(I have a lot to write about the film project I was a part of this weekend, so I plan to write it in two different entries. Take One is my journey leading up to the film project, and a little bit about the film project. Take Two will be more a “play-by-play” of the actual project.)
As long as I can remember, storytelling has been a part of my life. When I was little, my friend Leah and I created our own television station where we created spoof televisions shows such as The B-Team (second string to the A-team), 14 Karat Gold (a hippie version of Solid Gold) and Star Trek: The Lost Generation (another hippie version… we were obsessed with hippies). We took an animation class at the Milwaukee Art Museum where I first learned to use a Super 8 camera. When I was in high school, I made a couple videos for my school. When I was at Judson College, I helped my friend Andrew create videos to show for a variety of events. When I went to UWM, I took all sorts of film classes, and I met someone who offered me a connection with Paramount Pictures. Even now, I find myself wondering about what my life would have looked like if I had picked up and moved to L.A. like I had planned… But while I didn’t move to L.A., and film has not played as large a role in my life as of late, I am still inspired by films.
I remember when I first met Warren Matson, and he learned of my love for film… He said something like, “We should make a film together one day!” We quickly had a connection because of our love for film, and telling stories. He even started a “film club” where he and I, along with our friend Simon, got together once a month to watch movies together and talk about them afterwards. He introduced me to more classic movies, I introduced him to a few foreign films (hooray Werckmeister Harmonies!), and from then on, every time we saw each other, we found ourselves talking about movies.
Last year, I heard about the 48 Hour Film Project through a guy named Jake, whose father I worked with at the Rescue Mission. For a reason that seems to escape me now, he was unable to enter his film. But I remember at the time thinking the concept of the 48 hour film project was spectacular… scary, but spectacular.
Warren and I talked about the film project a couple of times, until one day, Warren told me that he was serious about entering, and was looking to create a team. With much delight, I accepted his invitation to join his team.
Now, my knowledge/experience with filmmaking is minimal, at best. I was an English major with a minor in Film Studies, but I had never actually been involved in making a movie. Videos yes, films no. I’ve helped my brother make some videos, including a spin off of Shyamalan’s “Signs,” but my role was very small and insignificant. As far as camera work, I’ve worked as a cameraman for conferences, but in those situations, the camera is pretty well set up, and I was not required to adjust much aside from the focus and cropping. I’ve also helped shoot footage for my brother before, but again, there were other cameramen on hand, so it was not imperative that my footage be valuable. Needless to say, going into the 48 hour film project, I didn’t have much experience.
Originally, our team seemed to be a bit of a ragged group – with different skill levels, and none of us having done anything too professional. However, as our group began to grow, Warren recruited some very talented, very experienced filmmakers.
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m slightly intimidated to work on projects with people who have high expectations. I remember a few years back, I worked on a video where I was the sole cameraman, and I was expected to get decent shots/interviews in a VERY short period of time. We had horrible lighting (an no lights to supplement) and our sound equipment totally malfunctioned. The person I was working with was had very high expectations and was clearly aggravated. Ever since then, I’ve been afraid of producing work for highly experienced, well-skilled people.
When I found out I’d be working as a cameraman under these individuals, panic immediately set in. With the time constraints put on us, I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to move fast enough and produce what they wanted. I feared I wasn’t qualified enough to serve in the role I’d been asked.
However, as the day approached, it looked as though my responsibilities would be different than I expected (which was good!). Instead, I was to serve as assistant cameraman, helping the camera operator by moving the camera, plugging in all the cords, and wrangling them if need be. This seemed to be a role I could handle a bit better, though there was still a learning curve.
I met Mitch, Megan, and Drew a few weeks before the project. The three of them are well versed in the world of film, and they would definitely prove to be unbelievably valuable on set. I mostly worked with Mitch, who served as the director of photography, as well as the cameraman and lighting director. He is very smart and experienced when it comes to film, but he could not have been any more patient with the varying skill levels he had to work with. He was willing to teach all of us, and was great to work for. I hope that some day in the future I get the opportunity to work with him again as I feel I could learn a great deal from him.
The project was completed with 4 minutes to spare. We found out the genre and necessary “includes” for the film, wrote the film, and created a shot list all on Friday night, shot all day Saturday, edited Saturday night and Sunday, and laid down the soundtrack Sunday afternoon. I have yet to see the finished product, but am extremely excited to see the fruit of this journey.
While my role was small, I feel like I learned a lot – if anything, just being on a film set was incredible. I’ve been in love with film for a long time, and have always wanted to experience what it would be like to be a part of a film. While this was on a small scale, it gave me a good glimpse into the world of movie making, and I was glad to be a part of it.
Thanks to all the people I met while working on this project – I had a blast.