View Full Version : Care to vent about the SOCIAL process of film making?
December 18th, 2003, 08:54 AM
I'm just curious how many of you find yourselves in situations where people just don't know what they're doing? In my experience the whole process of creating good video/film is undercut by politics that can only be rivaled by Washington D.C.
At every shoot there is a subliminal system by which things are done. Obviously I'm not talking about the director. You have to respect a leader on any project and let him make his own mistakes or successes.
The thing that's frustrating to me is spending several days helping somebody make something that clearly isn't going anywhere past all of the participants' vcrs/dvd players.
What do you do about this? You buy all your own gear, including lights and sound, and then you write and direct your own films... You become DIRECTOR, SOUND MAN, DP, LIGHTING, CAMERAMAN... should I go on?
For those of you that have become part of a creative team that WORKS. Congratulations! I am SLOWLY building a team of guys and girls with mutual interests and devotion to quality... but Lord, has it taken a while!
It's kind of a bitch that our hobby is such a wash of egos that people can't simply collaborate on ideas and take realistic views of themselves and others so that the final product is simply the best it can be...
December 18th, 2003, 09:30 AM
Not to throw a wet blanket on your topic Matt, but... back when I was just getting started, I've been on shoots where the crew had no idea what doing. And it was just a one-man crew. Me!
December 18th, 2003, 11:26 AM
Alot depends on what you are doing. Somethings in lie are a group effort. Some things are. It is frustrating when you have a vision that you want to create and everybody involoved wants to add something to it. But is also isn't easy for the actors, director, dp etc. to just do exactly as they are told and add nothing to it. This is the joy and terror of working with creative people. There is no soloution except to find the right people for the right job.
Now if it is just a chain of command issue, God help you. I was a stage carpenter for awhile and the people there had no idea who was in charge. The set designer, director, tech director, producer kept makeing changes to the set without consulting each other. Oy! Run, run, run, run.
It drove me so crazy I quit the biz and went into Law. Nothing was worth a fate like that.
December 18th, 2003, 11:29 AM
Well, there is not knowing what you're doing, and not knowing that you don't know what you're doing- and there is a world of difference between them.
Socially, my first project was a disaster. In the end, it cost me a friend of over twelve years- something I still don't completely understand.
I gathered the crew, recruited the cast, wrote the script, scheduled the shoot, paid for the food- and for some reason he thought he was going to be in charge. He tried to preempt me as director, a job for which I am hardly qualified to be sure, but it was MY gig, without me there would have been no gig at all. I know that probably sounds arrogant, but I didn't go to all the trouble of setting the whole thing up and making it happen just so I could be shoved to the sidelines on game day.
I don't envision myself as some sort of Napoleon on the set or anything, more like the first among equals; and keeping in the spirit of that, I made a mistake that day and comprimised, I let him make some of the decisions that I should have been making. The project suffered because of it. I guess I needed to get in touch with my inner amature, or something.
Afterward, my lead actor made it clear to me that he had signed up for MY project and not the other guy's. He said he wasn't going to do anything with us again unless I was calling the shots. He was really angry about the fact I let the other guy direct a scene- and he had a point, the scene was easily the worst in a movie full of bad scenes.
So much for democracy.
We had another power struggle a few days before we were set to shoot our next project. It ended with my 'pal' taking all his toys home and leaving me holding the bag. I had to call everybody and let them know we were on hiatus until I could put together a new kit.
That was roughly four months ago, my 'buddy' hasn't spoken to me since- or any of our other mutual friends of over ten years, either. Strangely enough, the common attitude within the cast and crew seems to be good riddence. I feel a little diffrently though, kind of sad and guilty, except for when I think about that final conversation ( which was so full of dishonesty I can hardly believe it) or when I think about that emabarrassing round of phone calls I had to make to the cast and crew three days before the shoot telling them it was off...
One thing I've learned from all this is that, regardless of how clear you are with people, not everybody feels compelled to live up to their promises, or to hold to agreements they have made.
Like Matt, I am now slowly in the process of building a group of people who care about quality and are willing to let someone else be in charge.
Ironically though this setback has only strengthened my reslove to make movies.
