Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joy Lies Within The Low Budget

There is often a void left behind after a production has completed its stages of pre, production, and post.  For me, it's right after we've wrapped that seems to be the hardest.  I spend days and days round the clock preparing for a shoot - running around, planning, strategizing, stressing out, anticipating, problem solving, and thinking fast.  It abruptly comes to a close and I'm left the next day nursing my body aches and wondering, "What the hell am I supposed to do now?"  I long for a back to back barrage of productions so often simply because I manage to work on very enjoyable sets.

This summer was a slow one.  We had a couple of our own productions in the music video realm and some random interview and performance stuff but not enough to keep me moving as fast as I like.  So, I picked up a couple other odd jobs that had nothing to do with producing whatsoever but kept me around the camera. Then those jobs ended and it was back to twiddling the ol' thumbs.


Too many days in a row of not being on set began to drive me a little nuts.  I noticed an ad for a PA on a 3 day shoot, in a remote location, staying in a resort, with not one red cent of pay.  "Sounds great!" I said to myself and off I went to work on the last days of a really bad sci-fi/horror feature.  It was fun.  The director had no real understanding of the words 'crew' or 'team' or 'group' so we, the crew, banded together and made it happen.  It was the best 3 days of free work I've done in a while mainly because connections were made and there was a set camaraderie that can only be found on a low budget film.

I busied myself with company stuff after that then dove head first into our latest music video.  As soon as that was done I came up for air and realized I just wanted to get back to swimming the depths of creative production.  Lucky for me a producer/director I work with on and off popped up again.  He put together a crew for a 3 day contest and I was to be his production supervisor.  I was only needed for one day since the writing had to be done in one day, the shoot the next day, and the editing the following day.  We were an eclectic San Diego group of varying age ranges and ethnicities and it was a blast.  The rain had been coming down all week but the skies dried up for our shoot day.  (Something that had awesomely enough happened on the music video shoot as well, come to think of it.)  The clouds offered a natural diffusion for most of the day then spread out to show off billowing patterns against patches of blue.  It was smooth and easy and quick. Yet another fine day of free work for me.  As we said our goodbyes the sound recordist reiterated my satisfaction by saying, "You spend so much time working on large, stressful sets you forget what it's like to enjoy your job.  Then you get a chance to work with a crew of people who make films for fun and you remember how great it can be."  No truer words have ever been spoken.

That was the end of summer.  Since then things have come to a screeching halt.  I've thrown myself into a winter office position teaching me the ins and outs of payroll for both union and non-union commercials.  Super informative.  Incredibly useful.  But oh so dull to be indoors battling paperwork instead of the elements, crew, locations, and budgets.  I love being in control of a shoot.  I love being in charge.  I love being a leader on a production.  But more than anything I love being on a set in any capacity. It's proving difficult for me to sit still and learn more of my trade via a 9-5.  I just keep telling myself it's winter.  It's the holidays. It's relatively slow out there until March again.  And who knows?  I may come to love the payroll aspect of producing.

What I do know for sure, heart lies in the trenches with the struggling indie filmmakers.  Should someone invite me to participate in a low budget shoot, in the dead of winter, on a nearby mountain top, for an 18 hour day, I'd be hard-pressed to say no. - TKS

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