Note: this post is long overdue, and my head space has already moved on to the post-production side of things, so excuse the sloppiness of this entry!
The thesis production went very well, and much to my liking. It was my very first time running the show as both producer and director, and I must say it was an enjoyable experience. Of course, no production would be complete without the many downs and problems. Yet overall, we got some great shots and coverage, I worked with a fantastic, but small crew of four, and I had great actors who were accepting of my ideas.
I worked with a small, small crew. It consisted of four - a Director of Photography, who was also the camera operator and gaffer; a sound recordist, who was also boom operator, and a bit of a 2nd AD; a make-up artist; and a wardrobe manager, who also acted as my production designer. I initially wanted to have a small crew based on the idea that a short film doesn't need a dozen hands to work. They teach us about how to design a crew and what sort of roles are imperative to the operation of a film on and off set, but they don't really tell us that it's not always necessary for 1st Assistant Directors, production managers, gaffers and boom operators. To me, on a short film like This Is Not Poetry, there was no use for a bigger crew than I had already organised, yet I still had classmates and even crew members wondering why I never considered it. I even had my Director of Photography complain about how I failed to organise a gaffer to set up the lights for him. Filmmaking isn't about having lots of different hands on set in production. We are film school students, and we know about the roles - so why waste space with another body to do a job I know my crew members can already do?
We were sorely behind on schedule on the first day. Having organised to start at 5:30PM and finish around 11:00PM, we ended up spending far too long with make-up and hair dressing, and too much time shooting each scene. We spent so much time in all the wrong places, that we eventually finished at 4:30AM the next morning. I had two out of three of my actors sleeping in my apartment, one sharing the bed with me and another on the couch; and one other crew member taking the floor in a sleeping bag. All of us had at least an hour's sleep, as we had to get up to start shooting at 6:30AM, much to our distaste. I wondered, after the shoot, would this have happened to us if I had a proper First Assistant Director who was focused on making sure I was getting the shots I wanted in the scheduled time, or was it just a failure in scheduling and planning? It could have been a mixture of both. Nevertheless, the crew and cast worked even better the next morning, despite looking half-dead and about to collapse.
I worked with an open mind all throughout the film. At times, being too open-minded to different ideas and allowing your cast and occasionally your crew do what they feel is best can be considered lazy. I felt otherwise. I wanted my film to be as honest and organic as possible. I changed the names of each character to the actors' name, and I made sure the actors possessed similar if not the same qualities of my characters. I had given my actors directions that were open for them to play with. This was an experiment I wanted to play with, as based on previous experiences, often times when you work with experienced actors, they can tend to make action and emotion feel awkwardly fake, and inevitably spoil the entire film. I didn't want this to happen to mine, and so I gave my actors the freedom to 'do as they would', but at the same time, made sure they channeled and concentrated on the emotion of it all. It was, much to my surprise, a success.
All three of my actors were around my age. Two of them were younger than me, and the other was my age. I felt that this helped me work with them better because we were all speaking the same language with each other. Another great thing about working with younger actors is that there is a sense of honesty in their performance, and they are continuously open-minded to different ideas and techniques. Out of the three actors I worked with, only one had experience in theatre and film. My lead actor had no experience in film, while the other had some training but through short courses and school. Truth be told, I was concerned about this. I was worried that their inexperience may project through the camera and onto screen, but it never did. They were fantastic. I was extremely lucky to have found my three actors, and I won't lie - they were all chosen out of gut feeling. In the end, they looked great together, did an amazing job and were such a delight to work with.
I think this whole production has been based on luck, to be honest. Both my composer and lead actor were from mutual friends, and I even had to contact them via Facebook (a la stalker style). Others like my wardrobe manager and make-up artist were creatives who I really wanted to work with - my wardrobe manager Genesis is a good friend and ex-uni mate of mine who really introduced me to film with my first Wong Kar-Wai film, while my make-up artist was someone I had worked with previously on a short film I produced. It's so great to work with people who are like-minded, and who share the same vision while having the ability to enhance it with new and different ideas. The right people were there for me, and that's what made the production work so well.
When a film works out that way, it's such a great feeling when you look back on how far you've come.
And now it all comes down to putting the film together. The final product is due in 8 days, next Saturday 3rd of July. I'll have an update on how the edit is coming along. I've got a few sound problems, but hopefully nothing I can't fix.
* Photos taken by Mimi, our make-up artist