Looking behind the scenes

project management in the motion picture industry


It is generally accepted that the project management profession exists within a spectrum of industries, ranging from engineering and construction to information technology and manufacturing. Of course, other industries engage in project management, but their practices may be less documented or publicized.

The motion picture industry, not often represented in the project management discourse, is an industry that is expected to provide a unique perspective for the study of project management. I chose to research film project management due to its wide appeal yet limited presence among project management references, academic sources, and published literature. This paper attempts to uncover and capture the significance of project management practices to the motion picture industry. My goal is to contribute these findings to a wider project management community.

While the motion picture industry includes mediums such as film, video, and television, this paper primarily investigated film production intended for cinematic screening. Production is the stage in which movie cameras are used to shoot all the scenes of the movie. Preproduction and postproduction stages are also parts of the production process.

My review of literary sources and data collection is presented before turning to analysis and discussion of findings from the research. Main areas of focus include the relevance of film production phases to project phases in the PMBOK® Guide, a summary of film industry history and status, an exploration of the project management roles and responsibilities of film production, and project management tools and practices used within the motion picture industry.

Literature Review

Few scholarly sources have surfaced within the last five years that have directly related the subjects of project management and filmmaking. This is expected, due to the exclusive nature of the motion picture industry (Rhys, 2004). Worley (2005) described how theory of constraints (TOC) and critical chain management concepts were used to analyze and improve film production. While Worley used TOC as a risk management tool for the project of creating a finished film, she described the objective of film production projects as more than delivering the production of a film reel, and as ultimately enabling the phases of film distribution and exhibition. Other authors stressed the importance of the broader economic market for films. Key to managing film production, Worley implied, was the planned anticipation of possible risk events.

Brook (2005) used television and film production practices as a basis for describing specific production activities that could negatively influence outcomes. Stamps (1997) highlighted the risks of film projects, based on a historical account of multiple financial failures, and related information technology projects to film projects. Other sources related information technology projects to film production projects, including the British Computer Society (2006), Katsiris (2007), McDonald (2006), Royce (2005), Simon (2005), and Zackariahsson, Walfisz, and Wilson (2006). DeVany (2007) also compared film production to pharmaceutical research, where both industries have had statistically similar results in producing successes.

A broader history of film projects was recounted by Miller and Shamsie (1996). They described Hollywood filmmaking's Golden Age as a time when it was strategically sound for a film studio to have its own film production operations. Alternatively, they described broadcast television as a cause of more unstable times for the film industry. The unstable, less predictable nature of modern filmmaking was found to explain why film production had become a separate enterprise, where production was contracted by film studios in order to mitigate the risks of their organization staffing a full-time and permanent production staff.

The project-centric nature of film production was thoroughly discussed by DeFillippi and Arthur (1998). They asserted that traditional management strategy was inadequate for explaining the existence of the motion picture industry, whose project-based and mobile structure left parent organizations such as film studios lacking long-term knowledge, experience, and permanence. In direct response to DeFillippi and Arthur, Phelan and Lewin (1999) argued that traditional management strategy was adequate for explaining film production and its transient states, since the production aspect was part of a much larger construct in which film production was merely one aspect of a studio's business. However, DeFillippi and Arthur (1999) replied in turn that the virtual enterprise, such as in film production, was a necessary and modern structure for business, as opposed to the traditional concept of the firm. Also contributing to the discussion of the film crew as project organization were Introna, Moore, and Cushman (1999). They used interviews with a small number of film professionals to show the importance of trust, available hierarchy, and trade jargon to the efficient operation of the film crew as a virtual enterprise. Jones, Lichtenstein, Borgatti, Hesterly, and Tallman (1999) affirmed the nature of the film production crew as a virtual and temporary enterprise, showing how the film studio worked with the film production company through contracting vehicles. The film studio, while not typically performing the hands-on work necessary to create the final film reel, participated in the broader process by making major initiating or guiding decisions concerning the film's finance, development, production, marketing, distribution, exhibition, and more. Sydow and Staber (2002) discussed the importance of the project network as a social construct that allowed film production crews to become experienced, knowledgeable, and connected, despite their lack of permanence as an organization.

Other sources in the literature focused on business environments related to film production, such as marketing, sales, and exhibition. In a study of more than 300 films to determine whether marketing could overcome poor quality, Hennig-Thurau, Houston, and Sridhar (2006) found that quality was the stronger driver of long-term revenue. Swami (2006), in a more extreme view, pointed to the subjective nature of an audience's reaction to screened films, challenging the assumption that film revenues could be predicted or controlled.

