So, you want to make your first film. First of all, what is wrong with you? Don’t you know that once you start, it will become an all-consuming obsession that will dictate where you go, who your friends are and how much sleep you get? You do? Okay, good; welcome aboard!
Let’s assume you’ve got the story tight, the characters are totally fleshed out and plot is something that you’d really like to witness onscreen. Now, every single thing from this point to the first day you begin shooting is planning. Casting, rehearsals, locations, wardrobe, crew and how people are going to be fed is now on your plate. Every detail that you have locked in, every problem and potential problem that you have solved and every aspect of the production that you can shape now will save you from having a shoot or even a post production experience where these problems rear their unsightly heads.
Now, to if you are directing this aforementioned film, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find a producer that can deal with a lot of these issues for you so that you can focus on performances, working with the DP on the look of the film and making sure everyone on set is on the same page when you guys begin to roll. Even if it is a tiny production, having someone who can take on some of these variables so you don’t have to will improve the final film when it’s all said and done.
Even with all the character development, planning and pre-production, they rarely turn out exactly like you had envisioned and that isn’t always a bad thing. Some films are a struggle to write, the production is a nightmare and the post production ends up being an arduous process where you’re trying to put the pieces back together in the order that you had planned for them to go.
I’ve only had one magical film production experience where everything worked, where the entire process from writing, to casting, to the actual production and then the editing came together, and that was a short film called, Fresh Skweezed (2012). Made with my frequent collaborator, Ryan Earl Parker, the film just never let us down throughout the entire process. I wrote the script for an 11 year old actress I had seen in a film at The Nashville Film Festival and her performance inspired and dictated what our film would become. That isn’t to say that things didn’t work out sometimes, because it happened a lot, but when it did happen, there always seemed to be a better alternative waiting. Like when we couldn’t find the right suburban neighborhood for the film’s neighborhood and we happened upon an evacuated trailer park which became our location and added another element to the film. This was also the only film I’ve ever made where the script we shot was the first and only draft I wrote for the film. That will never happen again! Some films you have to guide along the path and others seem to guide you. This one had a mind of its own.