27 Oct For the First Time, I Feel Like a CREATOR
You may recall from the end of this article that I am in the middle of my 2nd 100-Day Challenge. My focus for this 100 days (which will lead up to right before Christmas!) was to produce my first short film from start to finish. My goals in producing were three-fold; (1) to get experience writing screenplays and write myself a role that is PERFECT for me; (2) to get experience producing in order to better understand every facet of what goes into making a short film; and (3) depending on how it turns out, possibly do the festival circuit in order to meet and talk with more creatives out there who are making things happen.
Another 100-Day Challenge goal this time around is to complete 100 writing sessions that are ten minutes or longer. So, I sat down to write my first script. As I started writing, I realized I couldn’t do this on my own, in a vacuum. I kept thinking of premises for my short films but didn’t know how to actually start writing them. Talking through a few of my ideas with someone else allowed me to clarify exactly what the arc of the story was going to be, and I sat down again to begin writing. In a week and a half I had two short film scripts. I sent them to trusted friends to give me notes on the structure, the technical stuff (I’d never written a screenplay before!) and general notes on the storytelling. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, and the notes were incredibly helpful. I made my adjustments, decided which one I wanted to shoot first and….then just stopped.
At this point, I was stuck. I had a script I was happy with, but the next step was…getting other people on board. I was terrified. How could I claim to be a writer or a producer, to win people’s confidence and get them to devote their time to this piece? I couldn’t seem to find the courage to make myself take that next step.
After about another week and a half of stalling, I saw the days in my 100-Day Challenge slipping away and woke up one morning determined to at least ask the dream director I had in mind to direct the piece and to approach the actress I had in mind when I wrote the other role. I wrote emails that basically said “I’m producing a short film and am wondering if you’re interested in being a part of it. No budget, half day shoot.” Both women responded by saying they’d like to read the script, which I sent along. It was probably the scariest thing I have ever done (and I’m a rock climber!!), and at this point I started creating lists of back-up directors and actresses to approach. But the actress responded immediately that the role was exactly the type of work she wanted to be doing, and she was in, thanking me for asking her! The director responded that she doesn’t do unpaid work, but she loved the script so she was going to make an exception. She was in, too! The only catch was that her only available day in the near future was in about ten days. I said that wasn’t a problem.
And just like that, I had a full cast, a director I was over the moon to be working with, and a shoot day. And one-and-a-half weeks to get everything else lined up so we could film it.
I jumped in. I loved the idea of having a female DP to work alongside our female director, so I asked everyone I could think of for recommendations and referrals. I watched countless reels, approached several individuals, and ended up with a few interested female DPs. Time and time again, people would say that they didn’t normally work for free, but they’d be willing to for this project because they loved the script, and they loved that I was putting together a mostly female crew. (My script was a short piece about two smart women scientists…with a twist at the end!) I was blown away by the response and absolutely thrilled that I seemed to have stumbled onto something that people were passionate about — smart women and female filmmakers.
After several more days of finding a location, getting a Production Manager on board, getting a sound person, chatting with assistant cinematographers and assistant directors, getting a full crew, losing the location (and a lot of sleep), doing everything I could to find a new location and ensure that the shoot would still happen, taking care of craft services, gathering materials for set dressing, and realizing that even though I wrote the piece, I still needed to learn my lines and do all of my prep work as an actor, we were set to shoot for a half day on a sleepy Sunday morning in Hollywood. It was day 35 of my 100-Day Challenge.
The morning on set went well. Our schedule was a bit tight, but the cast and crew all got along well, and the mood was very jovial. My director was amazing, pushing our performances to where they needed to be to make this short piece work. I had surrounded myself with amazing individuals and was told in no uncertain terms that my producer hat was to come OFF as soon as I stepped on set. I was an actor that morning, although I also had a moment of feeling beautifully overwhelmed realizing that we were shooting MY film. Everyone was there because of me, because I had written this piece and gotten the ball rolling. It was a surreal moment.
The shoot took place on week ago. I am still amazed by how scared and lost I felt at the beginning of this process and how incredibly rewarding it was to make it happen. The week and a half of preproduction was an intense blur, but it also was a time of operating at a higher frequency that isn’t necessary in most of my life. It was thrilling, confidence-boosting, and creatively fulfilling. If someone wasn’t available or interested in working on the project, it wasn’t a setback. It was simply more information to move forward with, and I would ask the next person. I found that getting all of the ducks lined up was stressful, but I never felt that it was unattainable. It was a phenomenal experience.
Now we are in postproduction. I’m chatting with several editors, and my director took awesome notes during the shoot to aid in the editing process, so I’m excited to see how this all turns out. And with our science theme and female crew, I’m looking forward to submitting this piece to festivals watching it find its audience. And hopefully, it will be a way for me to meet more awesome female filmmakers to collaborate with!
Producing my first short film has been one of the most terrifying and rewarding things I have ever done. For the first time, I wasn’t performing someone else’s words. For the first time, I got the true sense of what it means to be a CREATOR.