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  • Writer's pictureAna Lyz

Hiccups in Filmmaking

We’ve all been there.

When it comes to filmmaking, whether you’ve just picked up a camera or have been doing this for decades, things don’t always seem to go as planned. In fact, it’s almost a given that something will come up on any shoot day.

This past year, I worked on four different film sets. Four productions, each with their own package of inconveniences and learning experiences. I’m only focusing on three for today.

The Missing Piece

The first set I was a part of, I was asked to do sound design. I had never handled a boom pole on a set before, didn’t even know how to coil the cables properly (it’s still a puzzle to me).

The director was a professor of mine, so our crew was a fun bunch of people I was already familiar with. Our location was a local restaurant that conveniently was closed on the days we were all available. So we were all ready to have this done in two days. In and out. Simple. On day one, our main character was unable to come due to some health issues. That left us having to reroute our entire game plan.

I remember getting to the set at the same time as all crew members. But I didn’t actually get to do anything until about 2 hours later because we still needed set design and the cinematographer was still finalizing some of their shotlist. Plus, audio is one of the last things to get prepped anyways.

Because of our missing protagonist, day two was rescheduled. And we never came back. Thankfully the actor did get better, but then our cinematographer left the picture. BIG missing piece. Eventually, people started dropping out, one by one until the director said “no más.” This happens a lot with productions, even those with a generous budget. It’s just part of the game.

Sunsets Are Pretty Until They’re Not

Summer was ending and a friend had a short film idea on the beach. The entire plot happened during sunset, so we knew we had to be extremely fast and efficient so that lighting could be consistent. The biggest lesson I learned is that sunsets are shorter than you think. We had to return to our location four times because it was getting dark too quickly for us and our light panels weren’t giving us the natural light we wanted. How could they? They’re not the Sun. No matter how many times we’d show up, or how early we got there to set up, we still found ourselves staring at our monitors, puzzled. We’d stop, stare and wonder “is the lighting off here?” Was it this dark yesterday? Was it this orange? How cloudy was it two days ago vs now? So many variables because each sunset is different. (We sure love nature in its raw beauty).

To top off the time crunch, the lovely clouds kept on conspiring against us. Expected rain made us reschedule (it didn’t end up raining anymore), unexpected rain made us cut things short (whatever happened with forecasted clear skies?). What we thought would be a fun beach shoot soon became a nightmare.

On the last day, we were filming the last scenes. It was already pitch black and these scenes took place on the shoreline. The water was pretty cold for all of us. We’re getting as many angles as we can, and low and behold a bigger wave hit our DP and the camera was submerged in the dark, mysterious NYC salt water. Nobody said a word, we froze for a second, hoping that we didn’t just witness the horror. When I snapped out of that shock and rushed to our DP, our screen was glitching. It looked like there was water in the lens, or worse, the sensor. Clearly we were done for the day, and basically with the entire journey. Weeks later, we were relieved to learn that only the LCD screen was damaged, and nothing more. We did not lose any footage. I’ve now developed a love-hate relationship with the beach, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

The Big One

A 38 page script, 12 crew members (big deal for us aspiring filmmakers), and one solid location. This project was actually written and directed by two actors. Biggest story I’ve worked with so far, and I knew that this was going to be a big production. At first, I was a bit nervous about actors being in charge. I was afraid they wouldn’t understand the logistics of filmmaking and how holding up a camera isn’t as easy as it may seem. To my surprise though, both of these amazing people had previous experience with filmmaking. One of them with editing, and the other had actually gone to film school. I felt very confident about this production because of everyone’s experience and that our story was very compelling.

Our goal was to shoot everything in two weekends, six days to shoot 38 pages. Quite ambitious if you ask me, but who doesn’t love a challenge? We scheduled 12-hour days, with appropriate power breaks along the way. We were having so much fun. Unfortunately, the weather once again stood in the way. It’s been two months since we last got together and we still have one day left to shoot which has been rescheduled until 2023. I think the biggest struggle is accommodating everybody’s busy schedule. The dream would be to make movies for a living, full time. But for now, we have to do it on the side. Squeeze it in our limited free time. While others are going out on Friday nights, or binge watching their favorite Netflix show, we're filming. That’s the beauty of doing what you love. Yes, the hustle can be draining at times, but it’s so enjoyable that we don’t care if we lose sleep, time and don’t get paid for it. Money isn’t everything, and that’s my biggest takeaway from this project. I was so happy that so many of us had this shared passion for creating. None of us felt forced to be there. We went the extra mile to make things work.

If you’re also a creator, then you understand what I’m talking about. It’s more about the process.

Mark Manson posed the question, What is the pain that you want to sustain? I find it quite fitting for this, so I'm just leaving it here so you can answer that question for youself.

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