We're hurtling towards the finish line, of course there are still a few things that need to be completed before we get there - a few shots need tweaking in the grade and we still have the sound mis to go, but the sound edit is 90% there.
I've spent the last ten days looking at potential venues for the WORLD PREMIERE (woooo) and the cast and crew screening - as ever these things take forever and I'm still awaiting final confirmation - but things are looking good. Talking of looking good (what a fricken' segue - I should be on the telly, me) James and I spent yesterday looking at and making decisions on Stagg Do merchandise! You know T-shirts, mugs, keyrings and such like… I'll be putting up a store on here in the next couple of weeks and you can all start preordering your "merch" as the cool kids say. In many ways that's what this particular post is about - what sort of merchandise would you guys like to buy - if any? DVDs, CDs and T-shirts are a definite - but what else would float your boat? Fancy emailing us? Or just bunging an answer in the comments below?
Also if you know anybody who might be interested in sponsoring our release or advertising with us then please send them our way. And finally if you a spare quid or two that you can sling into our Paypal account we'd be most grateful.
Memes, memes, memes
And finally - check out our meme contest - the entries are currently here and our our tumblr. Why not visit a meme generator and knock some up for us? You can submit them on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr or if social media doesn't appeal, you can email them to us. There will be EXCLUSIVE prizes and discounts for the winners, including a pair of tickets* to our WORLD PREMIERE this summer.
Memes are also a great way for us to spread the word about the film and to help us bring people to the website - so feel free to share any you like along with a link, to us here, on any platform that you use. I think I'll be setting up a Pinterest and Instagram account soon - so any pointers you might have will be appreciated. And one last thing - would you be interested in signing up to our newsletter for exclusive updates and offers?
*WORLD PREMIERE will be in North East England - transport not included
You can never do enough pre-production. It doesn't matter what type of show you're working on, it could be a short film, a corporate gig, a music video, whatever. You never get to do enough planning. This is pretty much a given in the film industry and with the Stagg Do this was also true, but it was no surprise. I was informed of this from the very beginning, the first meeting I had with James it was made perfectly clear that this was a labour of love on a shoestring budget. Fine by me, everything I've worked on to date has lacked the money to get all the toys and support one would love to have on a project. You have to make the best with what you have, and I've always been a firm believer that it doesn't matter what format you are shooting on, it's HOW you shoot and WHAT you are shooting that counts.
What stood out the most about this project was the enthusiasm and sheer ballsiness of the producer and director. It was never going to be an "easy" shoot. Not by a long shot, but damned if they were going to let that stop them. When people care that much about a project you cannot help but be swept up into it with them. I had nerves, just as any first time feature DoP would have, but confidence that what I had done up until now had made me ready for what lay ahead. Every shoot has it's challenges, like choosing a path on a climbing wall. What we had in front of us this time though, was a mountain!
And fuck me if we didn't conquer it. Other blogs have talked about the struggles and frustrations we faced on our 8 days in the summer of 2011. Other people more eloquent and, dare I say it, tactful than me have covered the dramas behind the scenes so I'm not going to go into that at all here. My own personal experience with this film was fulfilling and positive, no matter the trials we faced. It didn't matter how cold and wet it got, it didn't matter how far off the schedule things went, we knuckled down and did the work in front of us.
Tempers fray, when you are spending that much time with people you hardly know, under the cosh of the elements and when things don't go according to plan, people are going to snap. You deal with it, you move on. The only place I have really revelled in stress of any kind is on a film set. It drives you, it makes you grit your teeth and say "fuck it, let's do this" all the more, and that is exactly what we did. All of us.
Did we make mistakes? Sure for a lot of us this was our first feature. Did we get behind on schedule at times? Absolutely, but when the chips were down we rallied back. In the end we were a team, we started as a team and we finished as a team, even though there were subs along the way. Regardless of all of that I'm proud of what we did. Proud that we took the gamble, looked at the odds and went all in. It's balls like that that gets films made.
I have a lot of respect for the people I worked with on The Stagg Do. The choices that were made in bringing this film to fruition were extremely brave, from the casting of non-actors in the main roles and shooting in woods night with minimal lighting, to having a profoundly deaf production/ camera assistant. I got the opportunity to work directly with some great new people and some who I've always wanted to work with. I got the chance to support two of the most passionate filmmakers I know and help them make the film they wanted to. I'm proud to say I was the director of photography on The Stagg Do.
by Richy Reay
accept no substitutes.