Continuing the focus on the economic perspectives of film projects, in studies by De Vany and Walls (1999, 2004), the commercial successes of films were assumed to be a primary indicator of film project success. Further, De Vany and Walls documented the unpredictable and extremely high financial risks of pursuing a film project. Eliashberg, Elberse, and Leenders also supported the assertion that filmmaking had unpredictable results in terms of profits (2005).

Simon (2005) explained that the management of creative projects such as film production involved specialized leadership skills. The element of managed creativity was further highlighted by Zackariahsson, Walfisz, and Wilson (2006) in their study of computer game development and other creative projects. Swami (2006) appeared to support the importance of film as creative art. In a controversial and more extreme position, Zackariahsson, Walfisz, and Wilson (2006) asserted that a formal project structure actually inhibited the natural creative process. This assertion wasn't adequately proven by their work in the area, which was limited to a single case study.

A primary source in the literature is the PMBOK® Guide (PMI, 2004). As the profession's published standard, this source described the knowledge areas and practices of project management, but it did not represent all areas of experience. No mention of motion picture industry practices was expressed. The same lack of citations for the motion picture industry was characteristic of other well-known texts that were focused on project management, including Whetten and Cameron (2007), Meredith and Mantel (2006), Leach (2005), Lewis (2005 and 2000), Kerzner (2003), Milosevic (2003), Turner (2003), Goldratt (1997), Martin and Tate (1997), Verma (1996), and Brassard and Ritter (1994).

Clevé (2006) is the most in-depth account of film production management reviewed. This book was important because it went into the greatest detail in describing film production management.

Most important of other sources in the literature, Cheklich (2002) offered a rare account of how she entered the profession of film production via a project management role. Because of her background in formal project management, Cheklich was able to bridge the two professions of project management and film production, drawing parallels and reiterating the importance of financing, scheduling, budgeting, and communications. Duvall (2006) and Heintz (2003) revealed glimpses of film production culture by journaling the experiences of modern-day and successful producers as they found new uses of technology that streamlined their filmmaking processes. The British Film Institute (2002), which provided critical reviews of movies and polled film professionals for their opinions, provided alternative criteria for the success of film projects: artistic, dramatic, and technical merit. Rhys (2004) showed how film schools expected to train producers, writers, and directors, while hinting at the exclusive and expensive nature of film production.

Relevance to the PMBOK® Guide

The PMBOK® Guide (PMI, 2004), a generic and standardized collection of recognized project management practices, knowledge areas, and processes, does not focus on industry-specifics. Instead, it unifies common project management practices and serves as a repository of professional knowledge based on consensus. Actual practice, of course, would be expected to reflect PMBOK® Guide contents, yet be tailored to varying degrees for each specific industry or organization. Table 1 shows how various film production phases map to the PMBOK® Guide. Sources define the phases slightly differently.

Table 1. What Film Phases Map to the PMBOK® Guide?

Source Film Phase Project Phase Comments
Cheklich, 2002 Preproduction Initiating, planning Cost and staffing levels are lower
Cheklich, 2002 Production Executing Cost and staffing levels are highest
Cheklich, 2002 Wrap Closing Shortest phase before postproduction
Brook, 2005 Clevé, 2006 Development Initiating Concept completed; financing secured
Brook, 2005 Clevé, 2006 Preproduction Planning Preparation for film shooting
Brook, 2005 Clevé, 2006 Production Executing, closing Overlap of production and postproduction, focused on cinematography
Brook, 2005 Clevé, 2006 Postproduction Executing, closing Production and postproduction overlap; editing of raw film, sound, effects, printing, delivery
Worley, 2005 Preproduction Initiating, planning Primary phase; depends on green light from executives
Worley, 2005 Production Executing, controlling Primary phase; most costly and time-critical phase; change management
Worley, 2005 Postproduction Controlling Primary phase; less risky synthesis stage
Worley, 2005 Distribution Initiating, planning, executing, controlling Secondary phase; rights for licensing obtained at any phase, such as box office screenings, TV, cable; manager unable to control risk, time
Worley, 2005 Exhibition Closing Secondary phase, after closing; manager not able to control risk and time

Motion Picture History and Status

The following discussion is important to the study of film project management because it explains the reasoning for the project-centric nature of film production and frames the context for film production in what is a very risky business venture. As a primary concern of project management professionals, risk management appears to be a key and driving force behind the practices of today's film production projects. Additionally, the forces of marketing and the expectations of consumer satisfaction and financial returns are undeniable components of film project management, if only an undertone for everyday activities of production. The following history explains this situation more fully.

The motion picture industry has had its ups and downs (Stamps, 1997; Eliashberg, Elberse, & Leenders, 2005). A broad review of a 30-year history of film by Miller and Shamsie (1996) showed a shift in both film consumerism and the film business, where the Golden Age of film experienced a period of stable success and then a downturn.

The Golden Age of film, from 1936 to 1950, as described by Miller and Shamsie (1996), was not just a different era for film in terms of period styles, fascination with stardom, and overall popularity. The business of filmmaking was different as well. In this time of movie zeal, major film studios could readily support their own in-house production crews. Movie projects were produced one after another, were consumed by large audiences, and, it seems, were almost operationalized as an ongoing business process.

Cinematic movie popularity diminished after 1950, with the advent of and competition from other entertainment sources such as television (Miller & Shamsie, 1996). The primary evidence from the two opposing eras was in the form of diminished returns on ticket sales and profitability. Resources that film studios used, such as long-term contracts with stars and theater halls, were also reduced (Miller & Shamsie, 1996). Not only this, the cost of production rose as well. Table 2 shows more detail.

Table 2. Historic Movie Statistics (Miller & Shamsie, 1996)

Evidence 1936–1950 (Mean) 1950–1965 (Mean)
Return on sales .12 .07
Profits from films 7.08 5.34
Cost of production per film 2.11 5.07
Stars under long contract 12.49 4.79
Theaters owned or leased 208 14
Consumer spending (% of entertainment) 19.53 6.61

Box office revenue losses were a problem for the film industry and the studios that were backing production. Their answer to the financial risks endured by remaining in a much less lucrative, unstable, and unpredictable movie market was to restructure the business of filmmaking into what it has primarily become today, a purely project-driven business (Phelan & Lewin, 1999). Film production was contracted out. Ownership of resources was reduced.

According to Brad Hoover, a cinematographer, film production instructor and Director of the Carolina Film Institute, (personal communication, July 25, 2007), other reasons for the shift of studio-owned resources to outsourced production were federal regulation, overall economic changes, and the high cost of specialized equipment and labor. Anti-trust suits caused the breakup of major studios and their theaters. Large studios that once owned in-house production resources could no longer afford to offer long-term contracts, buy and store equipment, and retain a full-time staff of highly specialized crew members. Additionally, the labor market became increasingly expensive while inflated prices made renting, contracting, leasing, and subcontracting a more efficient, mobile, and flexible choice for modern film production.

As studios contracted the major portion of filmmaking to production companies and crews, they gained some benefits (Jones et al. 1999). They were free to utilize a broader resource pool of talent, and they were free to control the amount and frequency of films they undertook (Jones, Lichtenstein, Borgatti, Hesterly, & Tallman, 1999). Both benefits theoretically would appear to mitigate the greater financial risks of film production experienced in today's business climate. However, Phelan and Lewin (1999) arguably claimed that this flexibility was more costly to the studio.

This history of the consumer market influencing the business of filmmaking went even further (Hennig-Thurau, Houston, & Sridhar, 2006). Aside from the business dramatically changing its model for production, the reactions of cinema audiences seemed to increasingly influence the creation of the films themselves. With fewer regular moviegoers available in the market, film studios focused on attempting better methods of delivering well-received films. In essence, the studios wanted to predict the profits from box office revenues, reduce the chances that they would lose money in the venture, and reward outside investors with shared financial successes (Farrell, 1995; Swami, 2006; Worley, 2005). Clevé (2006), writing on film production management, clearly stated that the criterion for success was financial returns. A studio, then, must deliver a product that audiences pay for. See Appendices A and B for all-time box office records in the United States.

According to the body of research reviewed here, and especially by De Vany and Walls (1999, 2004), no one factor can predict whether a movie will be profitable, however. These factors include the presence of Hollywood stars in films, the power of strategic marketing, the padding of the budget, the timely release of the film in theaters, optimized exhibition schedules, the reliance on existing stories and characters, and the artistic and technical quality of the film. On the other hand, Hennig-Thurau, Houston, and Sridhar, (2006) found that quality may be the best driver of success.

Given this history of high risk and instability in predicting profits, what are film project managers to do in order to ensure project success, beyond delivering the film within budget, on time, and of expected quality? How, where, and by whom is film quality defined and achieved? Is quality a measurable standard or a subjective element, such as when films receive industry awards, favorable poll results, or critical acclaim? See Appendices C, D, and E for film rankings based on opinions (British Film Institute, 2002; Internet Movie Database, 2007).

In more traditional projects such as construction or engineering, quality can be planned, built, tested, and delivered as part of a specification or requirement. But in film production, quality seems to be a much more complex and subjective criteria for success. If quality can be planned and controlled, who is responsible? Is it the producer, director, cinematographer, screenwriter, art department, production designer, or the film's project manager? Furthermore, who in the film production is the project manager? The next section looks at what the literature and personal communication sources have described as the project management roles and responsibilities of film production professionals.

