Becoming a filmmaker is a labor of love. You might find overnight success, but it's more likely you'll be toiling away in the salt mines for a while. When you do get that opportunity to be on set and to create your own vision, chances are you'll be begging for more days to do it. 

But how many days will you need? 

Well, that depends on the kind of film you're making. See, there is no exact answer for low long it takes to shoot a movie... but we have some estimates and categories for you that might help you figure it out. 

So, without further ado, let's jump into film schedules and grab some answers. 

How long does it take to make a movie?

We know the key question, but one of the first things we have to address is that there are various stages of a film's production. So we should get into that before we start putting a general timeframe on this stuff. 

There are five variables when it comes to these things. 

5 variables when it comes to making movies 

1. The Announcement 

You know it as the day that the article hits Deadline or Variety telling you that the project is coming.

So if you start the calculation then, it actually can take years to make a movie. But most people just use this as an excuse to say they have something going. 

2. Pre-production 

This is when I consider the project to be real.

The director begins to hire department heads, and you usually get a shoot date for when the project will begin. Still, we are not counting those days because some films are in pre-pro for a long time. And others never get out of it. 

3. Principal Photography 

This is usually what people are referring to when it comes to how long it takes to make a movie. From the first day of production until the last, you are working on the movie each day.

This is when you're shooting, doing stunts, and running all over getting locations before the light goes out. 

4. Post-Production

This is when the film is edited. I also include reshoots and any CGI or VFX work that goes into finishing the final shots of the story. And that's just editing—what about the music, sound effects, and everything else that goes in? That makes the question much more complicated. 

5. Theatrical or Digital Release

It's common to track a movie when it comes out in the country it was produced. For Hollywood, that involves the North American theatrical release date when it’s shown to the public. Since streaming is so huge now, I would consider the streaming date as well. 

But all in all, the real thing most people want to know about is how much time they spend on set. So, let's look at some numbers. 

Michael BayMichael Bay

How long does it take to film a short film? 

This is a loaded question—the people who ask it are usually looking for an excuse not to do the work. I would always assume for a short film you can average shooting around three pages a day. A 15-page short, assuming there are not many heavy action scenes, should take around five days to shoot. 

For every action scene or chase, add another 1.5 days. That's a safe estimate. 

But again, it depends on the genre and the commitment. 

The average time it takes to make a movie is...

There's so much data that goes into this kind of answer. 

The great Stephen Follows made this chart that tracks an average movie production time and schedule. He built a database of 782 live-action studio-produced feature films, all of which were released domestically between 2006 and 2016, and these are the numbers that resulted. 

Check out his site for an even more in-depth look. 

Overall-average-chronology-of-keys-milestones-of-a-hollywood-studio-movie-2006-16Follows found that pre-production took 146 days, principal photography took 106 days and post-production began 301 days.Credit: Stephen Follows

If you just count shooting (production), the answer is around 106 days. But if you count everything from start to finish, you're looking at almost 900 days. 

How long does it take to edit a movie? 

Again, if you refer to the chart, we see post coming in at 301 days. But editing is a different beast. It truly goes movie by movie.

You see some SXSW movies that pop up only a month or two after shooting. Kevin Smith tells a story about how he shot Red Stare digital, so he could show a rough assembly at the cast party when shooting was over. 

But a larger movie with a lot of VFX could take around 18 months to go through the entire post process. 

How long does it take to make an animated movie? 

Animated movies have a very different production schedule from other studio movies. That's because there are no real formal shooting days. Usually, you workshop the script for a long time, then make an animatic. 

An animatic is a rough assembly of footage that then gets noted and critiqued. Once the story and visuals are agreed upon, the animators get to work perfecting the final production. This work can be done by computer, by hand, or a mixture of both. 

Those variables on the kinds of animation will change the length it takes to make one of these stories from script to screen. 

For example, Pixar movies can take anywhere from four years to seven years to actually go from an idea to the release—but the time spent in production is only about six to eight months, according to animator Bruce Kuei

Let's look at something a little less involved. 

'Up''Up'Credit: Pixar

How long does it take to make a Hallmark movie?

Every year, Hallmark churns out movies for the holidays. They like to capitalize on new films for the Christmas season and rush through production and editing to make sure they are ready to go. According to Mental Floss, most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. 

That makes them attractive to the cast, and it allows the crew to jump from one shoot to the next. 

These movies are usually shot in the summer and done quickly and efficiently. Lacey Chabert, a frequent Hallmark star, compared the process to "boot camp."

"It's intense—it's hard to make a movie in 15 days," she told the website. "They know what they are doing."

But that's just Hallmark. What about a bigger movie? 

'Royal New Year's Eve''Royal New Year's Eve'Credit: Hallmark

How long does it take to make a Marvel movie?

Nothing says "huge production" like a Marvel movie. It includes work spent planning, writing, editing, adding VFX, and then they carefully plot their releases. Let's look at the biggest Marvel movie and go from there. 

Avengers: Endgame started on Aug. 10, 2017, and finished on Jan. 11, 2018. That means it took 155 days total. 

But how long does a film take to make a digital character... like Thanos? 

That's where the real work happens—but it's all done in post after the performance is captured. 

Obviously, the production of a Marvel movie has many more details here. You have to shoot on green and blue screens, involve ILM and Framestore to build the digital characters, and also work in Disney studio notes. But most of that comes in post. 

The one benefit they have is that they are usually shooting indoors on stages, so they can control variables like the weather. 

But not every production has that benefit. 

'Avengers: Endgame''Avengers: Endgame'Credit: Disney/Marvel

How long does it take to make an indie movie?

When you're working on an indie film, you don't have the money to control the weather, and I doubt you have big studio spaces to work inside. When I was on set for Shovel Buddies, we shot that movie in 22 days and only had two days of reshoots. 

That's way different than taking five months. 

What movie took the longest to make? 

This is a fun question. I found a list of the longest production shoots, so I am going to take my facts from there. If you know of any different answers, I would love to hear them.

Movies like Tarsem Singh’s 2006 film The Fall are classified as passion projects, and they can take over four years to complete. David Lynch has said he spent five years working on Eraserhead. 

Then there are movies like Apocalypse Now, which ran into so many issues while filming that it took almost five years to complete, but the movie was probably better for it.  

Or what about a movie like Boyhood? Their production intentionally took place over more than a decade of time.

There's even a Bollywood film called Pakeezah that deserves a place on this list, because it took an unbelievable 16 years to produce! 

There will always be a soft spot in my heart for The Thief and the Cobbler, which took around 28 years to make. Director Richard Williams started the project in 1964 and had to take breaks to raise funds, battle with Disney over copyrights, and do all the work by hand. But the result is amazing. 

'The Thief and the Cobbler''The Thief and the Cobbler'Credit: Miramax Films

Summing up how long does it take to make a movie...

If there's anything you can walk away knowing today, it's that every project varies on time spent in production. While you can measure the averages at the studio level, each film will always have different variables that affect the outcome. 

The point is, becoming a filmmaker is hard work. It takes time, and you're going to need to make a lot of movies and work on a lot of projects. 

So, what are you waiting for? 

From Your Site Articles