35 months ago Pob and James went for a pint to The Cluny, there's nothing in that - at the time we were talking about working together on some comedy sketches. Anyway, when I when to pick them up, they were like a couple of kids on Christmas Eve.
"We've come up with an outline for a feature film - something we can do on NO money" they babbled. "It's Pissheads Go Camping - but it's not just a camping trip, it's a stag do. We've even got a title The Stagg Do." You see one of our characters in Pissheads is called Staggy… he'll be the one getting married in the film!
I was instantly on the hook - "yeah this is possible" I thought - it was finally an opportunity to take what we had around us and craft a story and film from that - we already had the characters, they had the plot - we had the kit… what were we waiting for?
Fastforward 3 months, and 6 drafts later, we entered principle photography… which was HELL. Proper old fashioned hell, I could go into detail - but what's the point in raking over old ground? If you're really interested, read the archives from July and August 2011 as it was all blogged about at the time.
Anyway we got through it and then some. I had my right knee reconstructed - we shot new scenes, scenes we dropped and scenes we fucked up the first time around. David (our editor) busted his balls to get us a decent cut, James and I spent hours and days shooting extra footage. Richy corralled some mates to help with a big reshoot/ shoot night and on we went. Ashleigh and The Kid (Chris) slogged their guts out on animations and visual effects, music was found and replaced, musicians were contacted.
We edited, reedited, experimented - laughed, cried, pulled our hair out and generally got stuck in… And finally in December 2012, we had "picture lock". Then we ran out of money. Literally. James and I were flat broke and everything in the house decided to die at the same time.
We had had so much momentum and then we stopped - dead.
We didn't give up though, determined to get it finished and get it out there. As much for our own sanity as anything else. Stephen at Fantomeline kept grading - we kept praying for a lottery win and then came another kick in the teeth. An Irish film - The Stag was premiering in Toronto and it sounded remarkably like our film. How was that possible? What could we do? Without money not a lot… So we cried to ourselves (swore a lot) gritted our teeth and went on with our lives. In January though we learned that The Stag was getting a UK release in March… And we decided - let's beat them. Get out before them.
But there was still too much to do. I reckoned we had 5 weeks, Aris (our sound god) said we needed 6 to sort out the sound - which of course was recorded by 3 different people! He wanted to ADR - I didn't think the lads (Pob and Staggy - non-actors) would ever be able to do it… We STILL had no money.
Anyway a load more favours were pulled in, Richy agreed to finesse Chris' VFX (he'd now moved to Leeds), Aris persuaded Rich to help us with the ADR sessions and to let us use his studio for the mix - and so the madness resumed…
We're going into the mix next month, and we'll be going for our BBFC soon after and then finally we will be ready to release the film. It's rude, it's crude, it's insanity to the max. It's experimental both in storytelling and in filmmaking - if it were a drama we wouldn't need to explain ourselves - but apparently you can't make experimental (almost arthouse) comedies if they are chockful of low brow nob gags! Who knew?
Today is 13 weeks to the day since we wrapped principle photography on The Stagg Do. It seems as good a time as any to reflect on the shoot, enough distance has passed to dull the raw emotions that we experienced during those mad, mad 8 days in the summer. And now that Lucas has finished serialising the shoot and all of the mishaps and mistakes that almost resulted in our first film being a clusterfuck, I think it’s a good time to look at the positives - because as much as this was a NIGHTMARE shoot, and it really was, there was a ton of great stuff, too. As ever, the great stuff doesn’t always make the best drama or get talked about, so in an attempt to redress the balance, here goes.
Yep, full disclosure, even though it ended badly, Jennifer was a massive plus point in preproduction and her enthusiasm for The Stagg Do was a big help in getting the film made. Without her initial belief in the project and without her cheerleading from Bristol - we probably would have bottled it and pulled the plug before we even started. She also brought Ben Moseley and Jen Saguaro with her, and they filled valuable crew positions on the film, not to mention her help in sourcing our bordello room location on Couchsurfing.
