"Attitudes are the forerunners of conditions" (Fortune Cookie)
A few weeks ago I was contacted by a Luke asking me if I would be interested in shooting a pilot for a possible TV series that he wrote. I read the intense script and instantly fell in love with the visuals, but more than that, I fell in love with the passion that Luke had. He is by far one of the most passionate write/directors I've ever met. He values team work and family more than many, but on top of that, he openly and frequently expresses his gratitude. It's funny how you get what you ask for hehe :) It was to be a high pressure, low budget shoot with minimal crew and even less gear. We had a budget of $150/day for lights and Luke wanted "hollywood film quality", if I remember correctly hehe ;) Luckily for me, I live by the motto "pressure makes diamonds" and said yes to the role of Director of Photography. The next biggest challenge in my mind was how I was going to cope with such lack of sleep! Shoot day 1 began the same afternoon I landed back from Vegas (NAB 2013) and carried on into the early morning...I love my life :) But back to Luke, watch out for this guy....he's doing big things, and fast!
If there's one thing that is more important than budget, more important than the camera, lenses, the sound quality, locations.....if there's one thing that makes late nights, cold conditions and high pressure shoots all worth while, it's your crew. I've talked about the importance of crew before, but this shoot was a perfect example of how people's attitudes can really impact a film. Let's face it....the hours and effort we put into production is a massive part of our lives! If it's not enjoyable, then why do it? I know I wouldn't be doing this full time if I didn't enjoy shoot days (and nights), and the the people I work with directly impact that experience. About a year ago I cracked a fortune cookie and really liked what was inside...
Filmmaking is a stressful old thing....so much pressure, so little time, not enough this, not enough that, if only we had this, it's too cold, it's too hot, it's too late, it's sooo early, I'm not getting paid enough, my last shoot had this, etc, etc, etc.....The way I see it is, when I commit to a film, I prepare myself to face challenges and work in situations I'm not used to. Every family is different. Every crew has their quirks. Learning to adapt and accept is one of the best skills you can have as a film-maker. Focusing on what IS good and what you DO have is an empowering thing.
I had never met any of the crew members that I was about to work with on this shoot. After one long 15hr night however, we were (mostly) all friends and beginning to form professional relationships that would soon become a super crew!! Lead by Luke, we managed to pull of some pretty amazing visuals (even if I do say so myself hehe ;) over a total of 5 days.
So where am I going with this blog entry? It's not very well structured and well....what's my point? My point is that I'm beginning to realize that your skills as a makeup artist, sound recordist, cinematographer, actor, director, etc, etc....(sorry if I missed you!) will never shine if your attitude isn't there. Your artistic vision will never be truly alive if you're focusing on what you don't have. "Attitudes are the forerunners of conditions" is a message that holds so much power. Bring that to your next shoot and make the most of it. Your attitude will bounce of other crew members and a super crew will be in the making. Trust me! It works and it's awesome. Now, back to cinematography ;)
Lighting has got to be one of the most important skill sets of a DoP, AND one of the most important things to consider in your next film, right? Your light is your paint.....your pastel, it's what shapes your image. Mastering a camera and choosing a lens is a good start, but without light, it all means nothing. Sort of......but then again..."At the end of the day, without a good script, the film is nothing"....."....oh, you're shooting with a DSLR? That's not good enough for a feature", "WOW you're shooting RED, it's going to look amazing!", "Don't worry about sound, we can do that later", "We're editing in Final Cut", "She worked on the Matrix, so don't worry", "We're shooting most of it on Steadicam so it will be awesome"....blah, blah, blah, blah. I hate this sort of discussion because it tries to narrow down what makes a good film. It's not script, the lenses, or the camera, or the actors, the director, the budget, the locations, the visual effects, the makeup, the set design, the lighting, or the editing.....IT'S ALL OF IT!!! That's why I love film. It's got to be one of the biggest collaborative art forms on the planet! Every one of these aspects mean nothing unless they become one.
I'm always looking at ways I can improve this blog and after writing this post, it dawned upon me. A lot of this industry and it's individual counterparts rely heavily on word of mouth, recommendations, reputation, etc. So, I've decided that once every shoot, I'm going to give a shout-out to a single department and promote them right here :)
Today it's the makeup department. "The Snap Factory" has some pretty gruesome scenes where our lead actor gets the crap bashed out of him, repetitively. It required some pretty heavy duty makeup and Ali Knapton (owner of FX by Design) really came to the table on this one!
Not only does her work speak for itself, but it all comes back to attitude. Professionalism, friendliness, patience and an amazing attention to detail, this is one makeup artist I'd highly recommend and look forward to working with again and again.