Roles and Responsibilities

According to the body of research reviewed here, there were no formal “project manager” titles credited to film productions (Cheklich, 2002). Even more confusing, the sources reviewed for this paper did not clearly and consistently identify the same individual or title as having project manager roles and responsibilities in film projects. Table 3 documents the variances in project management roles found in the literature and other sources.

Table 3. Who is the Film Project Manager?

Motion Picture Industry Title Literary and Other Sources
Executive Producer Marcello, 2007
Producer Marcello, 2007; Cheklich, 2002; Brook, 2005; Hoover, 2007
Line Producer British Computer Society, 2006; Brook, 2005; Hoover, 2007
Director Marcello, 2007; Farrell, 1995
First Assistant Director Cheklich, 2002; Hoover, 2007
Production Manager Katsiris, 2007; Clevé, 2006; Brook, 2005; Hoover, 2007
Unit Production Manager Cheklich, 2002; Hoover, 2007
Script Supervisor Cheklich, 2002
Tech Scout Cheklich, 2002
Location Scout Hoover, 2007
Location Manager Hoover, 2007
Traffic Coordinator Cheklich, 2002
Production Co-coordinator Brook, 2005

Five of the above eight sources inferred that the main project manager in a film's production is most equivalent to one or more types of producers. See Appendix G for a table of producer titles and descriptions supplied by the Producers Guild of America (2005). If the producer role embodies the role of the formal project manager, what specifically is the producer contributing to the film? The best explanation came from the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries (2005), which described the producer as the one person who steers the film project from beginning to end, and was responsible for its success. They often became involved in initiating the film project, oversaw its production, and carried it into distribution and exhibition. “The producer's role is to turn story ideas into profitable cinematic entertainment, and to persuade others to share in his or her commercial and creative vision” (Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries, 2005). Another description from the Producers Guild of America (2005), says “a producer is involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion, including coordination, supervision and control of all other talents and crafts, subject to the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements and personal service contracts.” In addition, an entire staff known as the production office is typically required to perform project management duties (Producers Guild of America, 2005; Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries, 2005).

Hoover (personal communication, July 25, 2007) noted that the producer may be largely focused on the financial aspects of the film, where funds and deals are raised and negotiated with investors. The producer, according to Hoover, was most active in preproduction work, while the unit production manager or line producer, which was often a combined role, was responsible for actually running the production phase. Table 3 also shows five sources who cited the unit production manager or production manager as having project management responsibility. In many cases, the unit production manager handled the logistics of production while the line producer worked to manage payments to contractors and vendors during production and served an accountancy role. Clevé (2006) stated that the production manager worked to safeguard the interests of the producer. Hoover noted that the delineation between roles is often blurred, depending on each film, but many individuals were responsible for the management of different aspects of production. For each of these roles and many more, Hoover claimed that the most important production management skills were excellent communication, decision-making, and timing.

The variance found above and described by Cheklich (2002), Brook (2005), and Hoover (2007) showed that project management roles and responsibilities in film production projects do not depend on one sole position or individual. Rather, project management responsibility is required among multiple roles and is distributed across the project. This is in stark contrast, for example, to the federal government's concept of project management, also known as product or program management, where a single individual is expected, by design and direction, to centrally and singly handle project management responsibilities for large programs (Defense Acquisition University, 2005).

Considering the complexity and difficulty of filmmaking, no one person could handle all project management, coordination and logistics tasks on a major film production (B. Hoover, personal communication, April 28, 2007). Instead, individuals were responsible for their own area of expertise. For example, the director was ultimately responsible for realizing the aesthetic and emotive quality of the film, while the production manager was ultimately responsible for controlling costs and schedule. Hoover noted that the entire process of producing a film, from concept to film canister delivery, could take many years, a further indication of the process's complexity and difficulty. Even in low-budget films, as Cheklich (2002) experienced, multiple people handled project management to varying degrees. As she explained, the requirements for precise scheduling and timing, financing, budgeting, and ongoing communications were high enough to warrant the management expertise of several individuals to ensure that all pieces fell into place.

Tools and Practices

Table 4 includes some of the specific tools and practices that filmmakers have developed or used to assist in their project management responsibilities. While at the simplest level the goal of film production is photography, the compact timelines, high costs of production labor and resources, and the complex coordination of talent, time, and resources require many tools and practices such as these. Note that unions dictate many practices, and the producer, director, and production manager must agree on many items.

Table 4. What Tools and Practices are Used in Film Project Management?