The Sound Department SNAFUS
We had a disaster in prep (which I blogged about here) when Dave, our original sound recordist, had to drop out a few days before the shoot. At the time it felt like a major problem - but as is often the case - the cloud had a silver lining. We couldn’t find one recordist who was available to cover at short notice - but we did find two who could split the shoot between them - Xander and Jerry who both brought so much to the table. Especially Jerry who has a big old white van full of all sorts of weird stuff that you always find yourself needing on a film shoot. Dave’s injury and Xander and Jerry’s unavailability for the big reshoot night brought us into contact with yet another locally based recordist - Aris who was great on that night. Hopefully sound will never be a department where we are lacking in talent ever again. Three mighty finds - all because of a mishap to the original incumbent.
We Broke Lots Of Rules
I’m not talking about those rules, the ones that breaking can (and almost did) destroy the film, rather I’m talking about the unwritten rules that often result in the safe and sanitary fare that is available in cinemas these days. So what do I mean exactly?
Well, first off we used non actors. Loads of them. Pob and Staggy, our two leads, aren’t actors. Pob, who has been in a few of our films before, works in the public sector full time. And Staggy has only done one little thing with us before - he works in the oil and petroleum industry, and is out of the country for half the year. I know that their on-set difficulties in remembering lines was frustrating for the crew at times - but looking at their performances in the edit, I think it was a risk that more than paid off. There is an honesty and rawness in their acting that I haven’t seen for years, and personally speaking I find that both exhilarating and refreshing.
Also we shot in the middle of Northumberland, outside in the middle of nowhere. In the night. This was almost our undoing as the weather decided to be even crappier than usual - and although for the most part there was no rain forecast, it did rain. A lot. Except of course on Day 7 when we were filming indoors… Ha - just typical really, the result is worthwhile though I think - as the film has a real outdoorsy feel to it. It’s not constrained by the usual ethos of one location in natural light (or better still indoors) with only a couple of actors.
Not A Near Mutiny
I’m not sure there ever was a near mutiny - from all of my conversations with crew during and after the shoot, other than the defections that you’ve read about - nobody was close to walking. And actually, as a direct result of the shoot I have found a whole new group of colleagues and mates - people whom I’d never have met if not for the film.
I'm sure the whole shoot reads like a total balls up where the press ganged crew narrowly averted disaster and somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But in reality I think that other than the disgruntled couple, everyone on the shoot learned something about filmmaking. The thing with this film was for most of the crew it was a first feature, James has directed a few shorts but this was his first feature, same with Richard, our DoP, who is primarily a director and me - I’ve produced a TON of shorts and corporates but this was my first feature film. So apart from giving them a fully rounded introduction in the ways of filmmaking - the tantrums, the drama, the tears - I think most of them really enjoyed the shoot - at least that's what they told me LOL.
And of course you’ve already read how a few of our cast were noobs too. We had two runners who had never been on set before - they were half decent runners by the end of the shoot. It was a small crew, but still the biggest production many of them had been on, also I have to say, we discovered a couple of real diamonds in Simon Herdman and Tina Frank.
The Generosity Of Others
Filmmaking is always a team effort and in that respect The Stagg Do was no different from any other shoot, where it might differ though is in the sheer levels of generosity that we experienced from friends, family, colleagues and crew - and actually even people we don't really know well at all. So many people and businesses went above and beyond the call of duty to help us get this film made. That for me is the real story of this shoot, whether it was Dawn Furness who so kindly let me house about 10 people in her 3 bedroomed semi (we were originally going to camp) or whether it was Andy Simpson's mum and dad who didn't kill me when I turned up at their house at midnight with a load of Tesco ready meals. Then there's the locations - people letting a film crew take over their house (and toilet!!!) - I think I still owe Chris and Deanna about 2 dozen rolls of Andrex! Anyway look around the Special Thanks Page - everyone on there went an extra mile to help James and I get this film made. So thank you... We owe you man.
We made a fucking film man
Yep - the most important positive of all! It’s only taken 9 years - but we FINALLY MADE A FUCKING FILM! And that can never be taken away from us. We had a film (Pissheads) that we were supposed to shoot last year - but thanks to some dodgy politics - the financing fell apart… If we’d waited to refinance Pissheads or tried to raise money for one of the other films on our slate, I reckon we’d still be waiting! But through a series of fortunate breaks and a bit of great timing we came up with The Stagg Do and managed to put it together in about 3 months. James and I are still chuffed to bits that we managed to pull it off - and I really hope you all like the finished film.
