Saturday, June 28, 2014

View from the Middle of the Movie Set

Recently, I spent two days working on a film for a guy I know who is a pretty talented film maker. I like his work, want to see him succeed and therefore I volunteered my time to help his film get made. I also donated to his crowdfunding campaign. Supporting local talent is important to me. I chose to be a production assistant for him for a couple days I had to give him that would not cost me a babysitter or anything but my time. I like and admire this filmmaker, he cares about his craft and I wanted very much to see how he worked. I did get the opportunity to learn about him, too and the way he works. This is all very useful and interesting to me to watch others practice their craft. There is always something to be learned and absorbed. I've learned a few things about myself in that time as well. First, I'm too experienced in this business to be a production assistant (PA). It's frustrating to me, but there were definite pros in this situation. It really is barely one step above extra in the process and while both roles are completely and utterly necessary, and very important, it's hard for me to do for a number of reasons, which I will explain in a minute. But first, the positives, of which there are many. I'm glad I did it. I got to watch the behind the scenes in a way from a point of view that I haven't in a long time. I watched how people treated me. These are people I might hire later to work on my shoot. I want to know what they are like when they are not kissing the producer or director's butt. How will they treat an extra or a lowly PA? Not just to their face but behind doors when they think no one is listening. It's kinda like being undercover boss. Oh, how much you can hear when no one thinks you care or are listening. Or everyone just kind of believes you are nobody. It was nice to be anonymous or, mostly anonymous on this shoot. A few people I have worked with. It's enough to have some friendly faces and some good conversation. I got to talk with the actors, the crew and the extras, that is really nice. And it was a little humbling at the same time to see myself back in this position and view it in a different way. I haven't been a fresh faced PA in a long time and it was eye opening. The funny part was I do a lot of this stuff on my own sets. When I produced a feature film last summer, I did a lot of cleaning up, a lot of setting up and a lot of helping out. That is just who I am no matter what set I am on. So... setting up craft services is nothing new to me. Being told to do it is. I'm usually the one either doing it or telling people what to do. I'm used to being the producer or the director. I did a good deal of PA work and enough extra work in college to let me know I don't want to be an extra again. Not that there is anything wrong with it. Being an extra is great for people with no film experience or little acting experience that just want to meet people and see what a movie set is like. It's even fun for them. It's not fun for me. At all. I think it was the first time but I am just too ambitious to be happy in that place. If you want to be an actor, be an extra once or twice but don't make it a regular thing. Audition, take acting classes, study your craft. If you don't want to be an actor, but you love movies, please be an extra! It will be fun for you and you will get to see yourself in a movie. Show up and expect to wait but know that we filmmakers are very grateful that you are there. Thank you for your time and your energy. You are very important and we value you more than you know. Now, I said there were some less than positive things I figured out. I remember when I was ten years old and we were asked to run for class president for a month. I didn't want to. I didn't want to be a leader. It terrified me. I thought I would always be a follower, that I would always be the person who was doing what I was told to do and was grateful just to be there. I'm not ten any more. I'm a leader. I had no idea I was meant to be that way but at some point I grew into it. No one wanted my opinion of what the shot looked like or the camera position of what I thought of the actors. That is what I am meant to do in this world. I am meant to direct and when I am not doing it, well, it actually physically hurts! It actually bothered me deep down in ways that I am not sure I can adequately describe. It's kind of like watching through a window. There is great joy for me every time I am on a movie set. I love the action, everything going on, I love a working set and this set, I must say, it ran beautifully. Great people were hired, there were wonderful attitudes and smart people and the set was terrific. But I was consistently stifling who I am. I need to stop looking for other people's work to do and get my own done. I was not meant for that job. I have too much ambition, too many ideas, too much... other. If anything, it reinforces for me how far I have come over time. I am ready. Oh, the things I need to put out into the world. I'm not going to be truly happy until I am leading my own set. This was an exercise in frustration for me and I don't need any more frustration. I need to find funding and get my dreams on paper and then out into the world.

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