My first experience in directing Steamworks and Shadows, Season One, was a shoot we had scheduled for May at a place called Cowtown Museum. Located in Wichita KS, Cowtown is a recreated historical western town complete with buildings, streets, and reenactors.
Our steampunk group was invited there as part of their Steampunk Day promotion. In exchange for coming out and helping at Steampunk Day, they allowed us to film anything we wanted the day after. We decided to dedicate an entire episode of our series to the location, and designed a script.
The evening before filming, the Assistant Director and I laid out the shoot schedule, and decided the order of scenes to shoot. That same evening was also my first experience in holding a rehearsal for our main cast.
In high school plays and musicals, rehearsals are pretty straight forward. Get on stage, go where you are supposed to, and say your lines as written. I directed with these kind of result-oriented goals in mind throughout high school and my college days, until “Directing Actors” by Judith Weston turned my world upside down. The rehearsal I held for main cast was exciting as they caught on that rehearsal was about exploring your character and your options in a scene, not recreating it exactly as it was in the writer’s or director’s mind.
During the Steampunk Day at Cowtown, we made a shout out for extras, encouraging steampunk costumers to stay an extra day and help with the filming. We had 40 people show up, and I had never directed crowds for film before. The extras were enthusiastic, and excited when I gave them wild directions like “Now there is an earthquake!”.
We shot for over 13 hours that day. Although I was completely exhausted by the time we wrapped, it was the best “dive in head first” experience I’ve had, and it changed the way I think about filmmaking.