Adversity and the Filmmaking Process

I recently received an email from fellow filmmaker and blogger Josh Johnson over at Carolina Flicks. Upon reading the mail the message became clear--I had been blog tagged! Josh was passing on a similar challenge he had been given by Adversity University (where you can do this as well). I picked up the gauntlet and here I am! This is definitely a worthwhile topic that really pertains to the movie making world, high, low, or no budget.

As anyone who has ever done it will tell you, filmmaking is a tough choice for artistic expression. Unlike a painter who can start by just picking up a brush, or an author who can begin pecking away at a keyboard, creating a film not only involves you, but many others, and takes a long time to finish.

I have wondered if the Fox reality show On the Lot will be a success because of this. When people watch American Idol, they can visualize themselves on that stage, because everyone can sing a little, promoting this delusion (remember William Hung?). Not many people know the first thing about filmmaking. As a friend told me once, "not everyone can do what you do--I wouldn't even know where to start."

At it's very base level, making a movie is really like any other endeavor: it's one big problem to solve. You take a script someone has written, and try to figure out translate the page to screen. If you are working within the microbudget spirit, you will try to do as many jobs as possible, but you'll still need other people to help you. Actors must be attached, and crew needs to be assembled. Specific jobs need to be performed by qualified individuals, or you will be haunted and frustrated in the editing process.

Once production begins, get ready to tear your hair out. Murphy's Law applies to filmmaking like nothing I have ever seen. People won't show up, the weather will screw your location shoot, equipment will fail, etc. Since you are in charge, everyone will come to you (sometimes all at once) with a barrage of questions that need immediate answers. It's unreal the amount of stress the builds inside of you until you really question why you are "wasting your life" doing this.

Next, an eternity of post production will become an obsession and sap all strength and reason. Shots you thought were good, aren't. Colors don't match. Continuity is off. Performances suck. You'll have to reshoot some stuff, and maybe all of it. Then you'll have to add sound effects, score, etc. It really does take forever.

Then the reviews come in...

There is hope, however. Just because it's hard doesn't mean you're sunk. As someone once told me about something completely different but applicable here, "it's been done by lesser men". Buck up and grow a thick skin. You'll need one if you want to be a director. Keep pressing forward and you will finish. When it's all over (and you take a vacation from the project) you'll look on it with fresh eyes and realize it wasn't that bad. Even if it doesn't completely work, you'll learn valuable lessons you can apply the next time out.

Keep making films and experience will be your university. Your muscles only grow when worked against a resistive force. The same can be said for any of your talents and abilities. Don't give up, don't give in, and overcome the monkey before it overcomes you. There' a reason a director yells "Action!"

I'm tagging the following bloggers who hopefully will contribute to this discussion with their own unique perspective:

Lance Weiler - The Workbook Project
David Congreave - The Nettle
Nathaniel R - Film Experience Blog
Julie Gray - The Rouge Wave
Clive - $1000 Film



I throughly enjoyed reading about your experience with adversity in the film making world. It made for a fascinating read particularly because I'm not from that world.

Thanks for participating in my Adversity University tagging experiment! It's becoming quite a fascinating journey for me because it allows me a rare glimpse in other people's worlds that I might not have otherwise been privy to. Thanks for sharing what it's like to be a film maker. It made me appreciate what goes into the making of a movie even more!

Thanks again for joining in on the fun!

Stephen Hopson
Scott Eggleston said…
Sometimes it's fun when someone challenges you to "write about X". I also feel obligated to not just ramble but make the post fit within the parameters of this blog--namely low budget filmmaking.

Yours is a great topic, and anyone who has made a movie of any length can attest that it's very, very, very hard. It's more fun when your done (and you've forgotten the pain), and are excited about your next wacky project.

Thanks for starting this experiment (so far only one of those I tagged is interested), and I'm flattered Josh thought me worthy to contribute.