So all in all it was a mixed bag of a shoot - but you know what? We made a fucking film! Did I tell you that???
No picture on this blog - sorry to offend the purists! It's always difficult to write a ton about editing because it's a long and technical process and probably not even vaguely interesting to the hardened fan let alone the casual enthusiast. This week and a half has been really interesting to me (as a first time producer) though - you see our editor, David, is based in London these days. This means our edit has consisted of him working on the film there and then sending us the Final Cut Pro project file and us watching it here then chatting and exchanging notes over Skype - YAY modern technology. This is great and we have made some outstanding progress using this method - but nothing beats time spent in an edit suite sitting with your editor.
It's this time together that can produce the really spot on moments in a film. This "magic" (yes I vomited a little in my mouth there too) happens when a group of creative individuals have time and freedom to experiment. At the end of the day so much of filmmaking is about experimentation - it's art daaahling after all. That statement may sound odd coming from somebody like me who lambastes the artistes and their arty-farty award-winning shite which so often goes on to win major prizes but is seldom seen by the public at large, but really it isn't. I may not like arthouse cinema generally and often the films aren't my cup of tea, but I can and do admire the singular vision, courage and experimentation that goes to create it. What disappoints me most is why more mainstream cinema can't be more edgy and experimental (and I don't mean that in a Hollywood marketing - quirky way) what I mean is why the fuck has mainstream cinema become so derivative? It wasn't always this way - Godfather, Goodfellas, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot - all felt fresh at the time they came out and were al made by a Studio... what happened?
This obsession with comic books, remakes and sequels has to stop - it's driving me mad. And it drives me even more mad that this obsession with "playing it safe" is bleeding into the independent world too! You know what I'm saying: shoot in one location, use only a few actors don't take risks with framing or shooting style, don't shoot outdoors... Fuck that - on this we took a ton of risks some backfired spectacularly - but most of them didn't; but if we hadn't taken the risks, if we'd played it safe we wouldn't have those little "bits of magic" (VOMIT) that I'm so proud of. Tell your story, your way - fuck them - life's too short to do it any other way.
This is something BIG JIMMY DEMARCO and I have been thinking and talking a lot about lately and he wrote a little blog about the same subject from a writer's perspective last week - maybe it all goes back to the gurus?
Terry Tito Franco
Reproduced from director James DeMarco's blog.
Terry Francona will always be remembered as the most successful Red Sox manager of all time, and his recent dismissal has left me (and probably most of Red Sox Nation), feeling a bit depressed. But after the infamous September swoon, someone had to pay the price.
Don’t get me wrong, “Tito’s” 8-year-tenure as Sox manager wasn’t perfect. Sometimes he backed slumping players for too long (e.g. Carl Crawford, Tim Wakefield and others). Some critics thought he should’ve called out John Lackey for staring him down during his all-too-frequent visit to the pitcher’s mound to mercifully pull Lackey from the game.
The main rap on Tito was that he was too much of a ‘players’ manager, which I guess translates to - he was too soft on the players, i.e. he was a weak manager. Even if that were true, he always had his players’ backs. During his tenure, he never publicly humiliated or dressed down any member of the team, rarely giving the carnivorous Boston Media anything to exploit. He reserved his ire, concern or criticism for behind closed doors, out of the lime light, away from the sharks. I’m sure most of the players respected him for it.
The reason why I bring all this up is that I can see a little of myself in Terry Francona. When it comes to filmmaking, I don’t believe in shouting at, castigating or humiliating any members of the cast and crew in public. My motto has always been to treat people the way you want to be treated. So if someone makes a mistake, and let’s face it we all do, you take them aside privately and try to resolve it without letting it interfere with the bigger picture, namely trying to make the best film possible - or as Zahra said when I first moved to the UK, “don’t take any shit and don’t give any shit.”
Unfortunately, it seems as if a lot of film people view this type of management as a sign of being weak. In my admittedly limited experience on sets, I’ve found that for some strange, twisted reason, some filmmakers enjoy seeing the Director or Producer having a go at crew in public view. It’s almost as if shouting and humiliating a crew member is a way to gain credibility and respect - to show everyone who’s boss! I’m sorry, but that seems pretty fucked up to me.