Hows that for venting?
Christopher C. Murphy
December 18th, 2003, 11:46 AM
Hey, MG...I'm sorry to hear about your filmmaking troubles.
I've had similar situations. If I were you I would have a heart-to-heart next time with cast and crew. I know this sounds harsh on them, but I have had to do this to avoid issues during shooting. You need to literally say, "I am in charge - no matter what I say to do - you must do it." (regarding the film, not telling them to jump off a bridge - unless its a stuntman!)
It's weird, but people get really weird with power. There is a known chart that's been passed around Hollywood for 50 plus years...I'm sure its online somewhere. It lays out the chain of command on the film set. It's like a tree chart of sorts - it starts with producer, director...all those TOP people...and then the lower group like sound, lights, camera...and then the lower from them...etc. etc.
The chart has been used to make it clear on who is in-charge and where the final call is...period. If someone in sound says, "Hey, you should try this because it'll work better." and the director says, "no." That's it..end of story unless the director requests the sound guys input further.
If you didn't make it crystal clear to your friend that you were the director and he was not...then what happened makes sense. If you did and he acted that way - well, he's not a good team player. (Which means he'll never be a good director.)
It's funny, the saying is true...everyone wants to direct. However, I have found that almost no one in crews possess the skills to direct WELL. It's always their goal, but they can't even do their lower job right and gain the respect, so they can get others working for them later on.
I hope you work it all out. I'd contact your friend and explain your side...maybe he's thinking the same thing as you. What happened?!
December 18th, 2003, 11:47 AM
For me the main problem is to Make everyone Feel like they are a real part of the Project... without making them feel like it is a Democracy... When in charge Iīm very open to everyones opinions.. but the final call is mine...
I find very hard to get people like this.. I donīt care if they donīt know exactly what they are doing as long as they admit it before hand...
For me the problem is not that they donīt know what they are doing... but that they donīt accept it...
At least that happened to me with DOP students.. that came to the "set" and took 2 hours to light a single shot, that could have been done in 20 minutes... But If I rushed them.. then theyīll get mad.. because they wanted their MasterPIece... but didnīt know how to get there..
Then they blame the Equipment or the Director, etc...
Iīve also worked with directors that want the "perfect shot" but have no clue.. and then frustration becomes anger.. and shooting becomes hell.. and Iīm sure most of us have been there at least once...
On the other hand Iīve worked with many Sound Guys (mostly stage music kind) that have no clue to what they need to do in a shooting.. but they Tell In Advance, so we can work it out... And usually get very nice sound...
I havenīt been able to find a good team... so as much as possible I will try to do the One-man -band... I do the light, the camera and the direction... and If I could Iīd do the sound too...
December 18th, 2003, 11:56 AM
Thanks for the kind words.
I did have that conversation with him, and he agreed to my terms, only to backpeddle later.
What can you do?.
Life goes on.
December 18th, 2003, 12:12 PM
I am getting ready to enter the Lion's Den myself. At this moment, I am at the top of the chain- I wrote it, am pulling the people together, and doing everything else- myself. Unless there is someone willing to drop some money into this project, I will be the Producer as well, and have no need to bow to anyone.
I am new to this, as I'm sure most of my crew will be, and a large portion of the talent as well. This doesn't bother me at all. I have a clear vision of what I want. It is a matter of getting the rest of the team to see the same vision, which is where experience would be nice. But, it should be a blast at the very least, which will make even a bad movie more bearable to do.
December 18th, 2003, 02:02 PM
Thanks for all your input. I had to laugh a bit about the coincidence. MG... "MG"...
I think it's really good to get this topic out in the open like this. The advice to have a "heart to heart talk" with your crew and actors is GREAT ADVICE. I find that people are at their LOWEST when expectations are NOT met. Better to have NO expectations then to have LOFTY expectations and be smacked down.
I actually started this thread because there have been a couple times in the last year when people asked me to be a part of a project under the premise that they needed my expertise, only to turn out that they just wanted to save some cash on renting stuff.
