the journey of a first-time filmmaker through the eyes of a software engineer — part 2— production

In my previous post, I talked about the pre-production process for the two short films I made this summer. It all led to March 12th and July 1st, the days when we filmed “Aloneness” and “Collage”. We had exactly twelve hours to film “Aloneness” and four hours to film “Collage” and against all odds we made it happen.

We got on set for “Aloneness” at 7 pm and wrapped at 7 am the following day. This was a very stressful day. When I get on set as an actor, I have to worry about one thing only — making sure I stay true to my character. This time, I was also directing the movie.

As a director, you have to have a vision of where you are going and what story you are telling. A screenplay gives you a direction, it’s like a mockup that tells you what features an app should have, but it’s your job to figure out how to build them. I had to figure out the “how”. I am a huge fan of David O. Russel and I referred to some of his movies when thinking about how to film “Aloneness”. For example, one of the scenes takes place in a coffee shop and it is very dialogue heavy; so, as a reference I used the dinner scene between Jennifer Laurence and Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”.

The majority of time on set is used to set up the equipment and light the scenes. As an actor, you just sit and wait, but since I had more than one hat to wear, I had to make sure we were not running behind schedule and on the set of “Aloneness”, we were. Our tight schedule was the result of a shoe-string budget. During the shoot, I had to cut some shots out and simplify the other ones. That was not fun but had to be done. That said, if it was not for the amazing crew, we would never be able to shoot in three different locations in the amount of time we had.

Setting up to film one of the scenes in “Aloneness”

I used an untraditional way of storytelling for “Collage”; so, the filming process was pretty straightforward — most of the shots were POVs. The editing was a different story, we used animation and composition and that created additional difficulties about which I will talk in my next post on post-production.

Setting up to film one of the scenes in “Collage”

For my next projects, in which I plan to act and direct, I will make sure I have an assistant director. It is extremely hard to do both at the same time and I am new to directing. I have been studying acting for years now and no matter what technique one uses, the main idea is to stay present. You can’t worry about other actors or the light or the camera angle. That is the director’s job.

Cast and crew on the set of “Aloneness”

Filming is stressful and there are many moving parts, but it is also a lot of fun. It’s a playground for adults. As an actor I do not have to ever grow up, I can be whoever I want and do whatever I want without any consequences. For the duration of the scene my reality disappears and I live the life of my character. It is the most fascinating and magical thing.

Behind the scenes of “Collage”

The best part of making a movie is the relationships you build with people you work with. The only time it’s quiet on set is when the director yells: “Action!”. I have worked in finance and tech and I met a lot of people who are passionate about what they do, but it pales in comparison with the number of people I meet during the process of moviemaking, who are in love with their craft. The entertainment industry is unpredictable, unforgiving and brutal. There is no career path, where if you deliver your work on time and exceed expectations from time to time, you know you will be promoted. The entertainment industry is a roller coaster, one day you are a star and another — you are forgotten. You have to have a very strong reason to stay in it.

Behind the scenes of “Collage”

Production was the shortest piece of making “Aloneness” and “Collage”. In my next post, I will talk about the post-production process, losing an animator, working with an amazing composer and getting sick of seeing my face on the screen over and over again …