I don’t think it’s necessary, and, more important, I don’t think it works. Why would it? Studies have proven that this type of management is unsuccessful in child rearing, and definitely not a productive strategy in business management. In fact I would surmise that when you chastise a cast or crew member in front of his peers or colleagues, he or she is more likely to spend the rest of the shoot conjuring up ways to get back at you and/ or your production. And nobody wants that.
What I find worst about the shout and humiliate style of management is that it’s often inconsistent, primarily aimed at the weakest of the crew or the newbies. Take my recent film “The Stagg Do” for example - do you really think that any member of management would have the balls to shout at Pob or Craig? I doubt it. Well, maybe Zahra, but only if they shouted at her first.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if it is in your DNA that you must really act like a prick, then act like a prick. Scream, shout, humiliate - you have my blessing. But at least be consistent about it. Don’t just shout at the defenseless intern and turn a blind eye to other, more intimidating members of cast or crew. Because that makes you a hypocrite.
Which brings me back to Terry Francona, just because a person doesn’t rant, rave or humiliate members of his cast, crew or TEAM, doesn’t mean he’s not passionate about his job or project. Nor does it mean that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.
The independent film industry seems to have this unwritten code that management must appear and behave in a certain way, which includes acting like a callous twat on set. As I’ve said many times before - this is filmmaking, we’re not saving lives. This is supposed to be fun! The film set doesn’t have to look like a war zone or Carrie’s night at the highschool prom. In retrospect, I believe that having a relaxed film set (or even relaxed baseball *team*) is nearly impossible to achieve with people screaming, berating, blaming and backstabbing their coworkers.
You can always bet on certain things going wrong on a no-budget shoot: i.e. actors forgetting lines or arriving late; key crew members becoming ill or having to quit because of other paying gigs; props not working, the weather being shit (especially in the North East of England), running out of time in a location, etc. etc. etc... but whether you’re a baseball manager or a film director, what you don’t expect is your team to quit on you - that really is unforgivable. As the late great Vince Lombardi said: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.”
Would I do it all again? Of course. Despite all the problems, pain and hardship we endured during our 8-day shoot, in the end we still made a feature film. That in itself is far better than not making a film. When I think back to the day in late April when Pob and I came up with the premise of “The Stagg Do”, the turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable. I wrote the script in less than a month. The entire project was put together in a matter of weeks. Some amazing stuff.
I’ll continue to take away the positives from the shoot, and look at the negatives as just part of the filmmaking experience. Just like Tito Francona, I will live and learn.
As I have alluded on this blog before we had some major problems on The Stagg Do shoot, Lucas McNelly whom I've talked about here and who you can follow here recently wrote this blog on the A Year Without Rent project site about where on-set problems come from and how to avoid them. This got me thinking more about some of our problems and how we should have seen them coming. I've taken his blog (italics) and written a response/ explanation to each point. Before you read though it's important to know that I agree 100% with his 5 rules and that generally ie on the 20+ shorts we've made before, we've adhered to them all!
The thing is most film shoots suffer from a variety of problems and as Lucas so rightly points out, they usually stem from the same few causes. It's funny, I guess, that he is spending a year travelling around working on all of these films and yet he still gets confronted by the same issues time and time again - not least on The Stagg Do where we broke at least four of these rules. Haha - guess the philosopher in me says: I'm glad I'm not Lucas, maybe he should rename AYWR as Groundhog Shoot.
1. Hire Good People
UP COUNTRY isn't really one of our projects (well, the production part, anyway), but we had one really, really inept crew member. He shouldn't have been anywhere near the set. Luckily, he was at the bottom of the totem pole, but I've seen producers who shouldn't have been anywhere near the set. It happens all over the place. And it isn't always because they're inept. Sometimes they just can't handle the job. Sometimes their personality clashes with the people they're supposed to be working with. Whatever the situation, these are things you (and I) should be figuring out in pre-production. Check references. Ask around. You can learn a lot about someone by talking to people they've worked with.
I think a lot of our problems on The Stagg Do came from this basic mistake. Not that we hired bad people per se, but we had a hodge-podge crew - some people with no previous experience but a lot of willingness and then some people with lots of experience. What didn’t work though was the different styles and personalities. James and I fundamentally believe that you shouldn’t shout at people to make them work harder and that “buy-in” is way more important. I like a loose set not something that resembles a military operation, and I know that if you shout at me the last thing I’m going to do is work hard for you. That doesn’t mean that being a “hard-ass” is wrong and from my experience the people with “hard-ass” reputations do work harder and use their own exacting standards on themselves, I just see that the two styles are in direct contrast with each other and don’t dovetail well* (*at all).