If I'm called and I'm in charge of sound, I expect to be in charge of sound. If I'm called to be a lighting director, I expect to be in charge of lighting. If I'm called to be a cameraman, I expect to be running my own camera. On the other hand if I'm called and asked if I can be a PA and bring ALL my stuff. I'll tell them to get SCREWED. What has happend recently is I get SOLD on the idea of being a part of a project and then when I show up and I'm not making any lighting decisions, sound decisions, and not running my own camera... which I'm a WAY better cameraman then anyone else I've seen locally... I get pissed. But what are ya' gonna' do? I would NEVER be like MG's friend and screw over a bunch of people... so I swallow my pride and take a screwing with a smile. The worst part is when the end product looks so amaturish and all I could do is stand there and take orders!
So far the best point of this thread is the one about having a talk about what's what. I also see that everyone has had similar experiences on BOTH sides of this issue.
The best way to prevent any ill feelings is to ALWAYS be 100% HONEST with the people you bring into a job!
If you just want a free use of equipment then SAY SO... If you imply that your buddy is being asked to help create something and he just happens to have a complete studio in a van... then don't be surprised when he shows up expecting to have some creative power.
Basically, I'm gonna' repeat this, just make sure that everyone has a clear set of expectations BEFORE you get to the first shoot.
In the end you will be well on your way to building a great team and everybody will have their place. And most importantly, they will BE HAPPY in their place.
I almost wanted to start another thread on a similar subject, but as a "sidebar" to this topic. I met with a guy locally that was more then happy to explain to me and my buddies that our collective $40K worth of production equipment was meaningless and that his 10 page script was worth MORE then all our stuff. He explained how anybody can just buy cameras so HE was doing US the favor by letting US in on his project.
Do you know how many of us helped him? Zero. I've found that on the "entry level" of film making that there are a lot of promises and deals made ONLY to get a project made. People can easily find free work and then walk away from that burning bridge.
So don't be like that! Respect others for pursuing similar dreams and may you eventually find a fantastic team of like-minded friends.
Christopher C. Murphy
December 18th, 2003, 02:35 PM
Hey, I'm reading this thread and liking it because everyone is speaking from experience. I'd like to add that (in my opinion) I'm much more apt to work with people that know LESS than others if they prove to be cool. I've found that the project is more about what you're doing on the downtime...like having lunch. If you can have lunch with someone and have a great conversation - chances are you're going to work together nicely. However, if you can't relate or talk to someone on downtime - you're going to be in communication hell during production.
I've done it all (like we probably all have) and at this point in my career its the company I keep more than anything else. The projects seems to overall go smoother when I know the people...have developed some soft of relationship beyond the production. That might only mean emailing to say hello...whatever. But, the old stand-bys work every time...send your crew Christmas cards...if you can't pay them a lot of money than do something from your heart to show appreciation. It's amazing how stopping someone in the middle of a task...taking them aside and looking them straight in the eye and saying, "I really like working with you and I feel you do a great job. I appreciate everything you do...and I'm glad we get along nicely. If there is anything I can do to make things better for you...let me know. You are doing things to make the film come out great, so come see me if you need anything."
Those are words that I use...and people really get a boost. The world is full of people that use (like someone said in this thread) people, so getting it straight is nice to hear.
Anyone in NH by chance? If so, let me know!
December 18th, 2003, 02:47 PM
I totally agree with you. Almost like you took the words right out of my mouth.
How long have you been in NH?
I was born and raised in Manchester.
Christopher C. Murphy
December 19th, 2003, 11:02 AM
I've lived on and off in NH for my whole life. I'm not sure if you saw a post that I made a few days ago, but I mentioned working at WMUR from 1996 to 2000.
I've seen the video/film thing really grow here in the last few years. There are many reasons why NH is great for filmmakers. The topography for one, no taxes, easy access to all things nature...so many things.
I'd really like to tell a few NH stories too. I have had my eye on a few specific NH ones like "GG Allin". That's a film waiting to happen. Also, the whole Carl Drega thing that I witnessed first hand a few years ago. (for those not in the know - a guy killed 2 cops, a newspaper editor, a judge and few others in a rampage after getting tired of dealing with the town politics regarding his land and house) Anyway, that story tells the NH angle better than all others...Live Free or Die in every layer of the story.
