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Producing in Portland: The Details Matter

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There are no huge studio lots in Oregon. Yes, a few shows have stages and big sets they use often, but the majority of filming in the Pacific NW is on location, and sometimes very remote locations. Oregon is home to a huge array of landscapes, the radness of which I shared in my last post; “Location, location, location!”

Filming on location requires special attention to detail – forgetting a filter, costume, crucial prop or camera card could mean your shoot is dead in the water and you’re left shaking your fists in the air until said item can be retrieved – maybe a matter of a half a day or more. There is no way to run across the lot or town for a special dolly part or printer toner.

Producing in Portland

Yes, the Oreos are a staple of the setup. Pens and Oreos are all anyone needs, right?

Currently, I am writing this from my quaint cabin production office at Camp Baldwin on Mt. Hood for my latest project, Hello From Nowhere while also simultaneously finishing up post-production on Here Awhile (guys, I am SO excited about this, can’t wait to share!). This single cabin is the ONLY PLACE with Wi-Fi (no cell service) for at least 15-20 miles. Planning ahead is critical – there isn’t even a regular grocery store for about 40 miles. Getting batteries, trash bags or waters can be a 3-hour ordeal – all of which can cause a production team to go bonkers. But, there is more than just your sanity to consider when talking about why the details definitely matter in filmmaking.

And let’s be real – there is no way to have every detail hammered out before you start filming. Me and everyone I have ever worked with have been either or both the culprit or on the receiving end of something that should have been taken care of differently. But, this post is meant to be more of a high-five to those who never give up on the details.

The Difference Between Something Mediocre and Something Extraordinary

A bad-ass woman I continue to look up to even more as I get older is my high school mentor, Doreen Dunn. She spearheaded a satellite school where kids from several area schools came to learn about acting, dance, lighting, set building and even the business side of theater. Super cool, right? Yes, I was totally lucky to spend over ½ of my time as a junior and senior learning and practicing theater on a daily basis. Can we go back to that please? Y’all can join in too. 🙂

Producing in Portland

Me and a few of my high school theater buddies on top of Mt. Arthur on a performance trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Dorks!

Doreen fueled my curiosity for all things entertainment and shaped a large part of who I am today. She always led by example and one of the biggest lessons she taught me was that the details matter. I am going to butcher this quote from something she used to say to me all the time like 18 years ago, but this is how I remember her saying it.

“The difference between mediocre art and extraordinary art is the ten thousandth detail.” – Doreen Dunn

She would often say this when we were sick of repairing small things like buttons on costumes, or just generally being lazy teens who needed to step it up. But, with enough reminders and enough experience, we could all see that this wasn’t bullshit. It’s true.

One of the plays we did, Defying Gravity has a flying scene at the end. It also involved several quick changes directly before. Anyone who was not in the scene at the top was required to be part of the scene change. We spent weeks perfecting who would change the actors, requiring several people per costume change and who would rig the flying harnesses. It was no joke, if not done perfectly, the flying stunt could be very dangerous. By being thoughtful in our actions, everyone doing their best work and in tandem with each other, we were able to pull off something pretty huge to us as high schoolers at the time – actors in the air. And it was exhilarating, night after night, for those flying across the stage and those of us who just made it happen.

Filmmaking is ALWAYS About the Details

And, I see every day how this plays into my career as a Producer and filmmaker. I’m often the squeaky wheel when it comes to the details, bugging the team about credits being exactly right, being sure the team understands the ramifications of every contract detail, and eyeing the tag sticking out on someone’s wardrobe. But to me, the details matter, and you will never convince me otherwise. Even the smallest detail, like incorrect payroll paperwork, left undealt with can cause a shit storm, with ramifications for months. And basically, the entire job of a Producer is to avoid shit-nados and ensure top-notch work from everyone on the team. So, I am proud to be the annoying alarm clock if it means that just like Doreen did for me, I am leading by example and pushing others to do their best work. And you never know which detail will be that ten thousandth one…tipping the scale into something extraordinary. After which, the whole team has something to be immensely proud of.

All of this sorta goes hand in hand with another quote from my equally amazing, award-winning high school choir teacher, Mr. Thrower:

“Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

But that’s a whole other post – LOL, coming soon?

Alyssa Roehrenbeck

About Alyssa Roehrenbeck

Alyssa Roehrenbeck is a get-shit-done type person with a fun loving, goofy side. She believes in working hard and playing hard – at the same time. As an Actress and Producer, she began at a young age by adapting and organizing neighborhood plays based on the popular American Girls collection (yes, really). She and her pals rehearsed, constructed hodge-podge costumes and then charged parents for admission and popcorn. After graduating from studies in Theater and Business, she’s honed her skills as not only a writer and actress, but as a smart and fearless Producer. She has Produced feature films like Seaside (starring Ariana DeBose from Broadway’s, The Donna Summer Musical & Hamilton), OK KO Game Jam for Cartoon Network, Misfits (starring Paige McKenzie) for Disney’s Free Period, and loads of web series and viral content, including The Drunk Show. For more information and current projects, head over to Deep Sea Pictures.