I really, really, really want to not be doing this anymore. :p WHY? You say.
1. I don’t have any ideas.
2. My life has gotten complicated.
3. I like sleep.
And really, the ultimate reason; IT’S JUST SO HARD.
But, we carry on. I’m not a quitter. Never have been. Never will be.
This week we finished a film. THE film. What film is this? Well at the end of March we entered a month-long film contest called The Fiery Wheel-O-Rama. We were given the genre Vampire Movie, the location A Car in the Woods, and 5 plot points of which we needed to pick 3. We used:
1. Broken fingers.
2. A menacing phone call.
3. A heart attack.
And then they gave us a month to make a film. Now, this isn’t like the 48, at least, it shouldn’t be. We’ve done that, here. But writing, filming and editing a movie in that time frame is still really difficult. Not bad. There is no complaining here. I had an excuse to make a film and have it screened in front of other filmmakers.
Bring. It. On.
Preproduction went well. I wrote a version of the script, thought it was too violent, and rewrote the entire thing. We had an advantage in this genre, actually, because I wrote a feature last year that was a vampire film. It was meant to be a web series that when edited together made a feature. So all the characters, the crime world of vampires, the look and feel and motivations and backstory…All that was done. I just needed an original plot line for a new short film.
My fear throughout this whole process was that it would be too complicated or only understandable to me and the other people who’ve read the feature. I wanted to create something that felt like it was part of a greater story and a greater world, but I didn’t want the audience to feel like they weren’t part of the experience or get confused.
You tell me if we succeeded.
The morning of the shoot was early. But optimism ruled. We had amazing actors, great equipment, and my crew was ready to do the whole 14 hour thing.
Then I got a call from my lead actress. She was sick and unable to come. There was no way around it. We couldn’t postpone, we didn’t have time. I couldn’t bring in another actress that short notice. We didn’t have time to bring someone new it, anyway. The light’s only good for a certain amount of time…And it was getting away from us.
So I took a deep breath and stepped in. I knew the work better than anyone. I’m the right age and gender. I didn’t have the look I had wanted–I’m not Italian in any way. And my personality isn’t as suited to the original version of the character.
But things can be changed.
Directing and acting at the same time is really, really, really difficult. It’s hard to pay attention to everything that needs attention. Also, method acting isn’t conducive to happy set experiences. Why?
We were making a dark film. Bad things happen. The same emotions that I needed for the character would come out as I was directing, even if me as a person wasn’t really supposed to be feeling them. I needed to be sad, grief-stricken, upset, angry, determined, conflicted, in love, fearful…and let a man I had just met drag me all over the woods. My friends watched all this with rising unease. I don’t act in films. I have a history of theater and stage performance, but that ended 6 years ago.
I had an advantage though. I knew exactly what I looked like in the view of the lens. I knew exactly how big my facial expressions needed to be and exactly where to stand or move to stay onscreen. I am used to cameras and lights and people all around me on set. I am comfortable with my friends and their various jobs.
I know, this doesn’t sound like acting at all. But on-camera acting is all about the environment. You may be a great actor, but if you can’t act in the environment of people in your face and staying within the boundaries of the lens…You can’t act for movies. A lot of time you’re imagining the entire scene. There’s no actor sitting there for you to react to. There’s no woods or gunshot or blood. It’s the actor’s job to make the audience believe that all those things are real, and are really there.
Acting for the camera is also best when the actor feels safe. Acting is inherently vulnerability. You are letting other people see all your emotions, real emotions, even if those aren’t the exact ways that you as a person would normally express them. Again, I had an advantage over other actors because hey, these were almost all of my closest friends and my boyfriend. No matter what went down–and some of this stuff was so difficult that my friends found it hard to watch–I knew that I was safe to express everything that needed to be expressed.
We started the day at 7:30am. We finished at 10pm, I think. We took over a week to edit. We turned it in on time. The screening happened.
Then I made a trailer. Soon we’ll post the whole film–it’s about 9 minutes long. But here’s the trailer:
As always, feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or creative projects of your own!