Reflections on shooting our first feature film


Having recently wrapped our principal photography (that is the meat of our shooting) I must say the process of making a movie has been the most stressful and exciting episode in my professional career. Not only would I gladly do it again, but hell I can’t wait to do it again! Now sure there are a host of things I would do different, seriously a shit load of things, so many that the list would be way to much for a blog post, more like a book, or series of books, like remember those old encyclopedia Britannica collections think that but bigger and with more cursing. If you are to young to remember encyclopedia Britannica think Google printed out minus the porn. So instead of breaking out too much detail I figured why not paint some broad strokes about what it was like. 1)   The equipment held up like a champ – seriously beat the hell out of the black magic cameras and they never missed a beat. Running hot in 117 degrees was no problem for the little beasts. The 40 plus year old cinema 16mm lenses held up as well, couldn’t be happier with how the equipment handled the desert heat. 2)   Yep it was 117 degrees and we had very little shade, and my middle aged out of shape chain smoking ass got to spend most of those days in the sun, but we all survived and hell now we have a special badge of honor cause who the hell would be crazy enough to do that (short answer not me again). 3)   The process will test your adaptability – we went through a lot from delayed flights, to having to adapt to the environment, to losing a key crew member (the night before we left for the desert!), to my back going out on me, to most of the team getting the same damn cold. There were a number of times I had to decide to cut bait or press on, and looking at the footage I am glad I pressed on and glad I was prepared for anything including shooting it myself. 4)   Always keep true to the soul of what your doing – partially because our crew got paired down it was easy to keep true to the soul of what we were doing and not get lost in distracting elements that didn’t best serve the real spirit of what we were trying to do. 5)   Know as much as possible – knowing the camera and equipment is key but you should also know editing. The two years I spent studying editing really came in handy when I was making decisions on the fly and a number of those decisions that really worked out only can be made when you understand how editing software works and what your options and limitations are. 6)   Remember who you are doing this for – movies are made for a lot of reasons; awards bait, to show of the skills of a director or DP, to showcase an actor, as self serving footage for a filmmaker or for an audience. To me the only thing that is important is the audience and I did everything I could to give them what I think they want, and since I am a long-standing member of the audience I got a good idea of what they want. 7)   Roll with things – if someone is killing a scene or series of scenes you got to be ready to roll with it and throw out your shotlist to focus on them, and if a scene is just not working you have to know when to cut bait and move on. 8)   The Arizona people were amazing – everyone from the on set help to the guy who plays the sheriff to the family we rented the property from were amazing people. Just real down to earth good-hearted people who reminded me of the folks in my former and future adopted home of Charleston South Carolina. My next trip out there will include an extra day just to spend some time with these great folks. 9)   My cast and crew rock – seriously they had to adjust to a lot and they were real troopers doing it. I know running hot and shooting quick isn’t always easy on actors but my group did it with amazing poise and hell most I think will still answer my emails. 10)  There are few things practical about a practical location – so after doing the desert in 117 degrees we went to a nice soundstage for our interiors in the TMZ. I think everyone was a hell of a lot more comfortable working in that space and we could leave it hot and run a full 12-hour day something you can’t do in 117degree heat. 11)   Everything always costs more than you think – having a long background in finance I was prepared for this but if you don’t have it built into your budget you risk becoming one of the hundreds out there trying to crowd source your way to finishing funds. 12)   Little people eat a lot – seriously this one did throw me a bit. I never knew how much food little people can consume (again that budget thing) a bit shocking considering most of them are a little less than half of me but ate way more than I did, who knew. All in all an awesome experience! Now the DIT work (essentially sorting and organizing the footage and audio clips) is done and editing has begun. Of course I have already played with some of the footage, hey it is my footage I can play with it all I like, so I have a good feeling that we are going to end up with something that will really shock and wow our audience. So wish me luck as I dig deep into my bag of tricks to bring Agnation to life.

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