To expand on my Lessons Learned from last week, I’ll take you through some of those things on my list and why they’re so important.
Starting with a broad perspective, the task of writing and directing a film is overwhelming enough. Especially if you’re pouring your own money into it. There’s a lot of self-doubt that bubbles to the surface…and pretty much haunts you the entire time.
Little gremlins tell you you can’t do it, you’re wasting your money, it’s going to be a shitty final product, you’re never going to get anywhere, your chances of ever being a paid film director are like one in a million, you don’t have a shot of getting into Sundance…. you know, that kind of stuff.
Looking back, that list of five things is crucial because it takes off some of the pressure and alleviates a bit of the responsibility. Having those things makes your job as a director a little easier, more enjoyable, and more concentrated.
#1: For the Love of God, Get a Producer!
Here’s a little excerpt from the “Behind the Scenes” portion of my Press Kit for 1426 Chelsea Street:
The wrath of Murphy’s Law struck with full force. As soon as I got to Florida, my lead actress, Ryan Simpkins, booked the lead in the feature “Arcadia” which was set to start shooting the same days as my film. And a homeowner of one of my locations decided to start renovating his house. He said the construction gentlemen would mainly be working on the outside of the house…. would that be a problem??
I flew home early in a mad scramble that brought me to the precipice of a mental breakdown. With all the time, money, and heart I’d already spent several months investing, this could not all fall through NOW. Oh, God, please no.
Only days out from shooting, I got a new house to replace the one that bailed and I re-arranged the schedule to get ALL of Ryan’s scenes done on Sunday (it would be a loooooong day). We prayed against the very off-chance that she would get called in to work. She didn’t. Phew. In fact, “Arcadia” pushed production for a month. All those tears and cold sweats for nothing! Eh, such is life. We got the movie done and that’s what matters.
That little anecdote only scratches the surface of the stress of producing a short film all on my own. When this circumstance happened, I should have been focused on breaking down each scene, revisiting the subtext of the dialogue and what each character wants, how they’re going to get it, how their desires inform their behaviors and choices.
But INSTEAD, I was caught up in the middle of that mad scramble. I had a panic attack, an uncontrollable fit of crying, a moment of desperation upon which those little gremlins seized to reiterate that everything was falling apart.
Having a producer to take care of this would have been a GODSEND. It would have been so wonderful to not deal with all that stuff. After all was said and done, I vowed to NEVER do that again. In fact, that is the one thing I, with my limited experience, would recommend to anyone starting out in filmmaking.
If you have a project you love and want to make it yourself as a writer/director(and especially if you’re also acting in the film) PLEASE do yourself a favor — GET A PRODUCER. Or at least get a co-producer, someone to assist you.
This person is not only there to serve in an administrative role and take over the SAG signatory paperwork, he or she can also help you keep faith in your vision and talk down the gremlins. This person is a support system that will leave you so much better off than if you try to go it alone.
Even if you have to pay for it. It will be worthwhile, I promise.
#2: Bribe Amanda Konieczny (best friend) to Provide Craft Service and Lunch
This just in…you’ll be happy to know that Amanda has agreed to partake, yet again, in the grueling and constant work that is single-handedly providing a set with food and beverage.
Now, you can’t ALL have her. Sorry. She’s MY best friend. (Get your own). But what I’m saying here is, pool your free resources to the best of your ability. All you have to do is ask, and the worst that someone can say is NO.
Plus, then you know who your true friends are. (It’s not just an independent film, it’s a test of loyalty for those around you!)
Asking friends and family to help out with your film for free will massively cut costs. And it’s an additional support system to have on set.
Having Amanda there through the whole shoot was amazingly helpful, not just because I could depend on her to feed people and rely on her as a good cook […as an aside, my cast and crew were very happy with her services. So much so that when I asked my 1st AD back for a day of reshooting, one of his first qualifying questions was “Is Amanda providing lunch?”] but because she’s my best friend.
She helped me subdue the gremlins when needed and literally chased me with a plate of sandwiches while I was running around, too busy to eat. It’s probably thanks to her that I never passed out from low blood sugar.
I also had my mom there to assist with lunch, wardrobe, and anything else that randomly needed helping with. And my out-of-town boyfriend, Ben, was able to act as a PA on the reshoot. They were tremendously helpful and inspiringly selfless. And they were all also able to act as extras!
I’ll post the remaining three lessons from my list next week, so stay tuned! Until then, start scouting producers and best friends for your filmmaking aspirations.