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Pre-Production Elements of Harry Potter

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 3559 words Published: 7th Dec 2020

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In this assignment, I will be doing an in-depth case study on the pre-production elements of the Harry Potter series. This will cover the following topics : Finance, Personnel, Time, Facilities and Equipment, Materials, Contributors, Locations, Permissions, Legal requirements, Regulatory bodies and Trade Unions, and more about the making/pre-production of this film series from 2001-2011.


Finance was a big part of the pre-production stages of the Harry Potter Series. In fact, the smallest of deadlines could have altered the spending by thousands. Budgeting for a film is vital as it gives the producers and directors a precise pathway to follow. The original budget of the first Harry Potter film was £125,000,000. They made a box office profit of £970 Million after the production of the film.

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The story rights were bought from J.K.Rowling for just £1 Million but she wanted creative rights during the production. David Heyman, the producer, said every determination would be made to replicate Rowling's vision. "We are devoted to remaining true and faithful to the book." Because of the book’s success, this film was able to become as successful as it is.

They may have also received funds from the companies Heyday Films and 1942 Pictures. Funding greenlights your projects as spending your own money on films could be bad as if it goes wrong, you could go bankrupt, but if it goes right, you could make a huge surplus profit.

Finally, some sourcing of Finance could be: Endorsement deals, government grants, tax schemes, debt finance and equity finance. Endorsement deals are when film productions may feature products and receive money from the company for this. This can be done by product placement. An example of this in Harry Potter is when the kids eat a packet of “Berty Bott's Every Flavour Beans” and talk about the different flavours. Government grants help advertise the places shown in the production, which can increase tourism in the locations that were shot as. Tax schemes are similar to government grants, but you pay less tax for paying the cast/crew. Debt finance is borrowing money which must be repaid after the film is made. This is very good if the film is hugely profitable. Equity finance, also known as pre-sales, sells off potential profit of your product. This is very bad if huge profit is made, which means that you could lose a lot of money due to your profit, which is why Debt finance is one of the most profitable funding.

Personnel (Cast & Crew)

Casting in a film is arguably one of the main stages of pre-production. “The wrong actors, the wrong roles could turn out the wrong movie.” Huge Hollywood films will have specialists for each role. When hiring a crew, considerations will be about the availability/costs. Ways of checking skills and experience can be showcased by showreels, portfolios, websites and CV’s. Casting Director’s look for actors that fit the description of the character having; the look, character, trustworthiness, friendliness and ability. It is important to consider going through the process of casting for your film since if you forget to cast a role, it can ruin the production of the film. Availability would also be a key part of casting. They also have to make sure the cost hiring them does not go over the budget which could lead to a deficit in money.

There are four stages of casting: The Pre-Audition, The First Audition, Call-Backs and Testing. In pre-audition, casting directors break down scripts, identifying speaking roles. Actors who make the first cut are contracted fir audition. In the first audition, a script is provided in advance of a TV audition. You need a prepared monologue appropriate to the monologue of the film. During Call-Backs, actors are called back so the directors can make a final decision. And finally, Testing involves working more closely with the material, where the actors engage more while reciting lines with the others, building up chemistry.

The trio’s selection was “perhaps one of the best show-business choices over the past decade.” David Heyman found Daniel Radcliffe sitting behind them; “There sitting behind me was this boy with these big blue eyes. He was so energetic and funny. There was real generosity too, and sweetness. But at the same time, he was really voracious and with hunger for the knowledge of whatever kind.” Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were selected from thousands of auditions to play the roles of Hermione and Ron. Grint was eleven years old and Watson was ten at the time they were cast. Their only previous acting experience was in school plays. In fact, his parents were not too keen at first, he claimed.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter_(film_series)

Daniel Radcliffe has wanted to act since he was five years old. "My mum and dad never thought it was a very good idea. I went for about five auditions and then I got the part. The best thing about filming is going to all the different locations and staying in hotels. They have Sky and I haven't got that at home." (quoted reference: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1367112/English-boy-picked-to-play-Harry-Potter.html)

During casting, talent release forms, which is a form signed by actors to give their consent for a filmmaker to publish, share and display associated images would have been signed during pre-production as one of the legal requirements.

Facilities and Equipment

Cameras and equipment are the most important part of any film production procedure. The camera is the most important part of equipment. In Harry Potter, hundreds of cameras were used to grab every single angle of the scenes that were being shot. Other equipment was also used throughout this process such as: a Tripod, a Steadicam, Lighting to fill in ugly shadows. Creating soft lighted scene normally involves a 3-way lighting set-up, the back light, the fill light and the key light. A director of photography/cinematographer helps the director achieve the look of the movie. They are responsible for knowing what equipment is needed and how it works in order to capture the scenes. They look at colour, composition and angles and how the movie is being built.

