My journey for the last 3 months has been a rigorous marathon to keep running before I collapse. Almost every weekend this summer has been a filming date for the series. Now that I know what it feels like to work long hours with little food and sleep for an entire summer, I would not want to work in Hollywood…ever.
To be fair, the filming of Season One of Steamworks and Shadows has been a very fun experience and sometimes a difficult learning experience.
Filming at amazing locations and watching the script come to life before your eyes is the most fun you could ever have as a Director. The vision you have in your head is complete and awe-inspiring, even when people are running around pretending to shoot at each other and it is obvious they aren’t actually firing any bullets.
Being able to guide actors (if you want to call any of us that, haha) through a series of actions that drive their emotions is a unique experience in itself. You get to know people better than you ever had before because (good) acting is very honest. If someone acts very convincingly, then they are being honest. If your actors are honest, it seems real. There’s a piece of ourselves that goes into our characters, and it becomes apparent on screen and in story.
Along with these fun and inspiring moments comes the learning experience. There are many things that go into filming, and there is no way to be prepared for anything that could happen. However, I’d like to share what I learned for any aspiring directors-to-be.
1. Once you make a shoot schedule, stick to it as much as you can. If you don’t force yourself to stick to a schedule, you might never finish your project. It can be difficult if you are filming with friends. You are probably not paying the crew or cast, so sometimes they can’t get out of their day job or have other commitments. I was scared to have to write a character out of a scene or episode, because I didn’t know if I could do it. I was forced to do it when cast members did not show up and didn’t call. So I followed my own famous advice: Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. I called the cast and crew around me, explained the situation, and asked for ideas. Within seconds, there were rapid fire ideas coming at me faster than I could process. In the end, I rewrote the scene with the help of the rest of the crew, and we made it work.
2. Create a team of writers, and have one screenwriter. Having multiple writers on a story can turn out ideas that one person would never think of. You can create deeper, richer stories by using multiple people to help develop the story and get the details. It’s important that you have only one person translate these ideas into a screenplay, and make sure they are familiar with format and what goes into it. Of course, keep all the writers’ ideas as an outline for your “bible” and backstory to help you direct.
3. Never Give Up. This is by far the most important. There was a project I gave up on years ago, and I regret it ever since. I wonder what kind of director I would be now if I had seen that project to the end and what I could have learned. At times, it would seem your project is going nowehere, or that no one likes it. Take criticism and look at your own work with a critical eye. Keep at it until you love it.
4. Don’t do it alone. I have tried to write, direct, act, edit, etc, my own films before, and they do not turn out half as good as my group projects. Even if your entire crew quits on you, there are always more people looking for something creative and fun to do. You can find them, and you can finish the project.