For a lot of people, the quality and ‘realness’ of a film production is in equal proportion to the scale of that production: i.e. the number of crew members, the flourish of the catering tent, the imposition planted on a small community or neighborhood, the PA’s running amok with their walkie-talkies ordering people out of the shot, off the sidewalk. If you’ve been on a shoot, you’ll know what I mean. But with all this controlled chaos, the biggest point often missed is that none of it matters if what the camera captures is useless, poorly performed, unrealized, torturously blocked, weakly lit, flared, flashed, scratched, wiped or a casualty of ‘bad media.’ There is only one thing that is important and that is what’s in the frame. How you got it there, is entirely inconsequential.
This was an important mantra for the production of my first feature “World Full of Nothing.” Considering budget restraints, there were no trailers, trucks or location permits. We were a guerilla company concerned only with getting the shots and performances – not with worrying about our appearance as a ‘proper’ production. Hey, we had c-stands, lights, a fishpole, a doorway dolly! We did a 125 mile company move… all six of us! We had a green screen. We rented gear. We bought stock. We did all the things you have to do… but we also did only the things we needed to do. Sure it helps that I have a fair amount of production experience and that my co-producer, Markus Innocenti, is a director in his own right who has spent his entire career on sets. We could light it ourselves, be sure that we were getting the necessary coverage. We knew how to breakdown the script for a ‘day-out of-days’ schedule. We knew what gear to rent in order to get our shots and, most importantly, we knew that we were going to have to adapt and change if need be. There were some shots or sequences we were going to get as designed no matter what. There were just as many we were going to get however we could.
Now, is this the best way to make a movie? Certainly not. But after years of looking for investors, big money and pitching ideas to Hollywood establishment types, it was the only way we were going to get a movie made. If you can get your hands on a million or ten million dollars, absolutely crew it up, fill every possible position Movie Magic has in the budget template. You will find, however, that your best day, your best footage, might be the skeleton crew pick-up day when it was just you, the camera, the talent and one or two others.
There are so many things an independent film producer and director have to have their minds on. Having a vision is admirable, but being fully prepared for any possibility is a must. Knowing exactly what you need and what the production needs is key. Turning a deaf ear to the doubters who will insist that your movie will never work unless you have this or that or the other is a necessity. You will enjoy the fruits of your exhaustive labor when you see what is in the frame and when it cuts together and a scene suddenly unfolds in a Mexican cantina where only a few days ago there was an empty garage. This is filmmaking, the rest is a bunch of “look at us, aren’t we cool” hipster bulls&*t. There are plenty of people playing that game but you’ll never see their films because they will have spent all their money putting on a great production without ever considering what was in the frame or how they were going to put it together later. A lot of films fail in post because, at the end of the day, the time spent on set was all the filmmakers thought filmmaking was.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but the point here is if you want to make a movie there has never been a better time than right now to pursue that dream. The technology is affordable, you can make mistakes and fix them, you can learn all the aspects of the craft, but if you can’t conceive of making a film without all the bells and whistles of a major Hollywood production, then by all means, keep waiting for the winning lotto ticket.
Obviously not everyone who takes this advice and runs out to buy a 7D and a Zoom is going to be the next SpielbergLucasAronofskyNolanRodriguez. I’m reminded of the advent of MIDI so many years ago when everyone suddenly thought they were the next great music producer. So much bad music! And now, maybe a lot of bad movies. Because at the end of the day, what you need in music is a song, no matter how it’s sequenced, produced, recorded or auto-tuned. And in film, you need a story, a performance… and it might also help if you understand that all that matters is what’s in the frame.
-Jesse Pomeroy (producer/director), Hillrose Street
Jesse Pomeroy is the producer and director of the award-winning independent thriller “World Full of Nothing.” He is also the co-producer of the vegan themed documentary “To Your Health” and co-owner of Mission Post, a post-sound company in Los Angeles, CA which recently wrapped the 2011 Sundance Jury Award winning film, “Like Crazy.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: DON’T MISS JESSE POMEROYS FILM WORLD FULL OF NOTHING AT THE MARCH 28, 2010 FILM COURAGE INTERACTIVE. ALL TICKET HOLDERS WILL RECEIVE A FREE DVD.