Thursday, February 21, 2008

Challenging the creative soul

I've been mulling ideas and writing things down in order to kick start the creative process within me. But the grind does happen and I think I've written about it here. Everyday life seems to grind those processes to nil. But that's an excuse.

If you really want something bad enough you'll find the time, and do it. It just takes a bit longer. I've always approached an idea on what type of resources I have on hand. A particular location, an acquaintance of actors, or maybe just a prop. From that I usually start building something resembling a story. The old trick is to keep on writing. I sometimes come across a scene or act that I feel is above me. I write it as if I had no limitations, and only after scale it down if I decide to move on it. Not the best way to work, but we do what we need to do, and if this is how a film gets done then so be it. I've been a member of crews throughout the years that had very little money to work with. A lot of these films feed the VCR cassette days (or is it daze) in the 80's. I was young and full of myself back then, and sleeping little, and not eating properly was a right of passage back then. But what I learned became invaluable in time. I was party to all sorts of behind the scenes drama even if I didn't want to be.

Maybe that's what soured my outlook on production. It was all dollars & cents for the top echelon of production personnel. We at the bottom were of the production food chain did it for love, or the experience. When a crew was treated well the production was a dream, but when there was hardly any money for food then rebellion ran rampant.

So that's why I start at the bottom of the line, and make sure that I have the bucks to get through production. That's why I work backwards. On "Deadly Obsessions" I put out more money on food, travel, and hotels then I did on anything else. Why did I do this? Because I wanted a cast & crew that would go the distance, and they did. Was it cheap? Compared to other productions absolutely, but we managed.

Back in my early youth moviemaking was more fun, and I'm trying to get back to that. I know I just can't call my friends and say hey let's make a movie, but I can foster an atmosphere of creative endeavor where everyone shares in the making of a film. I have to be smart. Shoot fast and efficiently. Maximize the time you have with your actors, and start turning out the pages.

I took a two day course with Dov Simen who broke down how you can shoot a movie for any amount of money. He even went down to the $5,000 range. This was before the big digital revolution. He made sense, and he made it all practical. I would recommend taking his course at least once. Go in with a project, and using the info he supplies you can easily break down your script, and make it fit your budget. Like Dov said if you’re working on the smaller end of the budget spectrum you’ll need to compromise, but it’s the reality of the game.

But of course first there is the script, and it needs to be good. How does that happen? The only way I know is by lots of input from other people, and after that know when a script is ready. You can tweak a script only so far. Then it needs to be played out and read through with actors. This is how a good film evolves. It is only in production that you begin to spend a lot of money. Food, gas, hotel accommodations, and more food.

If one thing the digital revolution has done is that tape is cheap, and more takes can be tried, and performed. Experimenting during production is easier. No longer do I hear the dollars flying through the gate of the film camera. Now I only hear the whir of the hard drive as I edit the hours of footage I accumulate while filming.

The hardest thing is that first step, but after taking that first step you’ll find the second and third are taken much more easier. Now excuse me I need to get this creative process kick started, and as the multi-talented director Spike Lee often says: "by any means necessary".

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