From script to screen — how can you get your film produced?

By Melissa Poole

Steps to feature film production in a nutshell:

  1. Write a great screenplay that has commercial viability!
  2. Produce a proof-of-concept film* ($5000 or win a contest) and use it to find investors.
  3. Collaborate with production company and raise the funds.
  4. Pre-production (casting, locations, script edits, table reads, scheduling, etc)
  5. Production – the fun begins!
  6. Post-production (edit, color grade, sound design, VFX)
  7. Distribution/release – share your film with everyone!
  8. Collect profits!

*Optionally, you skip this step and go straight to #3

The steps above might seem either simple or intimidating but that’s what film production is all about and everyone can do it!

Of course, it helps when you work with an establish producer and production company and what Reno-Tahoe Screenplay Contest aims to give all their writers is this access!

We will break down the process above for a feature film Target List (currently in post-production) that was produced by the official production partner of Reno-Tahoe Screenplay Contest – Mad Wife Productions.

1. Write a great screenplay that has commercial viability!

Target List is an adaptation of a novel of the same name. The full-length screenplay was written in 2019, with some major changes to the storyline (female lead, more suspense, more character development). Once the feature script was ready, the next question always is — how do we get this produced???

2. Produce a proof-of-concept film.

The writer, John, decided to shoot a proof-of-concept film to attract investors for the feature film. The 100-page screenplay was cut to 10 pages to give an idea of the plot, characters and enough intrigue to help sell the story. This was filmed in Spring 2021 and now year later, the feature film was produced!

3. Raise the funds.

Initial investment for this was 26k, although it could be as low as 15k depending on the story. This can come from personal funds, loans, family and friends or crowdfunding. After initial funds were raised, the producers and Mad Wife Productions raised the remaining funds needed in 6 months.

4. Pre-production.

Once all funds were raised, the film went to pre-production, which took about 4 months. Casting was the major part of this process, together with scheduling and locations to ensure we stayed within budget. The pre-production consisted of lot of zoom table reads, location scouting and other important things that are needed to run a successful production (lunch, food, insurance, permits).

5. Production – the fun begins!

The film was produced in 17 days in over 17 locations, which made the production slightly hectic, but everything went smoothly and not a single day exceeded 14 hours on set. The process wasn’t without some setbacks (broken stands, broken memory card, full hard-drive) – luckily these were all counted for in the budget and we were able to continue the shoot without slowdowns.

6. Post-production.

The film is currently in post-production. This involves hundreds of hours of editing, color grade, sound design, VFX, pickup shots. Rough cut is expected to be ready end of July and picture lock version in October. After that, the film goes to VFX, composer and sound design.

7. Distribution/release – share your film with everyone!

Distributor is already involved and if all goes according to plan, the film will be released Spring 2023.

8. Collect profits!

Although nothing beats the writing process (creating the world, the characters, the plot) and the production (to see it all come alive), collecting the profits will definitely be sweet!


To give everyone more details from a writer who actually went through the process, we interviewed John Reizer about the process of taking his idea from script to screen:

Can you give brief description of Target List?

Target List is a high-energy, fast-paced medical thriller about the creation of a life-saving healthcare instrument and big pharma’s attempt to suppress the technology. Although the topic is serious, we made this film for everyone (PG-13) and it is packed with action and comedy.

Let’s immediately go to the main question everyone wants to ask — how much did you invest cash to produce target list feature film?

I invested $26,000. I could’ve invested as low as $15,000 but I decided to go with more so I get a bigger ownership and profit share in the film.

Where did you get this money?

Savings. I know it’s a risk to invest in a film, but you only live once and I really believe in this story and have no doubt we will all make our investments back. This is my legacy and I would take this risk any day of the week.

How did you raise the rest of the money?

That was all on the producers and Mad Wife Productions. They organized everything and within six months we had enough cash to go to production.

With only $26,000 investment, I assume this is a one location, limited character film?

Gosh, no! We have 17 locations ranging from equestrian center to houses to restaurants to motel and a laboratory. We shot the film in 17 days and had over 40 actors. This is an action-comedy that you would see Hollywood produce. We have car chases, car crashes, gun fights, fist fights, building fires and so much more. There are no limitations in this film!

How did the proof-of-concept film help make the feature film reality?

Shooting the proof of concept film did a few things for me. Number 1: being on set and watching how films are made behind the scenes was such an incredible experience I would not miss that for anything. To watch your own words come alive was just a dream come true. I also loved working with Mad Wife Productions — they are such a professional and an amazing group of filmmakers — we were laughing so much. And everyone loved being there. It really made me part of the group and I couldn’t wait to work with them again.

Number 2, showing the proof-of-concept film and releasing it on Amazon Prime got people really excited! We got other investors interested and were able to raise more money. However, I would also consider skipping the whole proof of concept production and putting all that money toward the feature film.

What do you mean?

If you only have $5000 to invest, then yeah sure do the proof of concept, but if you have closer to $20,000 to invest, then go straight to the feature film. That would be my advice. If you have that $20,000 seed money, it is so much easier to get other investors involved because you know you’re going to be able to make the film.

When will Target List be released?

Right now, the plan is to finish post-production by December 2022 and then release it early next year. We are already talking with the distributor so they will be involved with this whole post-production process to make sure we can release it as soon as possible.

Once it’s out, I hope you all will watch it!

If you are interested in producing your film, you can contact Mad Wife Productions directly: