Film Production

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Film Production


the production of motion pictures and television films; the principal branch of cinematography. Film production takes place at motion-picture studios—enterprises that specialize in various types of films, such as feature motion pictures, documentaries, popular science films, educational films, and animated cartoons. Motion pictures are classified as black-and-white, color, wide-screen, large-format, multiscreen, or stereoscopic films, depending on the cinematographic systems and technological means used. Film production is characterized by a close interaction of art and technology in the production process; the high labor input of production and the relatively high cost of films; the large number of creative workers and technical specialists who take part in making films; the use of complex technology and expensive materials; the dependence of outdoor motion-picture filming on weather conditions; and the necessity of assembling actors from various theaters, military units, means of transport, and museum displays during filming.

With respect to film technology, the most complex films are feature motion pictures. Their production process consists of the following basic stages: preparation of a screenplay setting out the content and artistic ideas behind the film; development of a director’s script, in which the screenplay is divided into scenes, with detailed descriptions of how each scene is to be filmed; a preparation period, which includes the preparation of sketches for costumes, scale models of the stage sets, and stage props, the casting of actors, the selection of film crews, and the development of a detailed plan and cost estimate for production; the filming period, during which all location and studio filming takes place; and the editing period, during which the final footage is edited, the soundtrack is created and synchronized with the film, and copies of the film are made, after which the finished film is released.

Film production came into being in the years immediately after the invention of the motion-picture camera. In the early 20th century, enterprises for the production of motion pictures were organized in France, Russia, Great Britain, the USA, and Germany. They were originally located in buildings ill-suited to filming and used primitive equipment, cameras, and sets. Films were made in the traditional manner of theater productions. However, the ever-increasing output of films fostered the accumulation of experience in film organization and technology. Film production was heavily influenced by the development of motion-picture technology and the appearance of new techniques and equipment. The motion picture moved steadily away from the experience of the theater (seeFILM-MAKING) and perfected its own specific methods, which were characterized by a combination of artistic and technical processes.

Film production played an important role in the development of cinematography and television all over the world. It was particularly important in the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and South America, where the increasing number of films produced greatly influenced the growth of national cultures.

In practice, modern film studios are organized as enterprises with a complete production cycle encompassing the entire production process—from preparation of the written script to the release of film copies ready for viewing. The studio production of a motion picture or television film is carried out by the studio’s primary production team—the film crew—which is a group of creative workers and technical specialists responsible for the film’s artistic quality, technical level, production schedule, and cost: This form of production organization permits the most efficient use of creative personnel and of the film studio’s technical facilities. Such an organizational structure is used in the USSR, Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia. In capitalist countries, the same system is used for the most part in the USA, Great Britain, and, with some variations, in Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, India, Argentina, and Mexico.

In a fundamentally different type of organization, the creative processes are separated from the technical production within a system of production companies. Such companies hire the film crew outside the film studio, develop the screenplay, and perform all the necessary preparatory work by contracting actors and other personnel, obtaining the necessary materials, and fashioning or renting costumes and props. After completion of the preliminary work, the company signs a contract with a film studio to rent studio space, and the studio constructs the sets and provides all the necessary technical facilities. A film crew brought together for the period of film production operates in the studio and uses the studio’s facilities.

In capitalist countries, production companies usually operate in complex interrelationships with film distributors and banks. In such a system the film studios usually have no extensive technical base; production of the film, the sound track, and the edited footage are done by specialists commissioned by the production companies. The filming equipment is usually rented from the manufacturer. As a company, the film studio owns mainly large sets and stages for filming and employs only the minimum number of required specialists; sceneshifters, lighting engineers, and other workers are hired according to need and only for the duration of the scenery construction and filming. This system has been used widely in France and, to some extent, in Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, and several other countries. It is of interest to cinematographers in many countries because of its flexibility and various economic advantages and because it separates the creative process from production. The film production systems of some socialist countries also make use of this separation, for example, Poland and Hungary. In these countries the film studios provide production services to independent artistic associations.

In the 1950’s a form of film production organization, centering on the work of independent film producers, arose in the USA, France, Japan, and other capitalist countries. The producers were major directors, actors, and scriptwriters who made motion pictures with their own financial resources. Independent producers develop the screenplay, assemble the film crew, do preliminary production work, and only then hire the services of film studios, with which they enter into appropriate contractual agreements. The producers sell the finished motion pictures to distributors or television networks. In some cases the independent producers form their own companies, for example, United Artists Corporation and Mirisch Company, Inc., in the USA, or they may make their films in cooperation with film studios or television networks.

A widely used method of film production today is the joint production of motion pictures by several production companies or film studios from various countries. Coproduction makes it possible to pool financial resources, engage well-known actors and directors, make the most efficient use of a studio’s technical facilities, and select the proper filming location. The film crews for such productions are assembled by agreement of representatives of the countries participating in the production of the film. Soviet film studios engage in coproduction of motion pictures with the film studios of all the socialist countries and many capitalist countries as well. Examples of such coproduction include The Heroes of Shipka (with Bulgaria), Jaroslaw Dąbrowski (with Poland), Journey Beyond Three Seas (with India), The Normandy-Neman Regiment (with France), The Red Tent (with Italy), and The Bluebird (with the USA).

In the USSR there are studios producing feature films in all the Union republics; the most active are Mosfil’m, Lenfil’m, the Gorky Film Studio, the Dovzhenko Film Studio, and Belarus’fil’m. Other studios produce documentaries, popular science films, and animated cartoons. In some Union republics joint film studios produce documentaries and feature films. Still other film studios produce both documentaries and popular science films. A significant increase in the output of feature films at the major film studios has made it necessary to decentralize control over the creative process. To this end, Soviet film studios have formed artistic groups to supervise the film crews and, in particular, the preparation of scenarios and scripts. The first artistic groups were formed at the Mosfil’m studios in 1959. In a similar way, artistic groups were created in the large film studios that produce documentaries and popular science films. The presence of several artistic groups in the studio complex does not violate the principle of a complete production cycle; the studio remains a functional unit.

The need to improve the quality of motion pictures, shorten production schedules, and lower production costs through the use of modern techniques makes it imperative to seek new forms of organization for film production. The resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU of 1972 On Measures for the Further Development of Soviet Cinematography sets out a broad program for the further growth of the film industry, the improvement of film production organization, and the broadening of the material and technical basis for film-making. In recent years the USSR has been conducting work on the scientific organization of film production incorporating the experience gained in various branches of the national economy. The greatest effort is being devoted to raising the level of technology and creative ideas in motion pictures, improving the planning and organization of film production, and providing creative and technical workers with material incentives to produce high-quality films that will be popular with the viewing public.


Konoplev, B. N. Osnovy fil’moproizvodstva, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1975.
Goriunova, G. N., and V. G. Chernov. Ekonomika kinematografii. Moscow, 1975.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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