I have done the Hollywood thing on and off. But, I've found that living in NH has advantages. It's 90% working on projects and 10% networking - as opposed to Hollywood where I networked for 90% of the time and worked for 10%.
I've yet to do NY and probably won't try because (in my opinion) Boston has a few advantages to NY. It's less crowded (ok, the big dig stinks) with people and the indie, coporate video and commercial market isn't to bad. I think the 40 minute ride from NH into Boston is the way to go...tax free and clean air. I believe NH is the best kept secret in the country - indie film would fair very well here. The cost of living alone is a major thing - the only downside to living in NH is the hard to find culture. It's there, but its a different kind of culture...it's hidden. However, for the common culture starved you have Boston...40 minutes away.
Ok, that's a rant! I just wanted to respond to your Manchester inquiry! By the way, we met at the NH FilmExpo this year...I was the one talking about the JVC HD10U and getting flack from everyone there about it. LOL!
December 19th, 2003, 06:09 PM
I couldn't find the chart you mentioned, but I did find this (http://www.mecfilms.com/moviepubs/jobs/jobs4.htm)...which someone obviously put a lot of thought and effort into.
December 20th, 2003, 09:56 AM
Thanks John, You've always been a big help in a lot of posts I've read.
December 20th, 2003, 11:25 AM
I guess my rant woud be most people's disinterest in collaborative efforts. Of those I've met personally I mean, it seems like people are afraid a fellow videographer/film maker will steal their thunder. Everyone wants to do their own thing and do it their way, no questions asked with a big nose in the air.
DVinfo's the closest thing to the ideal team I've come across. Everyone's willing to help, dispense advice and honest critique, and egos are left at the door.
So, real-life socially speaking my experience thus far has been pretty lousy. But I hold on to the hope that there's someone out there like me, who believes that a film is the product of many talents, not just one.
December 27th, 2003, 03:06 PM
I once worked on an independent as a Grip and in my down time I would help out the other departments. I'm sure most of you know that is almost unheard of in that the Sound guys do their own thing, the Grips do their own, the P.A.'s their own etc etc.
They were shocked that I would help wherever it was needed as oppossed to just chillin and smoking a cigarette or hanging at the craft table.
December 27th, 2003, 03:35 PM
I've seen that sort of thing happen a bit more on indies than on union jobs, but even there sometimes folk bop over the department lines to help. The more secure people are about how they do their job, the more likely that is to happen (and in my experience, there's a fair amount of insecurity in the indie world!)
I worked a couple of days on a fairly small picture a few years ago with David Paymer (great character actor) and Casper Van Dien (of "Starship Troopers", uh, fame). Casper was almost fanatical about helping out everyone around him. The producers were begging him not to haul around heavy equipment but he insisted. I remember seeing him lug a craft service table up an embankment. Not something you see every day.
December 27th, 2003, 05:03 PM
Wow. That is uncommon!
December 28th, 2003, 12:24 AM
"It's kind of a bitch that our hobby is such a wash of egos that people can't simply collaborate on ideas and take realistic views of themselves and others..."
Wow, way to put it. I've only recently stepped into the realm of videography, but I've been in my fair share of bands and musical-networking over the years; musicians are no different :)
December 28th, 2003, 02:08 PM
All this reminds me of that film of a few years back, "The Commitments", about an Irish blues/rock band. I loved the film but loved the music much more .... but the story line was very interesting on the rise and fall of a band due to lack of commitment and a lot of individual egoes.
Christopher C. Murphy
December 28th, 2003, 02:34 PM
The saying, "If you want something done right - do it yourself" holds true in filmmaking so much.
In my life, I've decided to make films and television on my terms...one man band for a lot of it. The reason is that most people you work with will let you down unless its for high pay - everyone is so lazy nowadays. It's not like you can count on anyone when you need it. It's rare to have a few people commited to a project, so much so that no matter what happens they're all in to the end.
I was also in rock and roll bands...and that was even worse! I played for 8 years in bands...and it was arguments, people leaving for no reason...just so much work for nothing. It's amazing how you can do great things with the right people and do nothing with the wrong....it's the company you keep.
