11 August 2008

"We Can Fix It In Production"

I've never been a Production guy.

I went to a film school that emphasized indie-style filmmaking: they taught you how to do it all on your own, on-the-cheap, beginning-to-end. For this I am eternally grateful, because it forced me to learn what it is I love most about filmmaking: writing, planning & organizing, editing, and finishing. Notice I did not say shooting.

There's something about the chaos of the film set that has always driven me mad. Perhaps it's just unrealistic expectations I've had with filming, but I've always found that Production tends to say, "hey, remember all that planning you did? It's out the window. This is MY game now," and then you run. Scramble to find a way to salvage the situation and hopefully maybe get that one shot you had envisioned in your head so you can "fix it in Post." It can be heart-wrenching. This is why I'm an editor by trade, having steadfastly avoided the set for the last few years of my life. But can I share a secret with you?

I've missed it. All that stress, all that uncertainty, but also that camaraderie. That beauty of watching everything (and everyone) come together for that one moment on screen. Those heightened senses fueled by adrenaline and caffeine. And that burning passion to put down on film (or video) the idea or story that is consuming your consciousness. So when Megan and Christopher asked me to be the script supervisor for their feature, I saw my chance: I was going to step back into those uncertain waters and see if the graces of Production could overcome the trials.

And this past weekend was a trial at times, certainly. When the size of the crew is small enough to match the size of the cast it's always tricky. But, despite the difficulties (delayed starts, no A/C, and a busted wall to name three) everything that needed to be shot was shot, the camera and lighting crew got some really beautiful setups and angles, the actors gave brilliant performances, and no one lost their head. I think these achievements were due in no small part to Megan's example: she never lost her cool (even in the heat of the "hot set"), was always ready to take suggestions and change her plans to accommodate conditions on the ground, and yet she never lost the vision she had for the film moving forward. The set was a place for ideas and action: there weren't any problems we'd need to "fix it in Post"-- if there was an issue we could fix it right there, at that moment.

So when we finished shooting on Sunday, I stopped and thought about the weekend's experience. We'd had a few gasps and lots of laughs, some tense situations and some exhilarating moments, some technical issues and a plethora of creative fixes, inspiring performances from the cast and total dedication from the crew. We'd had an adventure, and I realized that I couldn't wait to do it again next week.


I guess I am a Production guy, after all.