There were also many other equipment’s used such as a shotgun microphone or a reflector. This equipment helped the film to succeed as it a high budget and professional view that the directors and producers wanted, that they planned in pre-production. This also helped the box office grow as the audience felt what they were watching was real life, which skyrocketed the profit made.

Some matters to consider while sourcing are whether you will hire or buy the equipment, the cost of the equipment, the availability of the equipment, where you will get it from and the budget. Most equipment’s used in films are: Headphones, microphones, cameras, gimbals/Steadicams, mic boom poles, reflectors, green screens, computers, portable digital audio recorders, lights, dolly cams/tracks, stunt wires and lenses. The list goes on. Equipment’s are very crucial in films as without them the film would not be possible to produce

Hogwarts School took the longest amount of money and time to build due to the effort placed into this. It took an incredible 74 years to build, this would have had an enormous impact on the overall growth of the film as it was a huge part of the budget. This shows it was clearly created on a high budget production company.

One way to film a location or get provided services is filming at a facility house. A facility house is a company that specialises in hiding out technical equipment and providing serves in production and post-production. One example of a facility house is Pinewood Studios. Some services they do are TV Studios, Water, Lighting, Funding, Consultancy and Locations.

The money that was spent on makeup and special effects is expected to be the second largest amount spent, next to set construction. The Sword of Gryffindor was designed from “bits and pieces of actual weaponry”, that were made by the prop department.” We went to one of our rental companies and brought in different swords,” says Wilkinson.” We laid them all out, and we picked the parts we liked — a blade from one, a handle from another. And then we made our own.” In pre-production, it would have been the Prop Master’s job to find out the price and time of the props and costumes. (quoted reference: https://ew.com/gallery/harry-potter-23-astounding-props/)


The locations are one of the many important aspects in pre-production, just as casting, finding the right music to use and finding the right actors. During pre-production, location scouts look for permissions, health and safety, cost, legal requirements, weather and pros/cons. Some location scouts use The Collective Website during pre-production, or go on a recce.

Some scenes were “filmed at Harrow School such as scenes in the hallway and classroom scenes as this school was chosen by the location manager, as it was old fashioned and perfect for the job” they wanted it to do. “Greater London, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, North Yorkshire, Northumberland, Co Durham and Oxfordshire were all also locations of filming for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” (https://ecvwalsgrove.blogspot.com/)

They pieced together multiple locations to make one whole location for some scenes. For example, Hogwarts School is mostly CGI.  Some scenes were filmed in different locations in Harry Potter as it “helped to create the realism within the film and filming at these locations meant that the audience may recognise some of the locations that they see on screen, making it a lot more personal” as they could know where these actors were during this scene.

Location release forms were also signed which meant that the production company and the owner of the location agreed on the terms of using that location.


Timing is very important in the production of a film. This is why Gantt charts are made. It is a time planner document and can be applied to an individual or a group. They also monitor and plan contingency time, which is back-up time.

The pre-production and production process took around one year and two months in total to complete in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Four months to edit, and ten months to produce. Warner Bros had planned to release the film on 4 July 2001, which made some members of the crew draw out as they didn’t want to work in such a short time, which is why then the date was put back to 16th November 2001.


Permissions are essential in films as you could get copyright claims, which can lead to suing. “Copyright gave J.K.Rowling the exclusive rights to protect her story. She licensed that right to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, giving them permission to print and distribute her work in return for royalty payments.” (https://www.copyrightuser.org/educate/a-level-media-studies/prompt-1/#4) “Warner Bros owns the copyright in the Harry Potter films, so when Electronic Arts wanted to create Harry Potter the video game using the characters and setting from the film, they had to get a licence from Warner Bros.”

Location release forms and talent release forms are other materials for permissions.  A location release form is a contract signed between the production company and the owner of the location to agree the terms of using that specific location. A talent release form is a form signed by actors to give their consent for a filmmaker to publish, share and display associated images.


While building sets for the films. Materials such as, papier-mâché’s, wood, stone, fiberglass and timber frames would be used.

Materials can be broken into two categories: Costumes and props. Some examples of costumes are a superhero costume, cowboy outfit, Spiderman costume, Iron Man suit and the Captain America costume. Some examples of props are guns, swords knives, product placement and a light saber. There are roles for designing such as prop masters and costume designers. In the Harry Potter Series, props and costumes would have had to take place during the pre-production stage

A copy of the script is an example of a physical material. It’s essential so that everyone is conscious of who is saying what and where it is taking place. Charts and Call Sheets are also examples of physical materials which are effective in pre-production.

