Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Rules to Never Break

I've spent a lot of the post-shooting time reading background on editing, filmaking, writing, working with studios, etc. One book I did read before starting production was "How NOT to Make a Short Film," by Roberta Munroe, a filmmaker and longtime Sundance Short Film Program Manager. Most of the dangerous situations I had steered clear of, but two things stood out to me:  (1) Don't have your DP do your budget, and (2) Do not produce and direct it yourself. Let me just say that I did break these two cardinal rules.

The first, well, I did need his input, so he gave me a budget, which I immediately cut by one-third. This did not make my DP very happy, but in the end I think we came up with a fair compromise and got a decent crew. The second is an unavoidable factor to being a first-time filmmaker. Who is going to believe in your film as much as you do, and how else are you going to come up with the money if you don't approach family and friends?

The challenge with the "two-hat phenomenon" is that yes, this absolutely does affect your filmmaking. I did not have the time to create a shooting script and an ideal shot list. I did not have the time to work with the actors as much as I should have, nor plan the hair and makeup as I would have liked (no, I did not want my lead mother to have a granny bun, but she did anyway.) I did not have the time to plan the pick-up shots in the studio and help AD create the set. And more importantly, throughout the film and continuing afterwards, I must do what my producer could have been doing: accounting, writing checks, following up with crew, cast and site contacts. Since the arrival of my new beloved MACHINE, I have been inputting bank statements and categorizing funds spent.

What does this mean? Well, it means this film kind of shows who I am as a filmmaker. Bottom line, it doesn't truly reflect my plan of how these scenes should have played out. And while I know the film will be good, really good, at the same time, what I saw in my mind is absolutely not what we shot. I'm not saying that's good or bad, and maybe it's something that always happens, but it sure isn't a direct reflection of my vision.

I'm not sure if there's any way around this as a first-time filmmaker. I don't think there is. So give yourself plenty of time in pre-production, and by PLENTY I mean at least one year or more, ideally 18 months.

There's my wisdom for the day. Eat it with some ice cream.

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