Making a short film, or any film for that matter, can be a lot of fun. But most of the time, filmmaking is very stressful and filled with problems. I recently made directed a new short called HUNGRY…a wicked, humorous, little piece about the greed that is rampant at Christmas. I was able to shoot it in early February 2015. And I have to say… even though I had prepared for everything, or thought I had, the shoot was very rough. Here are the major issues that came up and what I learned.
Location needs to be your first consideration when shooting your film. Mine took place in a used clothing store, and I wanted the store to give the impression it had been there for many, many decades. So I set out to find the perfect shop. It took me about a week of driving around L.A. and looking at close to 15 stores. There were two that I thought “might do”…but nothing that reached out and grabbed me. Until I happened upon the shop I ultimately shot in. It is an amazing location; one that I knew immediately was “The One”! So take your time and really look for the location that you want. Don’t settle for less, unless you absolutely have to.
So this is where my shoot became a nightmare. There were some shots I wanted to film that my D.P. felt a Ronin would be perfect for. A Ronin is a smaller, lighter version of a Steadicam. Unfortunately my D.P. was not experienced with this piece of equipment and because there was no way to hook it up to a monitor, there was no way for me to catch any mistakes. And so almost 25% of the shots were severely compromised because there were lights, stands and all sorts of equipment that made it into the frame. I didn’t see them until I got into editing…way too late.
So the moral of the story is: Always make sure that your crew know what they are doing with the equipment on your set and always have a second set of eyes looking at the frame. Don’t rely on just one person to make sure it’s right. It will bite you hard in the rear.
The other major thing that happened that messed me up mentally was that I did not communicate with my hair/makeup artist beforehand to let him know exactly how I had envisioned my leading lady. So after I was done setting up the first shot on the first day, I went in to the dressing room and saw the lead actress in make-up and a style that was from the glamorous Hollywood of old. I felt as if I had been sucker-punched. So instead of panicking, I let them finish and went out and calmed down. I tried to think of a way out of this. So I added another scene in the film that showed her removing the hair and make-up on purpose. As if it was a ruse from the beginning. And it totally worked…if you see the film, you will know what I mean. And I have to say, that this was “the magic” that occurred on this shoot. I don’t mean to sound silly or superstitious, but there has been a little magic that has happened on every single one of my 14 films. So now, I actually look forward to seeing what will come my way in each new film.
So, after all is said and done, there were some major things that really messed with my head on this shoot. But I have to say that by trying to relax and not go berserk in the face of these challenges, I was able to survive. And it ultimately really worked out, because even though it took me almost four months to edit HUNGRY with all of the bad shots, I was able to create something that I really am proud of and love. And the best part of it all is that it has now been accepted into 24 film festivals around the world and has won two of them. Not bad, huh?
If you are in getting ready for a film shoot, nothing will totally prepare you for the challenges that arise on every single set. But with patience and a sense of calm you can come up with a solution to these problems when they arise. And most of the time, the solution will be so much better that your initial idea. Just trust in the magic that always comes to those who create.