Friday, June 17, 2016

How to Make a Short Film: Surviving Your First Day of Filming

The first day of shooting a short film—or any film—can suck. Here’s how I learned to make it suck less.

Chillin' on set waiting for the action (Rachel Kyle, Jennifer Verzuh)
At the point you are on your first day of shooting to make your dream project you have somehow convinced/conned a bunch of people to believe, a) you have a story worth telling and b) that you’re capable of leading that story to screen—keeping all the spinning plates in the air on set and managing every crisis that comes up. But when you get to set you prove you either can or you can’t, you either get the shot or you don’t.

Sometimes a sword is just the answer to your problems
And even when it's not it's awesome.
My first day filming my first short film (Kelly vs ThePhilosophers) was one crisis management after another. We had lost one of our costume people the other night and so the costumes hadn’t been tested. We were left with costumes that didn’t work and hadn’t been tried on the actors. Several actors had to pitch in to pull stuffing out of jackets or run back to their apartments nearby to try on different sets of outfits. Because the DPs and I didn’t thoroughly block things out beforehand, a lot of actors who came in their timeslots had to wait around for us to be ready. This was frustrating for them and stressful for me. (Remember this, guys? Ahhh good times.)

No, this is an actual scene. The set didn't come to blows. (Marry Cassella, Rachel Kyle)

But it worked out. Here’s what I learned.

Lesson #1. Do pre-production right. Almost all of these things would have been avoided if I put more work into pre-production. I’ve learned you can almost never do too much with pre-production. If we had planned out for costumes to be done long before, if I had planned more blocking of the scenes before the actors were there, things would have gone more smoothly.

Lesson #2. Work with forgiving people. It makes so much a difference when you're starting out--or anytime--to have friends who love you working with you. Because these were all my friends—as well as great at their jobs—everyone was on my side and wanted to make things work. During the whole debacle, I didn’t have one person act angry with me, annoyed with me, or give me a hard time. Everyone was helpful and supportive.

I say this over and over, but there is probably no better lesson to learn than that the people you work with matter. As a filmmaker your film family is your closest family for the time you’re filming. And if you can build as great a film family as I did not only will your filming suck less—life will suck less.  In fact, it will be great.

Lara Jane, Rachel Kyle, showing what we all feel.

Love all you guys. You are the reason that first day--and every day--didn't suck. It was amazing. 

Josh Shabshis, Hope Epperson, Alex Foley

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