The Long Ride Up the Rollercoaster

It’s been a few weeks since the last blog post. In part, this is because things are still in the early stages – I’m still gathering together resources that I can’t talk about publicly until things are “official.” I’m assembling some media (concept art, photo tests, and the like) that I’ll be able to show off soon. And I’m talking to my regular gang of fellow filmmakers, getting the word out about the film.

A lot of what I’ve been doing (apart from the above) has been spectacularly unsexy – I’ve been taking notes. Lots of notes. Notes about color schemes, about the character’s appearances and inner lives, about significant objects/images/facts in the scenes. I’m also reading and rereading film books, trying to get my head in the game again.

Once I’ve put some visual media for all of you to look at, the notes will make more sense. For now, I’m keeping them to myself, since most of these jottings and scribbles will never mature into executable ideas.

But that is in a way, what the point of the notes are. To prep myself for the real script analysis work that lies ahead. Right now I’m in the up stage of the rollercoaster. I know from experience that come May, when I start sending out casting notices, that things are really going to speed up rather drastically.

It’s important, especially if you’re a hyphenate writer/director/producer-type, to take time out every day to write some notes down about the script. The idea is to free your mind up a bit, let go of some of your preconceptions. Then when you start analyzing the script in more detail – finding out what the “core” ideas are – you’ve already shaken off a few prejudices.

The big thing for me is to find playable directions to give my cast. This is the Achilles heel of many an indie director. It’s so easy to get caught up in the producing or visual aspects of the film, that you can lose sight of what (in many ways) is your most important function on set – to direct the actors. Many times I’ve felt that the crew could do without me completely, and maybe even work better. But the cast depends on me.

I generally don’t look in the monitor for this reason, unless it’s a very specific shot. I trust my DP to get what I’m looking for – I’ll watch the blocking rehearsal through the monitor. I also don’t sit much. Sitting and looking at the monitor together feels like watching television. My body relaxes, I lose my focus, and pretty soon I’m in passive mode. Maybe this is good for some folks, but I need to be up and walking around. It’s probably insufferable for everyone else. But then most directors are insufferable on some level. The main thing is to communicate to the actors that I’m a participant, on some level, in their work. I watch them so they can focus on each other instead of themselves.

So that’s what late February/early March has been about – preparation, dealmaking, scribbling. There will be more exciting posts to come, I promise. But since I told you back in the day that I’d be sharing the experience of making an independent film, you might as well get a taste of the less exciting stuff too.