This is totally on me as I didn’t do my homework and make the calls needed to find out what people would be like on set. I built a bad team. Lesson learned for next time.
The other thing which has become apparent in the interceding time, mainly as a result of last week’s pick up/ reshoot night, was that we had too many people on set. The crew was too big. Of course I sought advice from people while crewing up - but in hindsight we could have lost about 5 crew without any discernible difference, except the positive one of streamlining the crew.
Having the right blend of personalities I think is the most important lesson to take from this, which reminds me how not only did we break Lucas' rule - but also that in doing so we broke FNA's number one rule: "We don't want the best person for a role if they don't have the personality to fit with our team." - FNA4Life and all that.
2. Do Your Homework
You don't always have to do storyboards. Lots of filmmakers don't. You don't even necessarily need a shot list. Or a script. But, dammit, you have to know your story. You have to know what you want and how to get it. Otherwise, you're just floundering around on set. It looks weak. And when you look weak, the sharks will find you. And when the sharks find you, I write that shit down.
James (full disclosure - my partner as well as the writer/ director) always knows his project, he knew where the problems were likely to come from ie the actors (we had two non actors in the leads) and so wanted to spend as much time as possible concentrating on the performances. This meant a LOT of work fell on the AD and DoP, this had been planned and okayed by the DoP and the AD - with meetings and Skypes in advance to let them know what was needed shot-wise so James could devote most of his time on-set to rehearsing the cast. Unfortunately this didn’t really work out the way it was supposed to, maybe because they didn’t have big/ experienced enough departments to deal with it properly.
What surprised me most was that when we started floundering people didn’t tell me (and I was there or thereabouts most of the time). This meant that often people made mistakes (it’s okay, we all do) which meant people started to not trust each other - which is where the problems become huge! TRUST is a massive part of teamwork. We had three “factions” (I use the term loosely - cause it wasn’t “that bad”) and none of them really trusted each other - mainly because they had all seen the mistakes the others made, which created this lack of faith. The thing is everyone makes mistakes - and believe me on our shoot EVERYONE did make mistakes, the key for me though is to acknowledge your own failings and admit to them rather than covering them up and pointing the finger! At the end of the day it was/ is mine and James’ film and mine and James’ money on the line - if we aren’t stressing and blowing a gasket at every given opportunity why should anyone else? Life and by extension filmmaking is basically a series of problems - how you deal with those problems says more about you than you could ever imagine! CLUE: Moaning and blaming other people doesn’t make the problem go away.
Then there are the unexpected problems (that come from using non-professional actors) we were using one of the actor’s cars as the action vehicle. We had been told we could use it on the Saturday and Sunday (Day 1 and Day 2) but not during the week as his wife needed it. We built a lot of the schedule around the availability of the car. The actor turned up to his costume fitting the day before we started and said we couldn’t use the car on the Sat and Sun but we could use it during the week! This of course fucked the schedule before we started and that was the root cause of a ton of the hassle. In fairness to the actor (as a non pro) he had no idea that this simple switcheroo with his wife could have such a massive impact on everything else!
Preparation is key in all of this, of course, and really condensing prep into a few short weeks maybe was a dumbass thing to do - but as they say sometimes you have to seize the day, and I seriously believe if we hadn't shot The Stagg Do when we did then FNA would still be waiting to shoot their first feature. We took a lot of risks on this project, some worked and a few backfired - but you know what they say: "Fortune favours the brave."
3. Feed People
Seriously. Fucking feed people. There should be a craft services table with healthy snacks on it. And meals. Real meals. On-time. If you're shooting on location and the crew lives on location, then you are responsible for all 3 meals. A hungry crew is a grumpy crew. It takes very little to turn a grumpy crew into an angry crew. You don't want an angry crew.
As for beer: wrap beers are a good idea. On-set beers are a bad idea.
Catering was always going to be a nightmare on this, not so much from a budget point of view but from a logistical one, as we were in the middle of nowhere, on night shoots. The three days I had left myself to plan catering got swallowed by replacing the sound department (the recordist broke his hand just before the shoot). I think for two days the food was sandwiches - which is shit and for that I hold my hands up and apologise, it wasn’t good enough. We did have a barbecue on one day though and fresh fish and chips on another - so it wasn’t all bad! Beer? On-set beer was a feature, not one I was particularly happy about - but I can see both sides. And because of how the schedule worked out we kind of had two wrap parties, which for me personally made up for a lot of the shit that we’d gone through.
