I've learned nothing in the grand scheme of things. And yet I feel totally overwhelmed by the amount of information I have learned. If I could compare it to anything else, it's like picking up a new language. I'm lost and feeling infantile, yet thirsty for more understanding.
After my last post, I received a few inquiries from readers/colleagues/friends as to what exactly I was talking about. More specifically, I mentioned I was planning on shooting a movie next summer and had started to fiddle with various technology.
Their bigger question was, why were they hearing about it for the first time in an off-topic post?
Well, first off- Yes, I am plotting the move from writer to writer-director. I should emphatically point out that this was never the plan. Ever. I know in Hollywood, everyone wants to direct. But that was never the case with me. I traversed the West from Chicago in search of an acting career. Along the way, I picked up writing. Through those first few years, I helped produce a few small indie projects: shorts, spoofs, web videos, and two features. All were incredibly fun, but didn't deter from my primary focus- acting.
But to make a long story short, the DSLR revolution was like a tidal wave of relentless energy. Even if I wasn't interested in directing, you couldn't find yourself ignoring what was, what is, happening. And it was about this time that my manager and I started discussing my work and it's accessibility. We both have like-minded goals and understand the obstacles ahead. The audience is there, it just requires a certain specificity. So what we decided to do was keep pursuing commercial opportunities while developing my own personal aspirations.
And to be frank, I got bored with acting. Don't misinterpret, I love it. And I have no desires to relinquish my dreams of being an actor. But the ways one tries to become an actor in Los Angeles become suffocating in their redundancy. Writing was the creative outlet I spent most of my time on. But even then, I wanted more. I wasn't being energized by the usual routine. I needed something else... and that's when I started seriously considering trying my hand at directing a feature. I know it's ridiculous to say, but I was inspired by the Mount Rushmore of Writing Influences in my life: John Hughes. Cameron Crowe. Kevin Smith. And Ed Burns.
They had taken similar paths at one point in their lives, some at the same age I am now.
And emboldened by Burns leading the indie revolution, I thought long and hard about what I was getting into. The road to understanding the entirety of the project was not lost on me, but I was excited about the challenge.
I figured at the very least, I'd get a healthy appreciation for all the components of film. This could only serve me and my writing well. And, I had no contracts to direct, so I could pull out if I decided it wasn't for me.
As to why I haven't written about it? Well, that's for something bigger.
But I will tell you this much, after two months of fiddling around with equipment, this is what a completely amateur and slightly buffoonish egomaniacal cliché has learned...
No one outside of the film industry thinks a movie can be shot on cameras as small as the Canon 5D and 7D. Their body and shape look slightly bigger than an average-sized Smurf, and this only lends itself to the incomprehension someone like my college pal Kendrick feels upon seeing it for the first time. "Ummm, bro... You're gonna shoot a movie on that thing?"
You immediately become addicted to other people's equipment. It is inherently annoying, and yet you can't stop. You see someone shooting something and you have to know what they're using. You reason with yourself about the importance of learning more, and that your slight obtrusion into their lives is part of the shared indie community. It's not. Like I said, it's annoying. You know this because you hate it when someone asks you the same questions while you yourself are shooting. You see him walking a dozen or so feet away and you know... this motherfucker right here is gonna ask me about my shooting specs. Insecurity washes over you when this happens.
People are really upset about Final Cut Pro X.
Watching a ton of indie shorts shot on similar cameras, you realize how gifted unknowns are. There are so many amazingly talented people out there, it only angers you more that they're not getting their shot. You think you don't belong after seeing these films. Again, insecurity.
You start to think your girlfriend is crazy. Why did she agree to let you do this and why didn't she stop you? You're supposed to be a team!
You want to call up every DP, cinematographer, and director you've ever worked with in your acting days and apologize profusely. Their skill is nothing short of incredible, and your pitiful "acting" skills are nothing in comparison to their ability to make a shot look magical.
You also want to call up a few directors and ask what they fuck they were thinking when they decided to 'direct'?
You secretly worry you'll be the same.
No really, people are pretty upset about Final Cut Pro X.
Despite your love of Kevin Smith, you remember the story in one of his Evening with Kevin Smith lectures about not knowing lenses and you shake your head in embarrassment. How could he not know anything about lenses? Dude has made like 10 movies?!
Your thankful Burns is out there, walking the line of what can and can't be done in a film. Meaning, you get so wrapped up in conversations with industry people about the impossibility of making something on a shoestring budget that you're grateful Burns does it in spite of what they say. His new film Newlyweds is like a bright beacon of hope, the bat-signal in a world of naysayers.
On that, everyone wants more money for their particular area of expertise. You talk to a sound guy about external mics, and he'll recommend the absolute most expensive one. It drives you insane, as you're looking for a happy medium. Not something that costs a car. You appreciate his need to be perfect, but you try to remember that you don't need Final Draft to write a screenplay... it just helps. Good rule of thumb when mulling over tech options.
As beautiful as some of the shorts you've seen are, there still remains one undebatable fact: Story rules. Without it, you have nothing. With it, you can get away with almost anything.
You are saddened to realize that some of your friends who have expressed similar directing aspirations don't know what they're talking about, and have never really looked into the mechanics of everything involved. They don't kknow what they're saying. Because what they're really saying is they want to be someone cool like Quentin Tarantino.
You don't just turn it on and hit record dude.
I can tell you the differences between DC heroes, Marvel heroes, The Avengers, The Justice League of America, and all of their other sub-groups and factions... but explaining what ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed are and how they work together becomes increasingly hard.
You feel like a tourist.
A lot of friends have ideas. Scripts? No. Ideas, yes. But ideas mean nothing without words. It's not your job to propel those ideas. Just keep learning and remember the goalposts...
There have been times when my patience has been tested. I have gotten angry. Frustrated. And ultimately deflated.
Thank God for the internet and all its tutorials, videos, and forums. People can be mean. They can also be gracious.
As a recommendation, people usually respond to questions of help if you start out with something like this... "Hello. Excuse me. I realize I'm a moron, so forgive me. But can you help me..."
Having a crew of people you believe in and who believe in you becomes vital to your survival. You start thinking about who could and couldn't be a part of the journey.
You wonder who will be upset at not being included, and only hope it won't hurt friendships.
For some reason, Radiohead makes a lot more sense.
Watching movies and becoming lost in the moments becomes even harder.
You curse yourself for pushing your limitations. Yet, you still very much believe in the journey. You have to.
You thank the heavens you have a few trusted friends who can hold your hand through the growing pains. People you've grown close with, who understand your plight, and gently offer advice without any sense of entitlement or judgement.
You're more understanding of first time writers, and decide to be even kinder when it comes to criticism.
Finally, and most importantly, when you get something on-screen you think isn't altogether horrible... you feel euphoric. And you can only wait to learn more before embarking on the larger process next summer.
You. Can't. Wait.