Filmmaking, like any artistic medium, is an arduous, thankless and ultimately crippling pursuit. Explaining to friends and family what you’re attempting can be met with furrowed brows, laughter and confusion. Money that you don’t really have to spare evaporates almost immediately, the stress is immeasurable, arguments are commonplace and every decision you make can save or undo an entire production. And after all that, there’s a chance no one will ever see or appreciate your finished work. In light of this, you’re probably wondering how the art of film became one of the most successful industries in the modern world and why so many people invest so heavily in them. The answer is quite simple: nothing compares to making a movie and the overwhelming pride and joy it instils in a select few makes all of the above utterly worthwhile. Over a series of articles, I’ll be looking at all aspects of the filmmaking process from a non-budget/micro-budget perspective; covering the various trials and tribulations independent filmmakers experience without sugar coating anything.
First thing one needs to address, before equipment, before scripts, before ideas, is what kind of filmmaker are you? There are two types of creative individuals: architects and gardeners. Both have a grand design for a massive undertaking but how they plan and execute these projects differs greatly. An architect has a clear vision but more than that, has a very specific idea of how every intricate detail should be executed, from the lighting to the performances. Gardeners, on the other hand, have equally clear vision but they believe a set/scene to be very natural and organic, leaving things to chance and seeing how the project grows on its own. So, if you’re the kind of person who can see every element of a finished scene in your head, so much so that you instruct your cast and crew to do exactly what is required without compromise, you’re an architect. If you have an idea of how you want the scene to play out but rely on your cast and crew to surprise you with something inspired, you’re a gardener. This may sound a little digressive but it’s vital to every aspect of filming (whether in front of or behind the camera) and figuring out what kind of filmmaker you are makes the process of ‘hiring’ colleagues and co-workers much smoother.
Which brings me to your main crew. A movie of any scale or length is an enormous undertaking and much like sailing a ship, requires several individuals tasked with respectively important responsibilities. The helm steers the ship, the engineers ensure the fires are burning, the lookouts scan the horizon and the captain oversees the entire thing, if any one element isn’t functioning at full capacity, the entire production is at risk (that analogy went a little more Titanic than I had intended, sorry). Surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals who share your passion for cinema is crucial but working with people you can actually communicate with (as differences of opinion and butting of heads is a daily part of the process) is essential.
I appreciate I’ve rambled on about gardeners and architects and sailors and made very little mention of the filming process itself. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that next time.