One lesson I’ve learned is that there are very few things that are simple about making films, even micro budget shorts. In fact, I was once told that when it comes to filmmaking, the general rule is that if it can go wrong, then it probably will. It might sound a bit pessimistic, but it’s true. Even on a short film, the amount of things that can go wrong, and therefore need to work for the project to be a success, is considerable.
Actors, crew, locations, cinematography, lighting, sound, editing, equipment, costumes/make-up and hair, production design and props are just a few of the things that are potential obstacles to getting your film made. As it happens, it’s that last item that’s giving me the biggest concern at the moment.
I’m working on a short called Runner, and one of the props we’ll need is an imitation handgun, equipped with a silencer. Now, the issue isn’t finding one, as even a basic internet search will draw up a long list of websites that provide imitation firearms for for short and feature length films. The issue has been what might be called the bureaucracy that goes along with it.
It’s not hard to see how using an imitation firearm might cause problems, especially when, as is the case with Runner, it will be an outdoor shoot. Now, every budding filmmaker wants to get noticed. However, I draw the line at getting noticed by the police, especially if they’re armed.
This is where drawing on the experience of your collaborators helps. Two of the crew members on Runner know the procedures to follow when using imitation firearms on a film, including how to go about notifying the police before filming.
It goes to show why filmmaking is such a collaborative process. Not only do you get to bounce ideas off other people, you get the benefits of their experience as well. In this, case, I knew what the script required (the ‘prop firearm’), but I didn’t have the experience of how to go about it.
It might seem like a small thing, but it brings me back to the advice I received about the potential for things to go wrong when making a film. No matter how trivial the ‘thing’ might be, there is a greater chance for things to go wrong if you aren’t prepared, and it’s far easier to be prepared when you have a group of people with whom you can collaborate.
We all have different gifts and skills, strengths and abilities. This is especially relevant when making a film. I’m discovering that one of the skills that a director needs is the ability to recognise what is needed to make any particular film, and find the people that can help to make that script a reality using those skills.
However, trying to do too much yourself only damages the film you’re trying to make, as it can take your focus from your own role, which will in turn affect your ability to manage your cast and crew effectively.
So, whatever the script calls for, it’s far better to meet those challenges with a decent sized group of collaborators around you. It might be the case that you don’t know the answer to a particular problem, but someone working with you might. If that’s the case, you might also discover that problem wasn’t as hard as you thought.