Item Description Sources
Forecasting Attempt to predict film's financial success. May be a less useful practice, since actual variation in film profit is unstable and models use only opinion or simple averages. DeVany, 1999
DeVany, 2004
Green-lighting Official go-ahead to begin film production, awarded by select individuals. This follows the development phase. Clevé, 2006
Risk rating Rating of risk to actors by insurance underwriters, based on expected performance and reliability, in relation to completing shoot. Hoover, 2007
Completion bond or guarantee Financially ensures investors and lenders that a film will be completed with the specified script, budget, and schedule. Fee of 5%. Obtained by producer with reporting required. Clevé, 2006
Hoover, 2007
Deal memo Legally binding document made prior to final contract. Clevé, 2006
Participation contract Contingency where pay (to actors, directors, distribution fees, rentals) is undetermined until film revenues are known. Reduces financial risk for studios and producers. DeVany, 2004
Clevé, 2006
Required insurance and permits Requirements and fees met prior to shooting, including liability, workers' comp, accident, work visas, city access. Clevé, 2006
Optional or as-needed insurance For cast, stars, props, wardrobe, sets, extra expenses, third-party property, equipment, film, cameras, cash, office, errors, omissions, excess liability, aircraft, animals. Clevé, 2006
Producer's Insurance Policy Combines multiple forms of insurance into an annual product. Premium of 2–3%, depending on risk exposure. Clevé, 2006
Union agreements and memberships Screen Actors Guild /Screen Extras Guild structure much of film production practice. Paperwork, time, rules, fees, fines and compliance costs are substantial burdens. Clevé, 2006
Nonunion contracts Employment contracts and releases may be unique. Clevé, 2006
Organizational structure A standard expectation and hierarchy of production roles and responsibilities. Enables quick, efficient work and coordination among crew. However, actual working relations tend to be more complex. Cheklich, 2002
Brook, 2005
Hoover, 2007
Screenplay or script The foundation and blueprint for all film scenes, the building blocks of film production, based on a story. Color coding is used to differentiate script revisions. Influences film scope and quality. Scriptwriting software offers the ability to electronically link the script to production elements for a more streamlined process. Script supervisor helps ensure quality. Script may be purchased and already developed well in advance of production. Script legal rights may need to be gained and purchased. Cheklich, 2002
Brook, 2005
Clevé, 2006
Hoover, 2007
Katsiris, 2007
Script breakdown sheet/form A detailed decomposition of each scene planned in a film, derived from the screenplay. Used as a reference for all of the upcoming production. This is the most important form completed during preproduction. See Appendix H for an outline of contents. Clevé, 2006
Cast/scene breakdown form A list of all actors and extras required in a scene, referenced by scene number and script names. For actor utilization on a scene. Clevé, 2006
Location/scene breakdown form A list of all scenes, referenced by scene number and script location, required in a script, to see how many scenes planned per location. Clevé, 2006
Preliminary budget Based on producer and director agreement on realistic estimates of scope and schedule, plus union-regulated rates/expenses/dues. Prior to negotiation and contracting. For unions, insurance, and bonding. Clevé, 2006
Production budget Determines available financial resources that influence film scope and quality. Dependant upon financing and investment deals, with executive negotiations and control. Changes often. Cheklich, 2002
Clevé, 2006
Cash-flow chart Weekly expenses and needed funds for production. Clevé, 2006
Storyboard Sketches used to translate the script's textual descriptions of scenes into visual information. Provides initial artistic vision and working plans for art department. Reduces costs by establishing scope. Katsiris, 2007
Clevé, 2006
Technical storyboard Diagram showing overhead position of cameras, actors, shots and dollies on the set. Shows actor and camera movement. Defines scope. Clevé, 2006
Tech scout Location tours. Scene is described to the crew on each shooting site. Mitigates risks by saving time and money during shooting, an expensive part of production. Helps ensure artistic vision. Cheklich, 2002
Screen card or scheduling strips Repositionable cards representing blocks of film shooting for scenes. Scene strips are usually grouped by location and time of day, in order to economize set, camera, prop, and lighting setup. Typically affixed to a production board or wall for ease of viewing, and rearranged to optimize and adjust shooting schedules as needed. British Computer
Society, 2006
Clevé, 2006
Previz Pre-visualization technique using computers and 3-D animation. Allows a rough draft of film footage and scenes to be created before filming. Mitigates risks by saving time and money during shooting. Heintz, 2003
Location survey Assistance to location manager in finding shoot sites. Clevé, 2006
Cover set Alternative, interior shooting location for planned, exterior shooting; in case of bad weather or other risk events. Cheklich, 2002
Clevé, 2006
Behavioral codes “Filmmaker's Code of Professional Responsibility” helps minimize impacts of shooting in local communities. Clevé, 2006
Call sheet Listing and detailed instructions (actors, meals, props, transportation, wardrobe, weather forecasts, and so forth) for all required resources needed for daily shooting, at each location and time. Distributed to all in the shooting sequence to aid schedule. Cheklich, 2002
Clevé, 2006
Cast and crew Oversight of hiring and contracts with producer/director Clevé, 2006
Cross plotting Method of assigning and managing human resources. Allows visual display of daily allocations and availability. Katsiris, 2007
Change control Producer evaluates changes for impact on budget, schedule, and story. Sometimes informal versus formal. Cheklich, 2002
Production or shooting schedule Baseline schedule of scenes to be shot based on the most efficient order possible, and not by linear progression of the storyline. First assistant director is involved. Uses a traditional production board or software equivalent as a display and change device. Usually derived from required locations, then by actor availability. Cheklich, 2002
Clevé, 2006
Katsiris, 2007
Production board Industry standard method of creating a shooting schedule. Large, paper-based display for arranging scenes by daily sequence and required actors by repositionable scheduling strips. Uses screen breakdown sheets and location breakdown sheets as inputs. Digital version is more cumbersome to view. Aids in estimating production. Clevé, 2006 Hoover, 2007
Actors' day-out-of-days form Brief version of the final production board, required by the Screen Actors Guild. Shows the flow of production and actor days worked. Clevé, 2006
Actors' production time report Tracks actor's time throughout the day and used to compute compensation, fees, and fines. Required by the Screen Actors Guild. Clevé, 2006
Production report Daily account by the assistant director of shooting, hours worked, script pages covered, and how much film used. Cheklich, 2002
Clevé, 2006
Dailies Processed film reviewed by crew managers the day after film shooting. Helps ensure story and technical quality. Cheklich, 2002
Clevé, 2006
Phone, transaction, memo log Used to record details of all aspects of production including when conversations occur, with whom, what was discussed and decided. Clevé, 2006
Critical chain management Project management technique used to identify problems or causes that limit throughput of a system. Helps manage risks and schedule. Worley, 2005
Radio handsets and phones Used to maintain constant communication and availability of personnel on the set. Facilitates mobility and logistics. Cheklich, 2002
Wireless monitors Real-time, remote screening of live film shooting by key managers. Helps ensure artistic vision and quality. Cheklich, 2002
Duvall, 2006
Satellite video-conferencing Allows directors to monitor and guide shooting remotely and at multiple sites. Helps ensure artistic vision and reduce costs. Duvall, 2006
Dekker TRAKKER® software Software used for centralized scheduling, resource monitoring, costing, accounting, and earned value. Dekker, 2007
Marcello, 2007
SilverScreener and other software Software used to predict attendance and optimize the scheduling of cinematic exhibition of films in theaters. See Appendix F for more. Swami, 2006
Netscape, 2007

