Film sets are perhaps some of the most eclectic environments you’ll ever step foot in; an alchemy of vibrant personalities - each one an essential part of a fast-moving machine that’s designed to tell a story that will resonate with people. They can also be the harbinger of any number of seemingly insurmountable challenges whether those be budget, time or weather-related; productions of all shapes and sizes suffer the same pressures.
For the director, it can feel like the most precious and delicate step in the gargantuan process of making a movie. No matter how much preparation and hard work they’ve put in before the cameras roll, over the course of the production, the director is still required to answer a couple of dozen questions every minute. They’re conducting an orchestra, and should pay attention to the sound of every instrument should they wish for them to all follow the same musical rhythm, resulting in the mastering of their symphony.
I recently wrapped production on a short film entitled ‘Boredom’, the story of three young lads on the day of their exam results as they consider life beyond their small town. After an eight-month-long period of script development, casting, rehearsals and screen tests, the day finally came for principal photography. Not only were we lucky enough to be working with three extremely talented actors, but also a hard-working and dedicated crew, each of whom was essential to making the production as focused and efficient as it could possibly be.
That being said, no production is without its complications, and though we were lucky enough to have beautiful blue skies and golden sunshine, time still has a way of slipping out of your hands and, suddenly, the shooting schedule seems more like a wild beast refusing to be tamed. It’s then that you can start to panic.
Falling behind schedule can send even the most calm and collected thinker on a path of nervous and troubled thinking. Suddenly, this film - this Frankenstein’s monster-like creation of yours - is hurtling out of your control. You’re distracted, unable to reconnect with your cast and crew, who are slowly starting to lose their faith in their conductor; if he or she isn’t confident, then why should they be? Everyone’s out of sync, the rhythm is off-beat and the symphony has devolved into noise.
Luckily, this isn’t the path that ‘Boredom’ went down.
Should you find that time is starting to slip away - maybe you didn’t wrap this scene as early as you thought you would and lunch is already fast-approaching - it’s important to remain in the moment. Running a little bit behind schedule doesn’t change the fact that you still have to get this scene done, and with the same care and attention that you were paying before you checked your watch. Keep following that musical rhythm and, soon enough, you’ll catch up again.
No production is straightforward, but pressures of all kinds can be lifted, not only by the hard work that you put in before you step onto the set, but by involving other people who share your ambition, your passion, and your positive attitude. Do you have a Script Supervisor? Or Props Master? If not, can you find one? By doing so, you’ll be more equipped to answer those couple of dozen questions that come firing your way before you yell “Action” and after you yell “Cut”.
What’s most important to remember, is that the film set - and your experience on it - is so special. The ability to craft a story, watch it play out and help to piece it together is such a privilege, and not to be wasted. So, no matter how anxious or intimidated you may feel by the pressures of production, remember to enjoy every second you spend on set.
There really is nothing like it.