At its core, the means to produce a film depend on the content the filmmaker wishes to show, and the apparatus for displaying it: the zoetrope merely requires a series of images on a strip of paper. Film production can therefore take as little as one person with a camera (or even without a camera, as in Stan Brakhage’s 1963 film Mothlight), or thousands of actors, extras and crewmembers for a live-action, feature-length epic.
The necessary steps for almost any film can be boiled down to conception, planning, execution, revision, and distribution. The more involved the production, the more significant each of the steps becomes. In a typical production cycle of a Hollywood-style film, these main stages are defined as:
This production cycle usually takes three years. The first year is taken up with development. The second year comprises preproduction and production. The third year, post-production and distribution.
The bigger the production, the more resources it takes, and the more important financing becomes; most feature films are not only artistic works, but for-profit business entities.