I'd rather take my time and do it my way than rely on half-assed work of others. It stinks in one way, but with equipment and the ability to have an intimately small crew...it's possible now. Probably 5 years ago..not really. But, things are definately better for small crews and budgets now.
The space between large budget and low budget is wider than ever...Hollywood blockbusters and everything else. It's so cool to know that we can shoot something and actually have a chance to get it out there - at least in video stores around the world. It's all about doing it!
December 28th, 2003, 03:13 PM
Funny the similarities--I too played in bands for years and got very frustrated with the same things you guys experienced. Slowly I became more committed to my "day job" shooting corporate and commercials etc. and phased out the band thing. It made for an interesting life while I was doing both though...
One time about 10 years ago I was shooting a good-size corporate piece for a clothing chain in Boston, and when we wrapped I jumped in my car and drove like a madman for 4 hours up to Killington, VT where my band was playing. I remember changing out of my work shirt and into a "gig" shift in the freezing parking lot, then fishing my sax out from under my Steadicam cases. I ran inside where the band was already playing, threw the horn together and jumped onstage, just in time for a lengthy solo. We played the next two nights, and then I left immediately after the last gig and drove back to Boston, then caught 2 hours of sleep in the car parked outside the location to start work again in the morning.
NOT a lifestyle I could keep up anymore.
Christopher C. Murphy
December 29th, 2003, 12:38 PM
Hey, I hear what you're saying...and I live in NH, so I know what you mean about getting up to the mountains!
I see you live in LA now? I was out there doing what you just decribed, but decided to forget about the music career after I was in the Northridge earthquake in 1994. I figured that NH wasn't such a bad place...except, I forgot about this thing called snow. I bet you remember though? lol
December 29th, 2003, 05:52 PM
Christopher, every time I shoot on a Burbank soundstage with fake snow swirling around, I smile, because I remember all too well how unpleasant it is to work in real snow...that smile gets only wider as I see the crew bundled up in North Face parkas and wool hats when the temperature actually drops below 60 degrees!
Hmmm...is it possible to go off-topic in the off-topic forum...?
Christopher C. Murphy
December 29th, 2003, 08:25 PM
It's the "totally off topic" forum, so we can talk about anything. I lived on Pass Ave. in Burbank - know where that is? I was living there when the jet went off the runway and ended up on Hollywood Way...I almost got hit by it! Remember that?? It was a few years ago now.
December 29th, 2003, 09:46 PM
Sure, I remember that airplane incident--weird. I love flying out of Burbank, much quieter than LAX. When they can keep the jets inside the perimeter, that is.
Pass, of course, goes right pass Warner Bros. which is what I had in mind when I wrote about the fake snow--and "ER" was the show in question. Every time I do a day there in the two or three months that they are shooting winter episodes, I end up with a zillion potato flakes in my gear that takes months to get out. Such is life.
December 30th, 2003, 05:54 AM
Compressed air? or paint brush?
Christopher C. Murphy
December 30th, 2003, 08:42 AM
Hey Charles, I have a really good friend (known since childhood) that still lives in the house on Pass Ave. He's an audio guy by trade - unbelieveable career doing ProTools for #1 artists etc. etc. Anyway, he's got tons of video gear (great video setup, fcp editing room and also the whole protools setup etc.) and a huge drive to move into filmmaking and out of audio. Since you guys are so close proximity-wise...wanna see if you guys could help each other out sometime? He's got like 10+ years in the music business doing digital audio, but just hasn't had the right connections or situations for video/film. (He has done some video/film stuff in the last 1-2 years.) Anyway, he's the nicest guy you will ever meet in LA - trustworthy and willing to help out in a pinch. At the very least, he's someone to keep in mind for whatever you might have in the future...audio, video or film.
His name is Paul Foley and his email is paul.foley @ mac . com
I'm just letting you know because he's such a good friend and he dreams of moving out of music and into filmmaking. He's always helped me out when I've lived in LA, so I like to help him out too.
You can mention me Chris Murphy if you email him! :)