TL:DR – The Director is the boss, the buck stops with you.
The cast of “Are You There?” consisted of friends and family, for the most part. This had good and bad elements.
The good side is that everyone freely offered their time and efforts. Everyone tried their very best and did everything they could to make things work. I think everyone was very natural and I’m happy with most (if not all) of what we captured.
There were several down sides, however.
As we used family and friends, we didn’t have a casting process and missed out on the pre-production that would have forced us to do. We saved time but the actors didn’t really understand quite what the script was about or the story that was in my head and so it wasn’t always easy to get what I needed from them. Being family and friends meant that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be as tough on them as I might be with paid professional actors.
Think of it this way; if the actor doesn’t understand the person they’re portraying, how can they be convincing?
This is the director’s fault :-(
At the same time, you need to be clear enough and confident enough in your vision to ensure that you’re getting the performance you need rather than the one your actors think you need.
This can be a fine line to walk.
Actors tend to have strong personalities and you have to remember to do what’s best for your film without upsetting anyone. But ultimately, what’s on screen counts.
In our case, this meant leaving lots of my carefully written dialogue on the digital cutting-room floor. It was just better to leave our protagonist a mystery than to have five minutes of unnecessary (well-written and clever, of course) waffle removing any mystery to the five minute film. That makes even more sense when the actor interprets things slightly differently than a director wants… Again, directors fault.
On the other hand, if you’ve done all the preparation and worked with your actors and you’re still not getting what you need, then it might be time to recast. Unless there’s a reason you can’t reschedule.., :-(
On “Are You There?” everyone went above and beyond the call of duty in all areas – when you realise that the film was shot in 36 hours on the Monday and Tuesday after Easter 2014, look at the film and watch RJ Woolsey.
RJ actually shaved his head between the flashback scenes and the main mountain footage! Amazing dedication. Thank you RJ!
The single biggest problem with the whole production, however, was my shyness and reluctance to make a “big thing” out of it. This really caused problems. (This is probably not a problem for many directors ;-)
It’s not that we were making “Avatar”, but by not making the film’s importance to me clear, other people just weren’t aware of the effort and time needed, the time, money and effort I had already expended. This meant that there was an atmosphere of “so what” around some of the production. Again, director’s fault – we set the tone on the production.
This reluctance to ask people to make time for pre-production, to being afraid to ask for help, to be pushy, was the single biggest directing fail on “Are You There?”
If you’re going to make a film be aware that it’s always a collaborative process so get everyone on board as soon as possible and get them invested in making the film for themselves as well as you. They’ll keep the momentum going and push you to keep going, even when the doubts set in!
Also, you need to make sure others know you believe in yourself, even if you’re not always full of confidence. That will make them more likely to follow where you lead… Because, when the camera rolls, you (as director) are in charge of leading everyone through the following hours, days or even weeks…
So that seems all negative.., but when the film goes up on YouTube or Vimeo it’s your vision, your creation, more than anyone else’s. “A (your name) film.”
A big thank you to our main cast: RJ Woolsey, Elaine Thompson and Sharon Carroll. Sharon also played the harp tune that appears at the end of the film.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m writing this on my phone, in the car, in the pouring rain of a typical August day. In the course of a normal day I don’t get a chance to write much of these blog entries so I grab any chance I can ;-)
Next time: Editing