It’s a Wrap!

Picture wrap! Thanks for being patient while I was shooting The Purgation.

Here is a condensed version of what just happened: my reflections of filming a horror film in 22 days.

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Many friends have told me that they’re surprised I actually followed through with my plan to make a movie. After all, Hollywood is a place where dreamers will talk the talk and films will be in pre-production for years, but the percentage of films that actually make it to picture wrap are slim.  The odds are against you, and IF you manage to make a movie there’s still the post-production hurdle and distribution lottery.

But, if you love good films as much as I do, you’ll get that it’s not about the odds of success. It’s about epic storytelling.

To make that happen, I’ve realized that to be a decent director you have to be able to:

Make a Decision – On set you’ll be bombarded with questions from every department. Take the lead and just make a decision already. After all, didn’t you write the script??

Be Willing to Piss People Off – An opinion you can’t stand by, is an opinion not worth having. Grow a thick skin and make a few enemies – and be proud of it.

Be the Change You Want to See – I’ve been on plenty of shitty film sets. Those experiences made clear to me what I did NOT want to happen on my own film set. I did NOT want people to get yelled at, background talent to be relegated to second class citizenship, or PA’s to be treated like personal servants.

Seriously, filmmaking isn’t warfare or open heart surgery. Remember to keep it chill, keep it fun.

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Delegate – There is SO MUCH that needs to be done on set. Be willing to train someone else to do the job. Yeah, you’ll run the risk of semi-important tasks not getting done properly, but you may also find the next Bigelow on your set. So have faith in your crew and don’t try to do everything yourself.

That being said, understand that some people are old school about the pecking order. And if you ask someone to take on a task outside of their job description you may get a flat no with a dash of indignation that you even bothered to ask.

I’m lucky that our set had plenty of people who were willing to go above and beyond: actors cooked lunch, the UPM hauled wood, and our producer took on garbage duty … The Purgation movie was blessed with people who were constantly asking “what can I do, what can I carry, how can I help?”

If One Lightbulb Goes Out, Replace it Immediately:  Problems will crop up everywhere. Solve them one at a time, as soon as possible.

Don’t Be An Asshole: A very wise professor once told me, “There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.” All kidding aside, don’t expect people to actually read the call sheet. Or the sides. Or the script.  Don’t let that get you down or make you snap.

Be gracious. Answer all questions. Inquiring minds may actually lead you to think more deeply about a course of action and come up with a better solution.

And whatever you do, remember the Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated.

Stay True to Your Initial Goals: From the beginning, I wanted to make a film that gave women and people of color a chance to succeed. Our crew had a 50/50 balance of men and women, but to accomplish that I really had to make a conscious effort to recruit.

crew

Same with actors, there’s a smaller pool of talent within any given minority group.  They’re out there, but you have to be willing to put in the extra time and effort to find them.

I guess what I’m saying is that I started off this project with a strong sense of idealism, and now I’ve become a little jaded because I’m starting to realize why it’s so hard for women and minorities to get representation in Hollywood.  Unless there’s someone in charge willing to put in the effort to give you a chance, you’re not going to get it.

Solution? Work your way up so you’re the one on top calling the shots.

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Reply to Messages As Soon As You Get Them: Expect your inbox to get flooded. The only way to keep up is to respond asap and keep your writing concise but upbeat.

Move Slowly: It can be tempting to barrel through scenes, especially when the clock’s ticking and you’re trying to wrap in time for a twelve hour turnaround. But rushing leads to mistakes which leads to reshoots, which brings you back to one.

Assemble A Posse: You need people on set who have your back. Expect some turnover. Be prepared to let people go if they’re just not cutting it. Thank your lucky stars for the people who are hauling ass and care as much about the movie as you do.

Say Thank You: Funny how just two words can make you smile. Return the favor whenever you can.

Enjoy the Moment:  Before you know it, you’ll be calling action for the final shot. Onto post-production!!!

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