Conclusions and Future Direction

Motion picture production has been deemed similar to other industries such as software development and pharmaceutical research. The fundamental practices required to deliver a film production are well-defined and aligned to the processes and knowledge areas in the PMBOK® Guide. What makes motion picture project management different from many other industries, however, is the degree or intensity in which these fundamentals are applied, and by whom. Film production is unique because it is a logistically complex and difficult undertaking, much like waging a small war. It creates an innovative and subjectively evaluated product, the motion picture. It calls for constant communication during development, planning, negotiating, reporting, discussing, and directing. It depends on detailed scheduling and clockwork timing, such as with the tightly controlled and compact shooting schedule. It needs excellent decision-making, such as used during resource changes, unforeseen events, and artistic or financial decisions. It operates with direction from many highly specialized roles that share project management responsibility, like the producer, director, production manager, and others. Union agreements dictate many production and management practices, and every possible detail of the business is planned, recorded, and tracked. Project management responsibilities of film production are also meshed with the administrative, technical, and artistic skills of the professionals who control the project. Those with management and supervisory responsibility must be knowledgeable and talented in their respective filmmaking roles and departments, and have extensive experience.

Primary research in the form of a motion picture industry survey, with an adequate sample size, would help to clarify, expand, or dispute the findings in this paper. Broader questions concerning the business of motion picture production remain. If the ultimate criterion for film project success is financial return from the box office, how can the industry more accurately predict and modify its film products in order to meet expectations?