Any visual materials such as drawings and storyboarding would be designed by the director, Chris Columbus.

All of these physical, graphical and data materials were created in the pre-production process to conserve time and to ensure that everyone is prepared for the production of the film Harry Potter.


Contributors help a lot during the pre-production stage. Contributors normally help with the production of the film by donating money, or renting out equipment/facilities for the production company to use. There are also specialist contributors. They are specialist crew hired for their knowledge, experience or training in a particular field. Some examples of specialist contributors can be stuntmen, dialect coach, choreographer, personal trainer, vocal coach, culinary expert and language specialist. There can also be a weapons expert, martial skills expert, war veterans and even an author (such as J.K.Rowling.

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J.K.Rowling was a very important contributor to the production of the Harry Potter Series. Framestore also contributed by developing many unforgettable creatures and sequences to the series through visual effects. The cast and crew are also contributors because without them, the film would not be possible. For example, the Director of Photography is a very important contributor as they assist the film director by establishing a solution to the visual look of the movie. Stuntmen are very important specialist contributors to the Harry Potter Series too.

Pyrotechnic experts are also specialist contributors as they manage explosives. In Harry Potter, explosives are commonly used alongside with the visual effects of the magic.  There would also be fight scene specialists which help enhance the miraculous fight scenes that take place and make them seem as realistic as possible.

Legal Requirements

The safest and simplest thing to do is get permission before filming commences.

Warner Bros had to pay J.K.Rowling for the rights of the book so they could then legally create the film. They also had to have the rights to use rights within the music without violating the copyright law. If they didn’t acquire any of these rights, they could be sued as a company.

A risk assessment can be an example of a legal requirement. A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what in your work could cause harm to people. It’s often measured by the factors/hazards: personal safety, equipment, restricted space, mental well-being and electrical safety. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures, which is why the production company (Warner Bros) had to take extra precautions while filming, which turned out to become a huge success.

One legal requirement for films are local authority. Local authority is when you are filming on public, you have to contact the council to authorize your shooting time and get it confirmed. Another requirement is permission from the police. This can be due to explosives or firearms used in the film. You would need to warn the police about any explosives or firearms being used in public place so that no controversy is caused during the shooting of the film. Ideally, you need legal requirements to mitigate as many risks as possible, which could prevent you from being sued or even worse.

A contract is a very important legal document. Location release forms and talent release forms are other materials for permissions.  A location release form is a contract signed between the production company and the owner of the location to agree the terms of using that specific location. A talent release form is a form signed by actors to give their consent for a filmmaker to publish, share and display associated images.

Legal rights can fluctuate from the factors : Health and safety, contracts, copyright and international issues. From gaining access to music from a soundtrack or using someone’s photos, to ensuring that a child on set has a child performance license, or even recording a member of the public by mistake. However, if the people in the background are genuinely out-of-focus, you may get away without signed releases, assuming not a single person could simply recognize them.

Overall, this was a successful part of the whole production of the Harry Potter Series as no one was hurt in the production of the film.

Regulatory bodies

The film Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was rated as a PG film. Normally, a PG film is a film that is suitable for general viewing. The BBFC rated this film a PG as it may upset some children due to the fight scenes and the visual effects of the children. This is why the parental guidance comes in, as the parents could sit with their children which may make it easier to view with their parents.

While rating a film, many considerations take place such as violence, sex, sexual violence, drugs, horror, imitable behaviour, discriminations and language.

More about BBFC, compliance officers watch a combination of films each working days. They usually view DVDs of their own, which we can call ‘solo viewing.’

Trade Unions

BECTU, also known as the UK’s media and entertainment trade union, also helped with the pre-production of the Harry Potter Series. “More than 400 backstage specialists working on the third Harry Potter movie and Troy, in which Brad Pitt plays Achilles, had threatened to halt production over a contract dispute. But a last-minute deal between Warner Bros and Bectu, the union representing film, theatre and broadcast staff, ensured filming would continue.” (https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/walkout-by-harry-potter-film-crew-averted-112694.html)

You should join the Union because they give you training support and causes. They also give you advice and representations on health and safety as well as giving personal advice.


In conclusion, I believe that Warner Bros successfully produced Harry Potter no matter how large of a problem they ran into, they carried out the production of Harry Potter safely, legally and efficiently in a short period of time. They achieved to stay within the overall budget and made an unbelievable profit from the film. This would not have happened if it wasn’t for all the time spent on pre-production of the film.



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