I was surprised that James had made a beautiful, great love story in a history. Thank you, Spotlight. It was really interestig story.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 16, 2011

Film is painting of our life. Have many truth is reappeared into the film. And the good director is a person who can reappear the best truthfulness. James Cameron have made it. I believe his success will be farther in the future!

Julie Ppark's avatar
Julie Ppark
said on November 16, 2011

Someday, my pastor recommended me to watch “Black”. After watching the movie, I was so touched and decided to be an warm-hearted teacher. ^^

Kris_IV's avatar
said on November 17, 2011

In my opinion very good film is Lord of War… Good scenario, good actors and interesting place on world…. What you think about this film?

Avatar Spotlight
Doi hai linh
said on November 26, 2012

Yes. I have watched the film that change my life. It is called “three idiots” that comes from Indian. that film teaches me many things that have grate influence to me. After watching this film, I have thought many times how to change may life. The expression at the end of this film is ” follow the passion, the success will follow you”. I think it is grate message to everyone in the world. I also have my future dream. I want to have good job and follow my dream. But it is too difficult…..Now, i don’t have enough power to follow and achieve my goals. I hope i will make it to become the truth in the future”.”

Avatar Spotlight
Boy Astro
said on November 27, 2012

i have seen the film call ” the love story in havard ” . I like the story love and every efford to sutdy in foreign . I make me feel happy and motivation to try achievie my goal :)

Oscar Manuel's avatar
Oscar Manuel
said on December 04, 2012

I remember a film called “La Vida es Bella” (La vita e bella, The life is beautiful) of italian director. That film change my think about the hope in our lifes, because the spectator can see how a father try his son don’t know horror of the war.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 06, 2012

An instructive view at the backstage of making the excellent prosperous films. I’m interested in reading the articles like this. Thanks for the program!

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 16, 2013

It is undeniable fact that a film can change our mind with its message. I have seen a film called “Nothing Hill” that have many influences on my life. The important thing of this film is the way we do when we love someone. Do we cross the line between you and other or stop at the line to let him go?

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on June 07, 2016

I,m a good following to the films by TV.
I like an American films.
My favorite film is “Angel Eyes” for Jennifer Lopes.
In generally, I think that all western films are expressing the advanced material civilization and moral degeneration of western at same time.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on June 09, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Thursday 09, June 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Robin Basselin, Ryan Geertsma, and David Phelps:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
The Hulk! My favorite film is The Hulk.
Yes, I do. Because that film is a complex film to make and in it there are a lot of special effects. I do not know nothing how to make a film but, I learnt something in this article “Making Films.” Besides, I like another kind of movies such as: Romantic movies, suspense movies, comedy movies, musical movies, cartoon movies, documentary movies, and etc.
However, I do not like horror movies. I am afraid of them.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 02, 2018

My favorite movie is The Name of the Rose, based on the eponymous book by Umberto Eco. I read the book and saw the movie several times. I know that book and film are different media, but I liked the book a lot more, although I found the movie spectacular. The story is a very well woven plot and makes us think about the reality that surrounds us, always mediated by our beliefs in the real and the mystical.
I’m a film lover, so I ever know about their costs and problems of production.
It was very good to read that lesson and those involved in its production and dissemination are to be congratulated.
Thank you all.

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 04, 2018

Film’s making is a long process which needs patient, creative and hard work. Finally, I found and understood a quote that is ” Rome wasn’t built in one day”.

Avatar Spotlight
Tran Kha
said on December 02, 2018

I want to thank you for the great article. My favorite hobby is watching films at theaters, and I have seen a lots of films, but only action films, so there was not any film that changed my life.

Titanic is the best, although i’m men, I was crying when i watching this film. ~^.^~