I just went through this process last month.
We did a short called "bottles", and I was the DP and will do audio post as well. it was a short that'll run about 15 minutes, which felt incredibly long during production. I'd advise against a feature as your first endeavor, go as short as you can go for the first project. Also, don't shoot The Thing You Care About Most as the first project.
First, to echo VC prod - your script probably isn't ready yet. edit it down, cut it, and edit it further. revise until you're absolutely ready and the thing is very very interesting and tight.
Once your script is in place and locked locked locked down, then you are ready to begin preparing.
Get a small core of key people on board that will see this thing through to the end with you. Get creative and technical roles and boundaries down in stone, or there will be problems on the set. Your producer, director, DP and set/props/wardrobe person should all be in this group. They should love your script and be willing to contribute blood sweat and tears to the project until the completion of shooting. This will cost them sleep, money, other opportunities, and lots and lots of time. They will have to work closely with one another throughout the process.
Once your core team is in place the producer will be in charge of recruiting the rest of the crew. Craigslist is that person's frienemy.
While crewing is being done, the DP and director need to get the shot sheet worked out. The shot sheet is a breakdown of the script that describes each individual planned shot including camera angle, camera mount, whether audio is being recorded, location, time of day, and which actors are in the shot. This is intensively time consuming.
From the shot sheet the AD or some other inner circle crew member can create the shooting schedule. The shooting schedule is the bible by which the AD will crack whips and document what's been covered and what hasn't. The process of creating and maintaining a shot sheet is a big logistical challenge even on short films, and is impossible to deal with if the script isn't locked down and agreed upon, because changes in script will lead to ugly continuity issues if not tracked carefully. This is because logistically it often makes sense to shoot the script dramatically out of order so that the schedule can accommodate finite resources like time of day with regard to sunlight, or certain locations or actors to which you may only have limited access due to their own schedules.
People in charge of props, wardrobe and set design will do a separate breakdown.
With all of the planning in place, schedule the shoot and get rolling.
My experience as DP of that short we shot last month was kind of harrowing. Every weekend was two consecutive 12 hour days, which came after many evening hours of work preparing for that weekend's shoot.
The director and I both had to work diplomatically both with each other and with the actors and crew throughout the process. We were all learning at lightspeed and on the fly, which was both exhilarating and exhausting. As DP, I found that I completely lacked the brainspace to watch things like continuity, acting, and wardrobe while I was focusing on everything else like focus, lensing, aperture, backgrounds, shadows and lighting.
In the end, I discovered at least this many things about myself:
- I'm at least technically able to do the photography part of a short film project
- I get creatively exhausted when I have no days off
- I have no desire to DP a feature
- I love audio
- I'm still very far away from having a technical DP skillset that allows for exremely creative decisions in the midst of a crew working on a schedule. I found myself finding more creative shots than planned occasionally, but certainly not frequently.
- I enjoy working with actors
- days are very very short
- cloud cover can dramatically impact a shooting schedule.
- it was easy even for me to dismiss audio on the set. I found myself thinking, "well that's not important, I can do it in post." Now, I'm fully aware of what I'm capable of in post, so maybe I was having those thoughts from a more informed positions than some video guy would, but I was having those thoughts nonetheless.
- I aspire to do more things, but even shorter formats. Maybe 3 to 7 minute intensely creative shorts.
Overall, I'd recommend the process to anyone that has the time and inclination to do it. Its humbling, inspiring and exhausting, but it give one a perspective that he'd never have otherwise.