Film Journal: Week 5- Done Production

Aaaaand done.

Aaaaand done.

Alert readers may have noticed that I skipped Week 4 of this production journal. This isn’t entirely by accident. I attempted to sit down and write a journal entry last Monday after a weekend of shooting only to discover that I hadn’t had enough time to digest everything that had happened. This sometimes happens to me: I can be quite introspective when I concentrate on it or I can be in-the-moment and on the ball. I can’t do both at the same time and it takes a certain amount of time to get from one mindset to the other.

Now that production is over, though, I’m making the attempt to make up for lost time.

We had our final day of production this past Saturday. I’m not sure that I have the vocabulary to express just how relieved I am about this. It’s not as if anything went wrong: we had a wonderful cast of talented and patient people and a small but extremely efficient crew. We stayed on schedule, got everything we wanted, and had fun doing it. And I’m still glad it’s over.

You would think that by now I would find it perfectly manageable to produce a five minute short film. I feel a little bit like a wuss for dissolving into tears with so much regularity (about every 36 hours) and for not having better command of my own reactions, but I’m a contingency planner at heart so I spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways things could go wrong. This makes for a lot of needless worry, but on the other hand: if things do go wrong then I’ve already thought out a plan for what to do instead of trying to think something up on the spot and with high emotions. So as much as I hate to be the preemptive worry wart it does mean that I can put aside all that worry once production begins to concentrate on being in-the-moment. I’m generally quite calm on set.

As a matter of fact we got some very nice compliments from our actors about how well run our set was: they found it very professional and organized compared to other sets they had been on, both student and professional. And they found the food plentiful and delicious, which was also very edifying since we were paying them in meals and reel footage. I would be perfectly happy if I developed a reputation for having an organized set and good food.

So as much as I complain about not being a good Producer, I’m not sure that’s really true: I think my real weak spot is locations. Finding locations. Chatting up the owners or managers. Negotiating fees. Dealing with insurance. Getting permits signed. I knew that this was a fear that I had going into grad school: and a fear that I really wanted to face head-on. One of my goals this term was to film at a location that was off-campus and outside my apartment- someplace that I would actually have to work to get permission to use.

Getting this permission is more difficult that it might seem, as I discovered earlier in the week when it became clear that the contact-person at one of our locations was avoiding my calls and ignoring my emails. Unable to get a straight answer we had to start looking for alternatives.

On Wednesday we decided to go back to the Bilingual Theatre Foundation, a theatre company housed in the now defunct Lincoln Heights Jail. We had met with them before the holidays to find out if we could use their stage for several scenes, but they had also given us a tour of their rehearsal room which had once been on old courtroom and I remembered this when we found ourselves looking for an institutional looking community room. Their fee was higher than we had budgeted for, but time was getting short and our options were getting sparse so we agreed to go with them and to finalize the paperwork on Friday.

Friday came and the representative that we had been speaking to was out of the office in an all-day meeting and hadn’t signed the location permit before leaving the day before. I went home to print out a new copy of the contract in the hopes that he would stop by the theatre at the end of the day while inwardly dying a thousand deaths believing that we were going to have to resort to our backup location at the last minute. An hour or so later I received a phone call saying that if I could fax the form over they had someone who would sign it for us. I rushed to a FedEx to send the fax, then rushed back up to the location with a check to pay the fee and get the paperwork finished, then rushed home again to finish making all the preparations that had been put on hold while the location was up in the air.

So I accomplished it, but I’m glad it’s over. I’ll just have to become very good friends with a location manager. When you don’t do something well, hire somebody else who does.

Actually, other than Locations, I quite enjoyed being the Producer. And I can say this now that it’s done (OK, mostly done: there’s still a heap of paperwork to do). It’s a little bit like building an engine: you line up all the pieces and give it a jolt and see if it turns over. There’s a special thrill that comes from making a good one that runs really well: like trying to put together a go-kart and finding out you’ve actually made a muscle car.


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