Understanding Film Production:  A Primer for Business, Crew and Potential Hires

Hollywood’s impact on American culture is undeniable, yet we know very little about what it takes to make a movie. If you have ever asked what a producer does or watched movie credits and wondered about the roles of the gaffer, best boy, ager dyer or foley artist, this seminar and book is for you.  BUY TICKETS HERE.

By the end, you’ll understand the players, the stages of film production, distribution, box office proceeds and after-markets.

Current production practices are steeped in history, so we’ll look to the past for context. For instance, what crew job was added during Gone With the Wind (1940) that remains an industry standard today? We will draw examples from films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Tootsie (1982) and Last Vegas (2012) to illustrate how things were done behind the scenes. Then we’ll put it all together and prognosticate about where the movie industry is headed.

… a seminar that
examines all aspects of successful, contemporary moviemaking
— including jobs —
by following a profitable movie from start to finish.

Understanding the big picture, regardless of department, makes individuals more valuable. It enables them to see who is who among the crew and above-the-line players and have insight into what they are doing and why. That creates a better, smarter crew member which ultimately saves the production money. 

Furthermore, the local community and business’s learn how to fulfill a production’s needs as it opens up a production office, crew’s up, builds sets, and begins filming.

Overview of the seminar and syllabus:

1. Life Stages of a Movie:  Development, Pre-Production, Principal Photography, Wrap, Post Production, Distribution. How long does it take from conception to screen? 

2. Above the Line: The writer, director, actors and producers. Where does that term come from? How do the people in the top tier get paid? What are Points? What are the different types of producers? Do actors really need entourages? 

3. Below the Line: We look at every movie production department. Assistant Directors, Casting, Costumes, Art Department, Props, Set Decorating, Locations, Accounting, Production, Sound, Camera, Grip, Electric, Hair and Makeup, Catering and Craft Services, along with jobs that operate independently, like the script supervisor, set medic, video assist, stills photographer, unit publicist. What departments fit under the umbrella of another, larger department or are closely linked? How do they all interact? 

4. Post-production crew. What happens in post production? Who works in editing? Visual effects, special effects, ADP, Foley. Why are video, sound and music managed separately? Laying score, composers and studio musicians. Types of editing. Color grade, conforming, finishing and mastering. 

5. The Business:  How do projects get funded; Impact of Tax Credits; Budgeting; Marketing and Distribution; Theater Contracts; Opening Weekend; Domestic and International Box Office; Aftermarkets. 


Jordan is a career journalist who spent the first 20 years of her work life at news organizations, from small local papers to Dow Jones & Co., Cox Communications and National Geographic.

Meredith Jordan provides a holistic look at movie production that includes all aspects and all players. The core material is based on research for Below the Line: Anatomy of a Successful Movie. The book, to be published by Citation Press in the Fall of 2018, is based on her imbedding start-to-finish with a major motion picture Last Vegas. It includes all components – costumes to camera, movie stars to musicians – along with specific business details. The movie starred Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen. The actors play big, but the real story is the crew. The book and seminar follow along real time providing rare insight into exactly how it all pulls together. It contains material from hundreds of interviews of crew as well as individuals at prop and costume houses, Panavision, and post-production facilities.