I like to be in control, and since I’m a director that should be a good thing. Well, I have learned over the years that it is, but I have to let a lot of the control go for the betterment of my films.
I recently shot a short that came at the worst time and learned to let things fall together. It really showed me how to let it go and create art. This little film, that I am so proud of, taught me to really let things happen as they should. Actually this short should not have been made. It was given to me three weeks before an already scheduled shoot. So I told myself only if things fall into place will I make this. Everything I had going told me not to take it on, but every sign told me to move forward.
I needed three things right away to say yes, cast, location and a coffin. I knew right away whom I would want to play the parts. The male lead, Wil, I had just run into by chance a few weeks earlier. My first sign. The female actor I knew had to be Jameelah. I contacted them and they both said yes. Ok coffin and location. I went over to a friend’s house to look around and ask her about using her home. This is always a tough one but she was fine with having a coffin in her living room. Ok, now the coffin. I put my producer Jerry on it and within a day he found a coffin to rent. I was in.
I kept this attitude throughout the project, not that I skimped on any prep, but kept knowing that things will fall into place. The coffin fell through 3 days before the shot, but Jerry found another one that actually worked out better. Everyone was late the day of shooting due to traffic but the day went really well. I came with a shot list and actually tailored it down right then and there. Great since we are already behind schedule.
Everyone worked as fast as they could without compromise to the production. We had four different set-ups in the house and as we shot one the team moved to the next one. Good thing we weren’t rolling sound. Things just kept falling.
Although a sad story, the kids of the owner of the house, didn’t distance the actors one bit. A true testament to their talents.
Although we started late the day wrapped at the scheduled time and I felt I had a great production. Now I needed to edit it fast. I was working on a deadline. The whole film was due in London in four weeks.
I put a rough together and it just didn’t work. I showed my After Effects Artist, Jaison, and he told me of a way he could create the dissolve on a different shoot. One that wasn’t planned for it. He had to redraw the background and the shoulder of Jameelah. Do we have the time? He made it happen. Love him. Edit came together and the emotion was kept. Still falling.
Now color and sound. I felt the color was near perfect, thanks to my DP Ken, but I meet a color corrector, Peter, and he said he would take a look at it. He took a look and agreed it didn’t need much at all. I made the minor adjustments. During all of this I was working on a song with my composer Rob. We place a temp track of it and it didn’t work. I now only have two days to complete it. The fall had stopped, but luckily only temporarily. I drove to his place, (he has his own piano) and we worked on the song for about 6 hours. Perfect. I placed the song. The fall began again.
I uploaded it to Vimeo with a few hours to spare. Submitted to the contest I was shooting this for and the fall ended when they told me they like it and were going to use it.
Now with all this said I am still very into prep. I spend months with the script. I read it numerous times. I create a shot list. I rehearse with my actors. I oversee the production design and work very closely with my Director of Photography. I still get very involved. But I put a lot into trust and let it all fall into place.
If you would like to see the short (S.W.A.L.K.) that came out of this, please enjoy it here: