When I used to ‘dream’ about being a filmmaker I knew that it had to be a huge difficult process to make a film with so many actors, crew members pre and post production phases. But I really had no idea how challenging it would be until actually becoming one.
After getting over the fear that was crippling me from going into ‘the industry’, I’ve quickly learned that producing, directing and writing for film is an incredibly difficult. It’s also very rewarding, incredibly so. Through the difficulties one faces as a filmmaker, the fact that you get to have a film completed and are able to showcase it on a platform (e.g. film festivals, internet, etc.) or that you can share it privately with a group of selected investors is indescribably satisfying. So much so, that one almost forgets the troubles faced during the production process.
The operative word being: Almost. As a new filmmaker I have a lot to learn, but also, I think I know a little about storytelling, you know, by being a journalist and all. I’ve always known what exactly I wanted to communicate – mostly being a visual thinker, the journey into documentary filmmaking was only a natural step towards furthering my journalism experience.
Still, with all the experience I had as a print journo, that didn’t guarantee me to have great connections or a set platform as a documentarian. As the world of news is going an extensive and arduous process of remolding. Some even thinking that print and digital news will be dead in a few years. Paired with the agencies like the Chicago Sun, who fired their entire photography team and pushed for iPhones to be used as cameras for their stories, while others advertise for unpaid internships available, because they cannot afford to pay anyone due to dwindling hard copy sales and little subscriptions to paid e-memberships – journalism has taken a hard blow to the gut and face the past decade or so. My challenges as a journalist didn’t prepare me for challenges as a director.
As a one-woman-production-team I am in charge of everything. EVERYTHING. From pre-production, to casting, to writing, planning, legal preparations, site scouting, recording, editing, music rights acquisition, to funding….everything. I do it, alone. While it’s very educational, it’s also very exhausting and sometimes frustrating. But in the end, when everything is done and I click that “render” button on the SONY Vegas Software® I feel all of that wash away. I look back and laugh at some things, while others I look to see how I can make things better.
For the first short film I wrote, directed and produced, I cast three people. I should have known then, that I should have held off making the film when I was having problems casting one of the roles. While that role wasn’t a lead, making me ready to step in front of the camera, I finally got someone to fill it. A few minimal script adjustments and we were ready to go. But, I was missing one of the most important aspects of filmmaking: RELEASES.
This is what can happen if you don’t have your releases signed, an actor who changes his mind from being in your film and states so, and without his consent you cannot present it without running serious legal risks
To have an actor, or a person you’re going to interview sign a release means that you can showcase the film even if they change their mind of being in it. You have the right to show your work, without worrying about them not liking it, because, they signed a ‘waver’ of sorts for you to use their performance, their words, their images in front of the camera. This is very important. However, as an amateur and one person team, and with all the troubles I had encountered during the pre-production process, I wanted to get things done so badly I forgot to have these three actors sign releases. Post-production was a nightmare.
I managed, however to move on to other projects and re-think this one, probably make it longer, rework the script to add more characters, make it a different setting. Film it in NYC perhaps…or leave it in the original Puerto Rico setting (because I like it more). Who knows, the point is you live and you learn.
While this piece was a fiasco, filmmaking was still my calling. So, I moved on to Forever Boogies, and for a virtually non-existent social media presence my film has been viewed some 450 times on YouTube, inspiring me to push forward with my next project Save the Coral Reefs, another short documentary about conservation.
My long time and close friend, and mentor in the indie film industry Kevin Tudor, award winning and critically acclaimed short film writer/director of Truths and Fairytales advised me today to keep going. His exact words were “at the moment when you feel it’s not going to happen, that’s when you push. Whether it takes a moment to stop and rethink or just push harder, make that shit work.”
And that’s what I’ll do…I’ll make that shit work.