I was asked to be part of a team a few weeks ago. My experience with making movies is a tiny bit above zero, and I have little patience with video, but I was assured that the rest of the team would be similarly amateurish and any help would be appreciated. A bit of encouragement from the Twitterverse convinced me to give it a go. You only live once, right?
The competition started with a briefing on Friday night. Our team were given their criteria, 24 cans of the sponsor's product, and a 48 hour deadline during which a movie of no longer than 7 minutes' duration has to be produced. Our compulsory specs were:
Genre: twins (is that a genre? I thought a genre was something like horror or thriller)
Character: Sydney Manson
Prop: a broken toy
Line of dialogue: When you look at it like that ...
Word/idea/theme: fabricator (we had to look this up, as we all had different ideas about what the word meant. Turns out we were all correct, but decided to make our fabricator an author who fabricates stories for a living.)
Camera shot: dolly grip zoom (no-one actually knows what that means. It will look amateurish, at best.)
So, the scriptwriters set to work overnight on Friday. They composed an evil twin story about a girl who grew up to become a serial killer (as you do), and the 'good' twin solved the mystery of the murders by making connections between the victims' names and ages and the addresses she and her sister lived in as a child. Wonderfully melodramatic. Our six-year-old actor was such a star. We think she especially loved tripping her 'father' down the stairs and watching him plummet to his death.
When we, the support crew, arrived for filming to begin on Saturday morning, it became apparent that my role (to supply lighting equipment) was not going to be so straightforward; our headquarters location was at the top of a steep street and up about 75 outdoor steps. There was no way I was going to lug boxes of heavy lighting up there, and I doubted even the guys would want to attempt it given that most of the crew arrived at the top huffing and puffing with only small bags in their hands. Plan B: I had an empty rental property on a flat section a few blocks away. We would use this place to shoot the interior scenes later in the day, once the exterior shots were taken while the sun was still up.
Actors came and went on Saturday. Various support crew arrived and disappeared again. Suggestions were made, implemented, and rejected. The script was in a constant state of being rewritten. Time marched on. I still don't know how many are officially in our team; I guess I'll be able to work this out once I read the list of credits after our movie has finished, but I'm guessing it's somewhere around 12.
The end of our filming day saw our team boast a suitably tired and frazzled director/producer, a few empty pizza boxes on the floor, and a grand total of four scenes shot - it's a wrap! Although some of the team are still working furiously to have the movie edited and cut before our deadline of 7pm tonight, I'm now sitting at home in recovery mode, contemplating my single day as part of the film industry and reflecting about how much hard work is going on around the country right now.
Some things I have learned from my 48 hours film making experience:
- I still don't have the patience for video. One day was enough for me. How can people seriously contemplate doing this day in, day out for a living? I repeat: madness!
- I'm not good at the endless waiting around that happens while filming. Luckily I had a good book and my iPod touch, but I was frustrated at not being able to move things along faster.
- I have more movie making experience than I thought. This came in handy, at times, especially when some extra direction was called for.
- My writing and editing skills were put to good use rewriting parts of the script and eliminating plot holes. (Do you like my use of film jargon?)
- I'd be terrible as a continuity person. Was her hair this way or that way last take? What happened to her handbag? Didn't we have two lights on before? Nope, I'll leave the close observations up to someone else.
- Despite saying no from the outset, I still ended up recording music, supplying a large amount of sound and lighting equipment, a venue, and doing various other roles. How does this happen time and time again?
- Somehow, the finished product is not so important to me. I feel that my work is done. Of course, I'm curious about how it will turn out, but I'm definitely a process, not a product person.
- I'll be back next year only if I'm suitably bribed (to compensate for having my arm twisted). All offers considered. ;-)