Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: Be Organized

In this week’s Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: Be Organized. Sounds logical… simple even, doesn’t it? Yet you’d be surprised at how often – or the ways – we don’t see it among independent filmmakers.

I have a lot of good will towards other indie filmmakers, and I help out as often as I can, but I don’t do it for just anyone anymore because of experiences like this one.

There was one scene I had as a performer in a low budget movie. The 1st AD called to tell me my call time was 11 am. Having learned from bitter experience in the past, I asked if it was really 11 am, or if they were just asking everyone to come at 11 whether they were needed or not. I let him know that my production office was literally two blocks from where they were shooting, and I could be on set within five minutes of a phone call, and I would really prefer to be at work – in production by the way – until I was actually needed on set.

Nope, my call was 11 am.  Which, by the way, was five minutes ago.

They were shooting in a nice old theatre that was completely empty. I sat down to wait in one of the three hundred seats and was promptly told by the AD that I had to wait outside. Really? Yes.

It was pretty cold outside, and nothing to sit on except the ground. I asked if I could wait in the donut shop across the street. No.

Hours passed. I stole a sound blanket from inside, rolled myself up in it and went to sleep on the cold bumpy ground in the yard. There was no food, no coffee. I entered the blissful state I often feel when things have become so messed up all you can do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the insanity.

At 2 am, 15 hours after being called in, they were ready for me. Well, actually they were ready to fall unconscious. I was the only person in the room who was not dangerously underslept. The director muttered something incomprehensible and flailed her arms around then pulled her hat over her head and blacked out. I ended up directing the scene while she was asleep, just so we could all get out of there. That’s right. I had been called at the beginning of the day, and I was not required until the last shot of the day. Being locked outside in the yard like a guard dog was just the icing on the cake.

Now, of course, I should simply have told the AD I was going back to work and to give me a call ten minutes before I was actually needed. But sometimes I just enjoy seeing how bad things can get.

Respect your crew and cast. Plan your days and call people only when they are needed. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but seriously, the above story is typical of my experience on no- to low-budget shoots, and is in fact far from the worst story I could tell you.

Don’t waste people’s time.

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