I remember once a long time ago, when I was just starting out to shot for other people, an odd little job. There I was with my little Eclair ACL, which I was so proud to have bought – Who was it from? Was it Derek Weisehan??? Anyway, I had this tiny little 16mm camera, and had tricked it out, and modified it. I built a video tap for it, modified the mag latch so it could handle a 400 foot mag, even built a small base-plate for it, giving me a 4 pin XLR , and a big beefy base for the camera tie down screw. So proud was I of this little camera that really was too feeble for the job, but it worked, and did what a camera ought to.
I met with the director, and agreed to shoot her project. This was a person who really probably ought not to be making movies. At least not by hiring crew. Just absolutely no organization. And the communication skills, well. That is the problem.
We shoot the first day, set up the first shot, do one rehearsal, and then we are ready to shoot, but she says, wait, we have to move on. The entire day was like that. Plan out a shot, and then don’t shoot it, because we have to move on. This is a narrative, with about 15 actors, and we have to get blocking and movement down, and it is like nothing I’d ever worked on in my life. Even worse than a disorganized student film shoot, because just when we had the shot all set, we’d have to move on. Finally at the end of the day, the director says, okay lets go into the ocean. Now we have been shooting on the beach all day, but we had never discussed going into the ocean, and with the limited crew I had, and no preparation for this, I just balked. It was a fitting end to a really dismal day. The crew and I go home, and rest up for the shoot tomorrow, where we are going to have to shoot so much more than originally planned, because today we shot so little.
Now did I mention, NO AD., NO Production crew, No food, no nothing. Just me, my camera and two people I brought to help out, No sound – M.O.S., the director doing everything and nothing, and the actors. On the way home, I’m trying to figure out how to get this shot, and finished. So I say to the crew “Tomorrow come wearing a bathing suit – WE ARE GOING IN THE WATER.” Or something rather dramatic like that. Groans from my passengers.
The next day, we shot, we shot everything, and I mean everything. Fluid, smooth, move with it, set it up shoot it and move on. The day was much more calm. It’s a narrative but shoot it like a documentary. The footage came out pretty well, as good as one can hope for under the circumstances. As bad as day one had been to work on, day two was just as good if not better. The secret?
Directors are mad, just absolutely mad, crazy off their rocker. They have a vision of what they want, and then they have to articulate it. Those who can’t end up being more crazy than those who can, with their ideas all stuck up in their head. So I had to go to the director. Find her madness, and join it. I had to go into the water. It’s a lesson I have never forgotten. Go into the water, go into the director’s madness, and come out the other side.
Thanks for reading.