This year I’m making my first feature film.
The beginnings of this project grew from the experience I had making my first short film late last year. For years prior to making the film there I had started and abandoned the project several times. The time was never right, I told myself, and I kept waiting for some sign or savior to make it the right time, to take care of all
the obstacles that I thought prevented me from making the film. This inaction built on a mountain of excuses kept the project dormant for years.
I realized eventually that there was no benefactor waiting in the wings and eager to shepherd me through the completion of my film. Nobody was going solve my problems. The real epiphany was when I realized that all
of these problems that I saw, questions about crew and money and logistics and talent, they all began and ended with me. The only thing that stood in my way was myself and my own inaction, my own paralysis of analysis. It was a lightning bolt from Providence when I realized that I could solve those problems, that I could actually make something. The hardest part of making my short film was taking the first forward and realizing that there is no “right time”. The time is now.
I am fortunate enough to have friends and family who care enough about me that they were willing to help, and the most humbling experience of my life was asking for that help, and then receiving it. For me, that was a near sacred experience. I created a campaign on GoFundMe and I sent that out to everyone I knew. I was able to raise over $10,000 for the film. I had friends and family volunteer as extras, and people far more experienced and talented than me worked on set at discounted rates or donated their time outright. We pushed through two grueling night shoots and then I spent the next month editing the film. Those days on set were among the best of my life, and were confirmation that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
The whole time I was making See, I envisioned a future where the film would be a success by any definition of the word, and that it would catapult me into a life filled with opportunity and heaps of money. I saw the film as a personal expression of what I believe successful cinema to be, and I expected everyone else to see it that way too. I expected the film to open doors for me, and planned on leveraging those envisioned opportunities to make a feature length version of my short film, just like Damien Chazelle and Jim Cummings did before me with Whiplash and Thunder Road.
And it didn’t happen that way.
See hasn’t been accepted into any major festivals, and I didn’t win anything in the only local festival where the film has played. It hasn’t opened any wallets for me. I haven’t had tens of thousands of views, and nobody has contacted me about other work opportunities.
But it changed my life, nonetheless. I learned while making the film two important lessons.
First: The time to do something is now.
Second: If I don’t know something, I can learn it.
It is so easy to put things off, and I am a professional at making excuses for myself. I create obstacles, barriers that keep me for stretching myself and creating things worth a damn, and making See helped me realize those invaluable lessons. The film was not a failure. The film was the best school I’ve ever been to, and the experience is of making it is what has inspired me to make a feature film.
I’ve seen Following, and Primer, and El Mariachi, and those guys all made stellar films without traditional support structures. Granted, Chris Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, and Shane Carruth are all gifted directors that understand story and film on a level that I’m still trying to get to. I’m not as talented as they are, I don’t know as much, but I know that I can learn, and that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t know how to craft an emotional, meaningful story. I don’t know how to enable actors to give powerful performances. I don’t know how to direct, but this summer I’m going back to school. I’m going to make a feature film without a professional crew, with upcoming actors, and a budget that would make you laugh. My goal with this blog is be upfront about the process and honest about the journey. I’m going to document every dime I spend, every decision I make, and how I got there.
So come with me, follow along, and we’ll see how deep this rabbit hole goes.