Film making is more than just writing a script and picking up a camera. These are my experiences of working on my film ‘Doppelganger‘ for the past couple of months.
Its a cold February morning and our breath hangs in the air as we stand around the camera feverishly discussing our next shot. The director stares at a tiny screen, deep in thought oblivious at the chaos around them. There is only one thing on their mind and lunch isn’t it. Finally, after what seems to be an eternity, the director makes their choice and the crew moves swiftly and obediently to positions. None of us feel unappreciated at the cold sharp orders coming out of the Director. We are all in this together for a cause bigger than our egos and the please and thank you’s are going to have to wait.
Months before in a much warmer room, we had all entered into a mission together; to bring a story written on paper to life on the silver screen. It would mean sacrificing a lot of ourselves to something we were not sure would entirely work. The first step in making a film is a getting the money to make it. Left to our own devices we used all of our talents to scrimp every penny we could. We baked, we filmed and we conquered. Raising the money to make the film was a make or break moment, but afterwards we realized every moment of filmmaking is make or break.
“We can’t get release forms!” The film is doomed! “The carpet is fraying!” Our film will look crap! “The light is too bright” Nothing can save it!
Film making is about preparing for everything that can go wrong as well as solving everything you didn’t expect to go wrong. Theatre has a phrase, ‘The show must go on’. It applies to film making as well, not only everyday, but at every level. Everyone’s role, no matter what it is, is all about problem solving. How can I get X to do Y with Z problem in the way?
Back in Feburary and we are running late. The extras haven’t arrived and the talent is restless. No time is wasted and movements are rehearsed to the last millimetre. Like an efficient machine we run through each shot, everyone holding a cable or button or ring or reflector. We are each a cog in a fine tuned gear, without which the machine would grind to a halt. Each plays their role like the whole film depended on them. We all become worried perfectionists, fretting over every inch, panicking over every fault and telling the person next to us “Don’t worry its fine”. Slowly everything falls into place and the shot is taken.
“CUT!” the director hollers,
The light was in shot. A small pause in the battle while the light is moved, the actor is praised and the producer quickly runs in, knowing that the treats they brought the team will be scoffed in a moments notice. Once everything is back into place we resumed our positions as servants to the camera and slaves to the vision we all embarked upon together many months before.
Trust is the most important currency on set. Without it, nobody believes in each other and no body believes in themselves. The responsibility of everyone in the team is internalized to such a degree that we all believe, correctly, that the whole shoot rests on our shoulders and ours alone. No one questions each others capacity to execute the mission, we just know that we have each others backs. When the tension does arise, we break it down. Why are we having this argument? What are our options? Logical reasoning outweighs emotional reasoning, always.
By the last day, we finally get used to the routine of early starts and late finishes but by then it doesn’t matter. We know we have won the battle, if not the war. For now, we have a respite, a break until we begin to show people the film we were only telling them about. Distribution is another kettle of fish, but we dont need to worry about that now.
The only thing we need to ask ourselves is which pub we should go to celebrate.