There are five phases of film production that every movie must cycle through. While certain responsibilities will carry over throughout the entire production, each stage has its own specific tasks that need to be completed before your film is ready for audiences.

1. Development

Writing the storyline and script for the ongoing movie.

The development stage is the first step in film production. This phase of the production process includes fleshing out the story idea, writing a draft of the script, and figuring out the financial logistics of the project. Depending on the type of film you’re making and who you can get involved with, development can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.

2. Pre-production

A vintage fish and chip shop.

When you get the green light to start the pre-production stage, you’ll establish a production company and set up a production office. This is where the planning of your film shoot will take place. Pre-production involves finalizing the shooting script, finding shoot locations, and figuring out the production budget.

3. Production

A director, who is getting ready.

The production stage, also known as principal photography, is when shooting begins. During this short timeframe, the additional crew will be hired—as a script supervisor to check for script continuity while filming, and a property master to acquire and oversee any of your film’s props. The hair, makeup, and costume departments will handle the actors’ visual appearance, and actors will rehearse their lines and block scenes.

4. Post-production

Image and video editing by a man.

The post-production phase is when the audio and visual materials are cut together to create a film, and happens after the principal shooting is complete. An editor assembles footage shot-by-shot, adds music (either original or licensed), and incorporates other sound and visual effects.

5. Distribution

Movie tickets with popcorn around it.

Distribution is the final stage of production, which occurs after your movie has been edited, and is ready for viewing. Promotional marketing will advertise the movie, and any commitments to investors and rights holders will be completed.