Friday, April 19, 2013

Cut! Print that.

At this point, I am pretty sure that I am not dreaming, that I am not going to suddenly wake up, realize that I am actually on-set and two hours behind schedule.

I did it. I got through my shoot this weekend.

Okay, I will admit that I did a little bit more than merely get through the shoot. While my gut instinct was that it was going to go extremely well, I did not want to go into it with any degree of false confidence. And the fact is that, even though I knew what I was doing, I know that you are only right until someone starts saying that you’re wrong and you have to prove yourself.

That didn’t happen.

Everything went extremely well.

People are making comments on Facebook:

“David showed such a calm focus despite the organized chaos around him.”

“ relaxed you were, David!”

“Great experience working on your set, David. Thank you.”

and from my DP:

“I completely admired your poise and calm from beginning to end. In the pressure cooker environment of a film set, emotions can run high and quickly escalate, but your example truly helped to keep things on an even keel and flowing smoothly. I definitely hope to work together again soon!”

I had to remind everyone that I was only able to do what I did because all of them are so, so good at what they do.

I first worked on a “real” set about 25 years ago and, in my early 20’s, I worked on quite a few sets. I can remember looking at the directors on those shoots and thinking to myself, “I could do that.” I looked around at the crew over this past weekend and wondered how many of them were looking at me and thinking “I could do that.” The fact is, many of them probably can do it. I hope they get to do it. I wanted to do it for so long and now, having done it for the first time at this level, I feel good.

I want to do it again and again...

Friday, April 12, 2013


This weekend, I am going to be on-set, behind the camera for the first time in who-knows-how-long. Actually, in many ways it will be for the first time ever. Sure, of course, I have been making movies since I was nine but something about this shoot feels totally new.

On the films I made as a kid, it was always me and a friend or two running around, acting, shooting and directing -- if you can call it that -- with the used Super 8 camera that I bought for ten dollars. As an older person, in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s on The True Meaning of Cool (1995), Jumpcuts: An Art Film (1996) and Love,Park (2010), it was much the same thing -- me running the show, calling the shots, working the camera, writing, producing and editing --- sometimes roping friends in to shoot with me or getting a better editor to do a final cut. In 2007, I was brought in to direct a short film at the last minute after the original director had to be removed from the project. I had no say in the script or the cast but I hastily hired my own skeleton crew -- a DP,  an editor and a sound guy -- and we banged it out.

Pre-production on the sitcom pilot that I am directing has been going on for over a month, we’ve had  casting calls, rehearsals and meetings with the camera, prop, make-up and wardrobe departments. To be honest, I sometimes lose track of how many producers I am working with and how many assistant directors or camera people there are. When the full crew assembled last week, I didn’t know who half of them were. The point is not that I am clueless. The point is that this shoot is bigger than anything I have ever done before and I am loving it.

There are few, if any nerves, just anxious anticipation. The script is good. As a writer, I can be pretty cranky and picky about scripts written by other people but that is not the case here. Sure, I have tweaked the script, changed a line here and there, cut a chunk out of a scene and so on but the core of the project is solid.

As for directing, it’s been said that the key to good directing is good casting. I have been blessed with a wonderful cast, the vast bulk of whom are camera ready. Okay, I will give myself some credit for analyzing the script and knowing in my guts that someone was right or wrong for a particular part when I cast them but my line producer gets a lot of credit for seeing eye-to-eye with me and backing me up on my choices.

Of course, directing is not just casting the right actors, it is conducting them like an orchestra, coaxing them to deliver the lines as I feel they should sound. Actors can be fragile, feisty, sure of themselves or totally lost so I have to make my cast feel good about what they are doing. There is a degree of cheerleading and ego-massaging taking place on and off the set and I love that part of the job as well.  Of course, the job is not just dealing with people, it is dealing with machines, too. I have to make sure that the cameras ---- all four or five of them on this shoot --- are getting what I want them to get. 

The bottom-line is that, no, technically, this is not the first time that I have done this kind of thing. It is the first time that I have done it at this level.  For the first time in my my life I really feel like I am doing what the thing that I have always wanted to do, that I feel that I am meant to be doing and I happen to think that I am doing it really well and, what do you know, it feels good.