If you’re a film major, you’ll know how daunting the task of making anything is. There’s equipment you have to wrangle, actors you have to coordinate, a crew you can’t argue with, a spectacularly under-considered shooting schedule; the list goes on. Did the lens always have that crack in the side? What do you mean the batteries aren’t charged? Are we sure that outlet can withstand those lights? Can we get that again but this time do it entirely different? You want to put the dolly where? We can’t wrap, we haven’t rolled yet! What a pleasure!
Now try it with four people in a country that only mostly speaks the same language. Welcome to semester abroad Montreal Film 2! “If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she won’t wake up at all!” [Nightmare On Elm Street reference -ed.]
I’m going to try and preserve my dignity and not go deep into how long I put off real pre-production. Suffice it to say, I was kept very busy until a week before the shoot and remained so right on through. Thanks to my wonderful producer/director of photography (Spencer Pearson: Hollywood, he’s waiting), I was able to accomplish a modicum of preparation leading into the weekend filming period. Short movies only require two days of shooting if you’re studious (or incredibly lucky).
The cast was mostly assembled (with the exception of my grip guy ending up playing one of the leads) from Canadian casting agencies and Facebook Montreal-based actors forums. A nerve-wracking process that I’ve never dealt with before: post a casting call telling interested persons that they won’t be paid and must email you for the script to initiate the audition process. Took a couple times posting it but eventually I got results. Many inquired, fewer actually auditioned, and three ended up getting cast. You don’t know discomfort until you have to send a string of emails to actors that didn’t get the part. That or breaking a bone.
One fun feature of the Montreal Champlain film program is that we’ve had access to a real rental house. A welcome development since we started out with a basic kit. Now we had lights and light stands and a pocket dolly and real tripods. Quickly the semester went from a lack of ability to being able to hone a development of styles and skills. Obviously it didn’t ease the psychological or monetary toll of the film-making process , but it turned out to be a better learning experience than I anticipated.
Making a movie is tough (your teacher here, Mark Slutsky, will definitely tell you that) but it’s also a lot of fun (Mark will probably mention that too). It isn’t always the most rewarding, flattering, generous, cheap, electrifying, easy, conservative, liberal, accessible, appealing, bubbly, slimy, wondrous, deadly- I’ve lost track of where I was going. I need a nap. The point is to have fun. If you’re directing, stay calm. If you’re producing… genuflect frequently. But just have fun. There’s an old adage that says something like, “An audience only enjoys a movie as much as you didn’t making it”. That’s probably true!