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Appendix A. Top 20 movies in the US, unadjusted for inflation (Box Office Mojo, 2007)
Rank Title Released Box Office Gross
1. Titanic 1997 $600,788,188
2. Star Wars 1977 $460,998,007
3. Shrek 2 2004 $441,226,247
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 1982 $435,110,554
5. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 $431,088,301
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 2006 $423,315,812
7. Spider-Man 2002 $403,706,375
8. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith 2005 $380,270,577
9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003 $377,027,325
10. Spider-Man 2 2004 $373,585,825
11. The Passion of the Christ 2004 $370,782,930
12. Jurassic Park 1993 $357,067,947
13. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002 $341,786,758
14. Finding Nemo 2003 $339,714,978
15. Forrest Gump 1994 $329,694,499
16. The Lion King 1994 $328,541,776
17. Spider-Man 3 2007 $328,216,000
18. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 2001 $317,575,550
19. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001 $314,776,170
20. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 2002 $310,676,740
Appendix B. Top 20 movies in the US, adjusted for inflation (Box Office Mojo, 2007)
Rank Title Released Box Office Gross
1. Gone with the Wind 1939 $1,329,453,600
2. Star Wars 1977 $1,172,026,900
3. The Sound of Music (#1if not counting re-releases) 1965 $937,093,200
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 1982 $933,401,500
5. The Ten Commandments 1956 $861,980,000
6. Titanic 1997 $844,515,900
7. Jaws 1975 $842,758,600
8. Doctor Zhivago 1965 $816,811,300
9. The Exorcist 1973 $727,541,800
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 $717,220,000
11. 101 Dalmatians 1961 $657,455,500
12. The Empire Strikes Back 1980 $646,028,600
13. Ben-Hur 1959 $644,840,000
14. Return of the Jedi 1983 $618,910,900
15. The Sting 1973 $586,560,000
16. Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 $579,973,400
17. Jurassic Park 1993 $567,234,400
18. The Graduate 1967 $563,059,800
19. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 $558,153,800
20. Fantasia 1941 $546,426,100
Appendix C. Top 10 movies as voted by critics (BFI, 2002) (IMDb, 2007)
Rank Title Released Director
1. Citizen Kane 1941 Welles
2. Vertigo 1958 Hitchcock
3. La Règle du jeu 1939 Renoir
4. The Godfather
The Godfather part II
5. Tokyo Story 1953 Ozu
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 Kubrick
7. Battleship Potemkin 1925 Eisenstein
8. Sunrise 1927 Murnau
9. 8 1/2 1963 Fellini
10. Singin' In the Rain 1952 Kelly, Donen
Appendix D. Top 10 movies as voted by directors (BFI, 2002) (IMDb, 2007)
Rank Title Released Director
1. Citizen Kane 1941 Welles
2. The Godfather 1972 Coppola
3. 8 1/2 1963 Fellini
4. Lawrence of Arabia 1962 Lean
5. Dr. Strangelove 1964 Kubrick
6. Bicycle Thieves 1949 De Sica
7. Raging Bull 1980 Scorsese
8. Vertigo 1958 Hitchcock
9. Rashomon 1950 Kurosawa
10. La Règle du jeu 1939 Renoir
Appendix E. Top 10 movies as rated by users (IMDb, 2007)
Rank Title Released Rating (Votes)
1. The Godfather 1972 9.1 (220,127)
2. The Shawshank Redemption 1994 9.1 (261,959)
3. The Godfather: Part II 1974 8.9 (125,147)
4. Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il 1966 8.8 (66,661)
5. Pulp Fiction 1994 8.8 (224,505)
6. Schindler's List 1993 8.8 (154,078)
7. Casablanca 1942 8.8 (102,736)
8. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back 1980 8.8 (164,097)
9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003 8.8 (201,894)
10. Shichinin no samurai 1954 8.8 (56,521)
Appendix F. Software tools for movie management (Open Directory Project, 2007)
No. Title Description
1. BoilerPlate “Industry standard motion picture production budgeting templates running on Excel for Windows and Macintosh.”
2. Cinehub “Developers of the internet-based Virtual Production Office (VPO) production management and communications tool.”
3. Continuity “Software for script supervisors that does shot logging, lined script pages, automatic breakdowns, revisions and script note distribution.”
4. Easy Budget “Budgeting software for professional filmmakers.”
5. Filmmaker Software “Developers of affordable budgeting and scheduling software for filmmakers.”
6. Filmspeed “Professional budgeting software for film and television productions. Designed to be easy to use and able to work in multiple currencies simultaneously.”
7. Gorilla “Production software for independent filmmakers by Jungle Software. Handles budgeting, scheduling, locations, editing notes and film festival submissions.”
8. Mindstar Productions “Comprehensive suite of film production management software. Scheduling, budgeting, on-set and post production.”
9. ScheduALL “Operations management software for the broadcasting, production and post production industries. Designed to offer efficient scheduling, task automation, cost center control, reporting and resource utilization.”
10. Set Management, Inc. “ProductionPro Budget film budgeting software.”
11. Sunfrog Film Scheduling “Film scheduling and budgeting software for Windows.”
12. Movie Plan “Investment Memorandum Template is a business plan for film and is suitable to present to investors. Intended for filmmakers looking to raise money through a Limited Partnership.”
