Filmmaking 101 is a series of articles following film newbie Sarah Gignac as she produces her first short film, Curtains.
In my last article I mentioned that I wrote the short film version of Curtains for an application to a film program. That program is called Film 5, and is put on through AFCOOP, a film co-operative in Halifax, NS. They offer all sorts of great training and resources to new and established filmmakers in Nova Scotia. Film 5 is for emerging filmmakers. You apply with a script and a small team (writer/director/producer), and they hold your hand through making your film.
This sounded great. I put out a call to my Facebook friends for team members. I found a friend who works as an editor, and had a friend of a friend recommended. We three met, all got along, and all liked the project. We put together an application that I thought was a shoe-in.
We were rejected.
Now, I’m no stranger to rejection. As a long-time freelance writer, I have a file filled to the brim with rejection letters. It’s part of the business, and I’m lucky in that it’s a part that doesn’t get to me. I know many people who find it crushing, like it’s a personal attack on their self worth. I use it as a reminder that I need to resubmit the idea somewhere else.
But I digress.
Yes, we were rejected. Which sucked. And for a day or two that was it. The projected was clearly dead. We couldn’t possibly make the film on our own. I mean, what did we know about filmmaking anyway?
Except the project was still in our heads. We had committed ourselves mentally to working on it for the next several months. Not getting into the program didn’t change that. A few days after the sad news we started asking ourselves, and then each other, why not do it anyway? We have the script. We have the passion. We have a rough plan. Let’s go for it!
A thought on passion. It is such an important part of diving into creative projects. Why else would you commit to something that will take up your time and your energy (and probably your money and sanity) with a low chance of any reward? We had three people who were passionate about making this film. Fantastic.
But while passion is important, it’s only part of what you need. Equally important is being willing and able to put in the time. To do the work. It’s easy to get excited about the end result. It’s much, much harder to actually roll up your sleeves and do it, especially when you have to balance other real life commitments. Like say your family or your job.
It is also crucial to have…I’m struggling to name it…let’s call it a creative understanding. A combination of a similar artistic goal and the ability to work out creative differences. You have to be able to work well together.
As a newbie to filmmaking, it’s amazing to have people say they love your idea and want to work on it with you. And it is so so so tempting to shout YES PLEASE and let everyone sign on. The more the merrier, right?
For Curtains, now that we were out of the program and on our own, we quickly realized that we didn’t meet all the above criteria. While we were excited about the idea of working on a film, we had different ideas on what we wanted out of it and how much time we were willing to put into it.
I’m not at all trying to be negative about my original partners. They were wonderful collaborators on our original application, and without them Curtains would never have gotten off the ground. But I was in a situation where it was my idea, my story, my baby if you will. I had lots of ideas on how to move forward and the time to do it, and yet nothing was getting done. I felt things would look better if I stepped into the role of Producer. One partner stepped away from the project due to creative differences, and the other stepped back due to lack of time, with the hopes of still helping out as/when needed.
So here I am, back where I was when this all started in June. Just a girl with a script. But in June I would have never considered making a film on my own. And now here I am, doing it.
And I’ve learned an incredibly valuable lesson. Resist the urge to work with anyone and everyone who says they want to work with you. It’s like dating. Don’t move in with just anyone so you can say you have a partner. If it’s the right person it will make your life/project so much better. But if it’s the wrong person, even if that person is amazing and you both have the best of intentions, you’ll only end hurting each other. It is absolutely, positively better to go it alone.
Open source film making with Todd Harris @ Flickr
Recent Sarah Gignac Articles:
- Filmmaking 101 Part 6 – Shoot Day
- Filmmaking 101 Part 5 – Casting & Crew & Catering, Oh My!
- Filmmaking 101 Part 4 – The Pre-Production Dance Of Insanity
- Filmmaking 101 Part 3 – A Lesson In Passion and Partnerships
- Filmmaking 101 Part 2 — The Script