Recently, I’ve been reading quite a few interviews with screenwriters and directors, many of them from My First Movie: Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk About Their First Film with interviews edited by Stephen Lowenstein. Those interviews gave me quite a bit of insight. No matter what anyone says: Filmmaking is difficult–at any, and every level. Always.
Directors don’t always know everything: lots of times they’re sleep-deprived, tortured by uncertainty and just downright unsure of themselves. But they have to fake it– all eyes are on them.
Just a few short months ago, I finished The Straight Line, the short film I directed as an episode of It’s Always Smoggy In L.A. Clocking in at just under 10 minutes, it’s easy for one to think that it was a snappy little piece to put together. I wish I could say so– it consumed months worth of my time, but I wanted to do it right. Next time, I’ll know how to do some things better. I’ll be more confident and better able to focus on the task at hand. Sure, I’ll still make mistakes, but filmmaking is a constant learning process.
Someone asked me what made it so much work? Directing is more than meets the eye. I didn’t even understand this until I attempted it for myself. Directing means that you’re in charge of everything and you have to answer tons of questions for yourself, the story, and from other crew members. It’s exhausting and anxiety-ridden because there’s never enough time. It also involves lots of lists, especially at the guerrilla filmmaking level. Here’s a rundown from my first directing project:
*Envision, write, and finalize shooting script.
*Post casting notices in trades and online.
*Go through casting submissions. ( Of which there were many– including rather scary ‘Drag Queens.’)
*Call actors to schedule auditions.
* Casting session (1 day)
*Finalize casting and call back actors.
*Set date for rehearsal (difficult when coordinating multiple actors’ schedules)
*Set shoot date.
*Go wardrobe shopping with actors; Make purchases.
*Replace/re-cast a role due to actor’s scheduling conflicts.
*Rehearsal: Go over blocking/script, wardrobe approval, get signed actor release forms for usage of likeness, etc.), camera/lighting test, photo shoot with principal actors.
*Line up crew (which is NEVER easy it seems.)
* Purchase props/set decoration.
*Purchase prop food.
*Purchase craft service (on-set snacks, drinks, goodies for cast/crew)
*Purchase/coordinate hot lunch for cast/crew during shoot.
*Pre-visualization: Prepare shot-list, do a few storyboards. Make notes for actors, etc.
Day Before Shoot:
*Prepare prop food.
*Check daylight: sunrise/sunset times.
*Call actors/crew to confirm call times for shoot day.
*Purchase supplies, tapes, etc.
* Tame nerves with a couple shots of whiskey which sorta helped. But not enough.
* Sleep poorly.
Shoot: (2 days)
*One crew member cancels. Off to a good start.
*Begin losing the light (daylight)… stuff I shot in earlier takes no longer matches. Exasperated…
*Day #2 goes smoother. Have to re-shoot Scene 4 due to audio problem. Sets us back about an hour.
*Edit first assembly cut of film (this takes a huge amount of time due to my own scheduling conflicts.)
*Editing sessions to re-cut final version.
*Find music for film (takes about a 1/2 day worth of scavenger-hunting)
*Convert raw file to Quicktime and appropriate codecs for web.
*Upload to various web platforms.
*Publicize on social media, with friends, etc.
*Start planning to do it all over again. Obviously, it’s a little sadomasochist and a lot crazy, but it’s also enjoyable, invigorating, and I will say, worth it in the end.