13. Reelscore LLC “Helps advertising agencies, film producers, and television production companies better manage broadcast production projects. Instantly load and synchronize multiple audio and video submissions and collaborate with groups of users anywhere in the world.”
14. OnSet Software “Software for theatre, film and video productions. PRS manages all aspects of theatrical stage productions. M3s and PTL for film and video provide scene breakdowns, script and camera notes, and full tape library management.”
15. Reel Logix “Offers a production calendar to manage aspects of film, television and commercial projects.”
Appendix G. Types of movie producers (Producers Guild of America, Inc., 2005)
No. Title Description
1. Producer “A Producer initiates, coordinates, supervises and controls, either on his own authority, or subject to the authority of an employer, all aspects of the motion-picture and/or television production process, including creative, financial, technological and administrative. A Producer is involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion, including coordination, supervision and control of all other talents and crafts, subject to the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements and personal service contracts.”
2. Executive Producer “An Executive Producer supervises, either on his own authority (entrepreneur executive producer) or subject to the authority of an employer (employee executive producer) one or more producers in the performance of all of his/her/their producer functions on single or multiple productions. In television, an Executive Producer may also be the Creator/Writer of a series.”
3. Associate Producer “An Associate Producer performs one or more producer functions delegated to him/her by a producer, under the supervision of such producer.”
4. Co-Producer “Co-Producers are two or more functioning producers who perform jointly or cumulatively all of the producer functions as a team or group.”
5. Supervising Producer “A Supervising Producer supervises one or more producers in the performance of some or all of his/her/their producer functions, on single or multiple productions, either in place of, or subject to the overriding authority of an Executive Producer.”
6. Segment Producer “A Segment Producer produces one or more individual segments of a multisegment production, also containing individual segments produced by others.”
7. Coordinating Producer “A Coordinating Producer coordinates the work of two or more individual producers working separately on single or multiple productions in order to achieve a unified end result.”
8. Line Producer “A Line Producer performs the Producer functions involved in supervising the physical aspects of the making of a motion picture or television production where the creative decision-making process is reserved to others, except to such extent as the Line Producer is permitted to participate. Unit Production Managers, who perform no more than the customary services of a Unit Production Manager should be credited only as such.”
The Producing Team consists of all those whose interdependency and support of each other are necessary for the creation of motion pictures and television programs. The producing team is comprised of Producers and all those on the career path to becoming Producers, including: Executive Producers, Producers, Co-Executive Producers, Supervising Producers, Senior Producers, Line Producers, Co-Producers, Associate Producers, Segment Producers, Production Managers, Visual Effects Producers, Supervisors, and Coordinators, Post-Production Supervisors and Managers, Production and Post-Production Coordinators. As a unit, the producing team is responsible for the art, craft and science of production in the entertainment industry.” (PGA, 2005)
Appendix H. Script breakdown sheet contents (Clevé, 2006)
No. Item Notes
1. Date of current version of screenplay Screenplay versions need new breakdowns
2. Date of script breakdown sheet When the breakdown was prepared
3. Production company name Including individuals and phone numbers
4. Title and number of production Numbers common in TV but not theater
5. Script breakdown sheet page number Shows the part of the entire breakdown
6. Scene number Important scheme used in all future work
7. Location or set name for scene Uses the story's context, not the shoot site
8. Interior or exterior location Where scene is shot; used in scheduling
9. Description of scene Summarized scene activity; content scope
10. Day or night time Time when scene takes place in the story
11. Page count Length of scene in screenplay, in 1/8 pages
12. Cast All speaking parts in view, major or minor
13. Stunts Including who performs and directs stunts
14. Extras or atmosphere General extras (male, female, juvenile m/f)
15. Extras or silent bits Extras who perform but do not speak
16. Security and teachers Requirements for safety and legal reasons
17. Special effects Discuss with SFX supervisor; digital or live
18. Props, set dressing, greenery Moveable and immovable objects on set
19. Vehicles and animals Cars in picture, not transportation; handlers
20. Wardrobe Special clothing beyond general items
21. Estimated number of setups Camera setups called for by director
22. Estimated production time Walk through or discuss scenes w/ director
23. Special equipment Rentals for just one scene vs. whole shoot
24. Production notes Anything out of the ordinary or special

© 2008 Project Management Institute



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