Two years ago, I shot a film for the 48 Hour Film Project. It was the last thing I shot, and the first time I’ve gone that long without shooting without the regret overpowering the relief of being free of it all. My relationship with filmmaking has been troubled. I love writing the script, and I really love every single on-set moment. I love shooting, working with actors and the way everything is so unbelievably alive when a dozen people are bouncing off of each other and time and money are in far too limited supply.
Everything else sucks. Casting sucks. Scheduling sucks. Realizing you didn’t get the shot you thought was great because you shook the camera sucks. Listening to audio that got screwed up by an HVAC system, or realizing you forgot to hit the record button sucks. Everything that isn’t writing and isn’t shooting is dealing with things you can’t control, and I hate things I can’t control. Dealing with it over a handful of short films, only three of which are even worth watching at all, wore me out.
I’m starting to miss it again. We’ll see if missing it leads anywhere, but for now I’m thinking about what shooting again might feel like. I’m watching movies and paying attention to editing and camera movement, I’m thinking about what I didn’t get right that I want to get right next time. And I’m apparently talking about it, because I got asked yesterday for a link to what I’ve shot and it was entirely because I was mouthing off. You know I’ve been struggling with filmmaking when I’m not even mentioning it in front of people.
There are two (maybe three) films of mine online. One I shot in 2005. “Tomorrow” is more interesting to me than good, and is possibly not much of either to anyone else. I watched it for the first time in years last night, because I asked if I could qualify said films before showing them, and I needed to know what I was qualifying. I considered just sending Mels – who asked for the link – an e-mail, but thinking about the films made me contemplative. I thought that if I wrote about it, if I got into my troubles a bit more publicly, it would be better for me. I’m clearly a little fear-paralyzed by filmmaking, and if I’m ever going to do it again, I need to actually address those fears.
“Tomorrow” was an experiment; 12 minutes, shot in a continuous take in an apartment, dealing with a suicide and the moments prior to the arrival of emergency services. About half of it I can still watch without cringing or just skimming past the awkward, too earnest writing. Amidst that half are some moments and stagings for which I still feel a bit proud. It was a heck of a thing to shoot. My lead actress was deathly ill, and would power through each take, then collapse onto the floor while we reset. In two days of rehearsal and a morning of shooting, we shot a not uncomplicated, single-take film. It even got good (capsule) reviews from the Post Gazette and City Paper. But it was an experiment, and part of me wishes it wasn’t still out in the wild for people to see.
The other film was what I shot for the 48 Hour Film Project. The way it works is pretty simple: You gather on Friday night, where everyone reaches into a hat and pulls a genre. You then get a piece of paper that’s the same for everyone telling you a character name, a prop and a line of dialog that you have to use. 48 hours later, you have to turn the film you wrote, shot and edited within that time. We pulled Surprise Ending as our genre, which is just an awful genre to pull when you didn’t even know it was a possibility. (Actually we pulled Musical/Western, which is the Genre of Death, and handed it back in to take a wild card genre instead, because neither of those genres were an option for us).
Looking back on “co workers”, the film we produced, is not as hard. If I had been able to sit on the script – or even the edit of the film – for a couple of days I’d have reduced and rewritten a lot of the first two minutes. It had been a while since I shot, so there’s an awkwardness to the opening I wish I could magic wand away. After that, though? Well, unlike most things, I’ll let it speak for itself. For something we wrote between 8PM and midnight, shot between 8AM and 6PM the next day and edited by that time the following evening, I’m still pleased. Actually, I’m kind of pleased with it anyway. The restrictions forced me to actually produce something, front to back, without being able to back out. While I don’t have a lot positive to say about the 48 Hour Film Project competition itself, it was, I think, the experience I needed.
I don’t know where this will lead. Maybe I’m just flirting with this again but will shrink away from what’s an absolutely unpleasant set of challenges. I can always write without filming. Do I want to? Do I want fear and fatigue to be the reason I never film again? I don’t know. I’m still working through it.
I ask you this: Watch “co workers” first. If you think it’s crap, don’t go on to “Tomorrow”, because that film is – in most ways – a step back in quality. If you like “co workers” enough to want to watch the other, know that it is, to my eyes, a interesting experiment that serves as a troublesome artifact of an early writer-filmmaker Eric with whom I not entirely comfortable. I considered not even posting it, but if I can’t look back at what I didn’t get right, I’ll never have the guts to go through with this again. I’d really like some of those guts back.
So, without further ado, I give you “co workers” and “Tomorrow”.