I’m always asked if I’m having fun when I’m filming.
It’s a tough question because I am acutely aware that I am doing something that I love, but the answer is very ambiguous…
Film making is about as fun as landing troops on a beach in battle. Like, you get to see new things, and hang out with cool people but there’s a lot of mayhem, people are going to get hurt and occasionally things blow up (and not the fun way).
When you’re making a low budget film (and that’s pretty much anything under a million) it’s like you’re the underdog with the might of a superpower bearing down on you.
So, if you feel like that’d be fun, then sure, film making is fun.
Waiting for assistance
I’m sitting here in the early morning waiting for the NRMA because we accidentally flattened a car battery last night using it as a light source (pretty dramatic I must say, so totally worth it). Not something a Director would normally do but, hey, everyone else is asleep and turns out I’m the only one with a membership!
Having a great crew helps, a lot, and I’ve been lucky to usually fall in with good people, but on this shoot, for all sorts of reasons, the crew are entirely new to me and I to them.
And let’s face it, there’s only a certain distance you can push people who are mostly working for free food and the glory of getting their name in 12-point type on the screen for about 3 seconds.
Imagine having a start up with 24 new staff who you’ve never met with no induction, training, team development or anything else with only a goal to achieve and 6 days to do it.
Your right hand
The Director’s right hand is the 1ast Assistant or 1AD as they are known. Their job is to wrangle everyone, get things moving, keep us on time, communicate ever changing priorities and run interference between the Director and everyone else so all they have to do is focus on the cast, and also be a mother hen when people are upset, cranky, or over worked (which they mostly are).
I will admit, I struggle a bit without a good 1AD. There’s so much going on that it’s easy to get frazzled.
And even with a great crew who have experienced just about everything, they’ve probably never dealt with the specific set of circumstances (and by that, I mean colossal fuck up) that is going on at the moment.
And I can tell you there’s no pressure like standing there with everyone looking at you, the light fading, your actor wondering about your competence, with dinner scheduled one hour ago, and four seconds to make a decision which could make or break the film.
Tick tock, tick tock.
And worse when you do make the decision to see thirty eyebrows raise in unison with the obvious “WTF is he thinking, but whatever, I’m hungry?” look.
With a good film, everyone remembers everyone. With a crap film, they only remember the Director.
So, when it’s 5am in the morning and you turn up to your pre-scouted location and it turns out you can’t shoot there and you know you’ve only got hours to get the shot and no back up, that instant decision to relocate cast, crew, vehicles, 3rd parties, and more is a one you want to get right.
And try not to yell at the person who messed up. Yeah, try hard. Much harder than I tried, because I did yell at them and now they hate me and despite apologies their experience on set just went to the crapper and you know they’ll never work with you again and neither will their friends and it’s a small industry, and well, there’s not enough time to think about that right now…
Then there’s the equipment.
Super high tech, incredibly sensitive gear that is temperamental enough in a studio let alone filming outdoors, in the rain, on the beach with sea salt spraying in.
And then the camera guy trips and you don’t know what to save – him or the $160,000 camera he’s holding (just in case you’re worried we did save him and the camera was fine).
And the actors!
My god, the things Directors ask those folk to do. Ok, so there are tougher jobs but I can assure you it’s a LOT harder than it looks.
Imagine turning up for work and in a single day your boss asks you to run up a hill in driving rain, stand freezing wind in a bikini, simulate sex with someone you only just met (and make it look real, but not real because that’d be illegal, and it needs to be arty, anyway you have a boyfriend at home who may or may not be impressed that some other guy was rubbing his bits on you), be thrown up against a steel fence, then thrown hard onto a damp, soggy mattress that’s been outside for hours in the rain, be strangled, plus get on a surfboard that is way harder to ride than you’ve practiced on, ride waves that are twice as high as the ones you are used to in water that is dirty from flooding. Plus do and say the same thing over, and over and over again with thirty people probably bored and thinking about dinner, looking at you with a camera stuck in your face while some 5o year old dude is yelling at you “keep fucking” when you can hardly hear over the wind machine, and you’re half drowning in artificial smoke!
Well, that was yesterday. And we’ve still got 3 more days to go!
But… And it seems an insignificant pay off but it really is quite magnificent… When you get the shot and it looks amazing and you know it’s going to edit well and be just wow… Well that’s the fun. One and a half minutes of playback, and then back to whatever disaster in unfolding when you turned your back.
Oh, and remember not to yell at anyone, because they don’t like that…
Gotta run, the NRMA just turned up!
Written by Peter Spann
Peter Spann is a business coach, writer, presenter and investor.
© Copyright: 2017 Peter Spann – All rights reserved