Yeah I should've leaned even heavier on my mate Dawn - she could've and would've catered the whole thing under budget, but as most of the crew were staying in her house I felt asking another favour would have been taking the piss. But lesson learned: "Shy bairns get ne sweets." aka "The crew of shy producers get crap food."
4. Call Sheet
The crew should have a call sheet before they wrap for the night. At bare minimum, a call time that's clear to everyone. Don't assume word will get around. People like to know if they have to be up at 6am or 10am before they decide if they want to start drinking.
But, seriously, a call sheet should have more information than you think it needs. The schedule. The scenes to be shot. The weather. Directions to crew parking. The crew is going to carry it around all day, so give them all the information they need.
Our schedule snafus caused by the car situation meant that we were rescheduling on the fly for the first three or four days, this of course meant call sheets often didn’t arrive until midnight - and at least once I totally missed someone off the distribution list! Of course it didn’t help that in the midst of all this shit shovelling (which let’s face it, when things go spectacularly wrong - is what it is) that the cool heads didn’t always prevail and help head off other situations before they blew up; this turned a little snowball into a full blown avalanche! The last day, I did the callsheet - it was poo. Seriously poo.
Once the schedule goes tits up on the eve of principle photography you're always facing an uphill battle. Make sure your trenches are filled with people who are up for the fight.
Things will go wrong. The schedule will change. When it does, tell people. The people working on this film with you aren't your employees, they're your creative partners. Treat them as such. The crew probably knows before you do that you aren't going to make your day. What they don't know is how you're going to adjust. So keep them in the loop. If you know that you're going 3 hours over the scheduled wrap time, it's a good idea to get everyone else's buy-in. If they say "no", then they're the bad guys. If you don't ask, you're the bad guy.
Fortunately this wasn’t a major issue for us as our schedule was dictated by the light. We shot when it was dark and stopped at sun up. Having said that I do think on set communication was a problem throughout, with people making decisions they shouldn’t and then not even feeding back to the director or producer! I guess if James or I had been hard-asses then that at least wouldn't have happened! LOL.
This one always makes me laugh more than any other - we are in the business of communication, yet too often as practitioners we forget this and bottle stuff up or think the jungle drums will pass the message on. Not true - be proactive and make sure the message is loud and clear.
You'll notice that none of these things have anything to do with your budget. Well, the food does, but if you don't have the budget to feed people, you should be making a smaller movie. This is almost entirely a list of things that involve organization or being a good boss. Management 101 stuff. And it's in your control, whether your budget is $1,000 or $1,000,000. And, really, if you can't do these things, you shouldn't be surprised when things fall apart. Because they probably will. And you definitely shouldn't be surprised when I write about your production being a disorganized clusterfuck, even if it doesn't seem like that to you.
But if you can handle that (and really, it's a pretty basic list), you shouldn't be all that worried. If you really do the work, I'm going to write about that. So man up (or woman up) and get on the schedule already.
Was our film disorganised? Definitely. Could it have been better organised? Probably. Was it a clusterfuck? It wouldn’t have been if everyone had been pulling in the same direction - ie if we had a team - rather than a dozen individuals all trying to protect their corner so they don’t lose face in front of Lucas.
Should you have Lucas on your set? Yes. Because if nothing else (and there is more - he works really hard and he knows his shit) having that fuck off big spotlight that he brings shows you ALL of the cracks in your organisation and helps you root out the crap - and that can only be a good thing in the long run. In the short term it’s the kind of catharsis that feels like a root canal however!
Of course having seen Lost In La Mancha and Hearts Of Darkness you can't always tell from the shoot how the film will turn out (or not!) - and at the end of the day if the film turns out okay or great nobody gives a fuck about the process! It's just a shame we didn't have someone recording our "behind the scenes" - it would've been a doozy!!!
So what is the overall lesson I've learned from all of this? Making films is bloody hard work, and people act/ react differently under pressure - but overall it's more like a lesson I've relearned: It's not rocket science and we are not saving lives. ENJOY.
Will try our best to keep this busy during the shoot and post-production.