We’ve heard of actors such as Richard Gere or Jean-Claude Van Damme leaving a film during filming because of differences with their co-stars or directors.
But what happens when the director or crew get it wrong and the actor has other work to go to but the film isn’t yet complete?
Sitting down to watch a good movie is one of the best ways to unwind after a long day of work, but we’re mostly unaware of the behind-the-scenes troubles in some of the most iconic movies.
It is not unusual for an actor to actually have more than one movie or acting role simultaneously.
It is often accomplished by arranging shooting schedules and sequences in an order that allows for the actor to transfer from one set to another to accomplish the feat.
Overlapping jobs are also common, and with clever scheduling, everyone wins.
But sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, filming is not complete when the actor has to depart for another job.
How Are Films Made?
In this case, it helps to understand how films are made.
Filmmaking can be separated into three distinct stages. The first would be development and pre-production where planning takes place to get ready to film.
Filming is next and is known as production.
Finally, the film requires editing, which is known as post-production.
Pre-production is the point at which producers and directors create the vision for their film and plan for the production. They secure all resources needed to complete the film, including decisions around who plays which parts.
This is where the team solidifies the structure of the story. This is also the time to determine how much money you need to finance every stage of the filmmaking process.
After cost, crew, and equipment are sorted, it is time to create a day-by-day film production timeline.
This will be the guide for the rest of the production process, shooting included.
Actors and their agents negotiate their schedules and fees during this time and any conflicts are ironed out. Contingency plans are drawn up to address possible overruns and costs are discussed.
The legal contracts usually cover what would happen if there are delays and who is responsible for what.
The Film Production Process
During the initial film production process, concept and idea generation takes place and characters are discussed.
The first ideas are generally quite vague, providing a creative jumping-off point for generating more ideas. When making a movie, the high concept idea is preferred. If the film idea can be described simply and quickly, it will be easier to get people on board.
The second step is probably just as important as the first, if not more so. To spend money on your film carefully, a budget is needed.
The financial backers decide on a realistic limit and what they can afford early on and then track spending throughout the film production process.
If filming is not completed on time and in line with the contracted actor’s agreements, then a part of this basic process has broken down.
Considering what resources are required and what costs are necessary, a simple budgeting formula can be broken up into three parts:
A – Break your script into individual pages.
B – Small films shoot 8 pages per day.
C – Divide your total number of script pages by a realistic number of pages per day.
You can then calculate a reasonable daily cost. A safety factor will be included to take into account unexpected eventualities (like filming taking too long and actors needing to leave).
Next up are screenwriting and scriptwriting. This is where scriptwriters solidify their ideas and put the script together. Scriptwriting is mainly about dialogue and how the various characters speak.
Hiring – Recruiting Cast and Crew
With lower-budget “indie” films, volunteers are used to reduce labor costs. This is how friends, family, and local film students can become actors, set dressers, or even camera operators.
Regardless of whether the process is formal or informal, the directors hold script read-throughs, auditions, and screen-test actors.
They then watch showreels to check the technical skill of new crew members. Lastly, they put the word out by advertising a job on a casting website.
Scouting Locations and Production Design
Finding suitable locations for the film shoot is known as scouting. Scouts search for interior and outdoor places that best suit what is described in the script.
Storyboards are scripts for the camera to follow. Instead of words, they describe important scene shots and camera angles with illustrations.
Just like a comic book, they break the scene-action into a sequence of panels numbered for production reference.
Generally, they use hand-drawn rough sketches to get the point across. Software, like “Plot”, can be helpful with this part of the film production process.
The shot lists go alongside this to describe the contents of every shot or scene, what will happen and what is needed.
The final step is the production schedules. This is merely to keep everything organized and in place.
And it is here that problems will arise if things are left out or changes are made during filming. Any change will affect the schedule and if the time allowed is limited, it is possible that the actor’s time will run out and they will have to leave the set.
If it is not covered in their contract, the actor can negotiate a deal with the producers to make themselves available for additional shooting.
But if they are booked for another film or production, alternative actors might need to stand in for them in the final cut.
It is seldom that a film is shot in sequence.
Producers will plan shots around where they best fit into the overall plan. This can result in the ending being shot first, for instance.
This does give the production leeway to arrange shooting around the actor’s schedule.
What Can Go Wrong When Filming?
Various issues can affect filming.
These may be the possibility of bad sound, wrong delivery formats, miscommunication of a brief, changes to a brief halfway through the process, and sometimes the filming just doesn’t go according to plan.
Bad weather can, for instance, hold up shooting for days on end if there are no indoor scenes to shoot.
Editing can also make up for bad acting, but this isn’t always the case if an actor does a poor job.
Delays are inevitable in the artistic process of making a movie.
How Are Actors Able to Work in Two Movies at Once?
A movie can be released at the same time as another movie, but this does not mean that they were filmed concurrently.
If an actor has been contracted to work in two movies at once, the actor and his or her agent would need to agree on pay and an achievable schedule for the actor.
The production scheduling is done by the producers, production managers, and showrunners, who will coordinate both shooting schedules so that the actor can get a chance to take leave from one movie for a period while the one film is shooting sequences that do not include that actor.
Once a film has been shot and is completed, the film will go to the editing studio.
How Long Do Actors Stay on Set?
When filming, filming can run from twelve hours to as many as twenty hours.
Feature films can take up to 5 days a week over the course of three months of shooting.
An actor may need to learn new skills or receive training or coaching depending on the role they’ve been given. This process can last several weeks or a few months.
Ian McKellen, who acted as Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings, is a Shakespearean actor with classical training.
When filming The Hobbit, the director decided to take the digital-effects route, but McKellen revealed during an interview in Time Out, that he disliked acting in front of a green screen: “I was miserable… I wasn’t involved in any of that, I was acting on a mountain. I tend not to remember those bad times… I think I enjoyed every single moment of making those films”.
So, actors do get to call the shots occasionally, especially when they are not at fault and the film is incomplete. It really just depends on how the contracts are worded and what they are prepared to do to ensure that their names appear in lights.