It’s 2008, the day before we start shooting on the first indie feature I’ve ever worked on. I’m standing outside a two-bedroom crew house awaiting the arrival of the last 9-10 people who will call it “home” for the next six weeks. Yes. 9-10 people, two bedrooms. (What can I say, it was indie and we were on a budget. 😉 . I’m a lapsed theatre major, so I really missed the inspired tangle of artistic people coming together to create something. I was excited…and terrified.
When we, the three-person pre-production team, booked the house I remember thinking that the experience I was about to have was either going to be absolutely amazing or truly horrific. In addition to the obvious “real world” scenarios playing out in my head (close quarters, a handful of strangers, long/stressful days coupled with little sleep has got to be the prize winning recipe for drama) there was also the fact that we were embarking on a creative venture that would soon become public. All the hard work, the writing, the planning, the long hours we’d put in behind closed doors, it was about to become a real thing—an actual physical thing out in the world. You don’t get to put a caveat next to your name in the credits that explains why you fell short. This movie would have to stand on it’s own. If we failed, we failed publicly. I hoped we wouldn’t fail.
Without going into a million details, the entire shoot was something of a beautiful disaster. Most days there weren’t more than a dozen people on set, including actors. Each of us had more jobs than any one person has any business having, jobs that, on any normal movie set, would have been done by entire departments with experienced heads and crews of their own. There was drama and disaster, pressure and bad plumbing, laughably bad luck, but there I was, 5am, among the first to arrive, often last to leave, and even on the worst days, I can honestly say I woke up every morning excited to go back and do it again. I don’t think that was the case for everyone, but in the end we all stuck it out and worked through the problems. The movie isn’t great. It’s really not even that good, but I wouldn’t say we failed. I’m proud we finished it and I wouldn’t trade a second of the experience. I might not have come away with an amazing movie, but in making it I became a better filmmaker and I met talented, passionate people I’ll work with for the rest of my life.
In fact, on every project I’ve done since, even the smallest, silliest things, I’ve come away having met people with drive, talent and a good attitude—people I know I want to work with again. With every independent film I get to be a part of, I’m building a community of people around me who are hungry. They want to create, they want to collaborate and I get that wonderful high that comes with working toward a common creative goal. Incredible things happen when you surround yourself with talented people that want what you want. Together we are better than we are alone.
Five years later, very few people have seen my first feature film. It doesn’t get me jobs or press, it hasn’t been a “success” in the traditional meaning of the word, but you know what? Of that first crew, four of us work together regularly to produce new material. The others are more far flung, but when we see them, it’s a fond reunion and we’ve helped on each other’s personal projects. Those relationships are priceless. At the start I was afraid to fail. Now I know “failing” just part of the process, and the truth is that no experience is a wasted one. So I guess there’s no such thing as failure unless you just don’t do anything at all. And what fun is that? 😉