Understanding The Work: The Cape House and Process.

28 Apr

 

IMG_1186

A screen grab from an impromptu shoot for a film I’m making this summer.
Stayed tuned on twitter and instagram.
#secretproject

Hey there friends and followers,

Well, it’s spring, and with the beginning of spring comes the inevitable spring cold.

And with that cold has been a chance for me to sit and reflect. Something I hadn’t done in over a year. Well over that long, actually. Despite oodles of free time last fall, (owing to lack of employment), my mind was trapped on

1)WORK! WORK! I NEED WORK.

and

2)I HAVE TO MAKE THIS FEATURE FILM OR I’M NOT A FILMMAKER.

I couldn’t escape any of this thinking. I had lots of time to think, yet the only thing I could think about was my failings and financial insecurity. Not the best place to create from, right?

So where did this need for a ‘feature or bust’ come from?

Let’s flashback a little more. January, 2013. I was finishing up film school, and didn’t have a clue as to what was next. I was advised by a professor to start working on a feature. This professor believed that you should have the next project ready-to-pitch. To me, the idea of doing another short was terribly unappealing. Why waste my time with that? Now I needed to be a feature filmmaker.

Thinking economically, I briefly considered ‘what in my life do I have that could make for an interesting location and story?’

My mind quickly came to my family’s house on Cape Cod. I dutifully sat down and sketched out a story. Within a month, I had a first draft that peopled liked and saw potential in. I wrote a second draft over the summer that even more people liked. Drinks were poured and everyone was excited about it!

I was ‘in development.’ I had a PRODUCER. Now came the time to start telling the world.

I started pitching the film all over the place: workshops, subway trains, loud bars after film events and screenings. To anyone who would listen, really. People loved the story of a man returning to his family’s vacation home and having to confront his past. They identified with the painful family dynamics and the issues of divorce and death in the family. I felt great. I was becoming a feature filmmaker.

Then the other shoe dropped.

I spent so much time talking about the film I forgot to keep working on it. I was squeezing writing sessions into tight hours when I wasn’t off talking about it. I networked like hell and got people interested and excited. I started a Facebook page. ALL OF WHICH IS GOOD, and I’m glad I did it.

But my head wasn’t in the movie. It was in the idea of making the movie. It was ‘playing at the thing’ instead of ‘doing the thing.’

Everytime I sat down to ‘write’ I just got distracted and looked on the internet, reading about people getting more work done than me, which is the equivalent of looking on Web MD when you have a headache.

I spent months avoiding the script. Why? Because I hated it. Because I had no ideas. I was bored with it. There were too many characters. Details I could see in my mind weren’t on the page. I was bored with the story of a ‘white guy finding himself’ and I was terrified that was all the script had going. The initial excitement of exploring personal themes in my life made me queasy. I couldn’t work on it, and I needed something else to think about, at least to make returning to the script more bearable.

I then came to a personal conclusion: I wasn’t being a filmmaker. I was a guy making one film, and I was barely making it. Sitting in a room and writing wasn’t enough. I had to be out, making stuff, channeling my energy and working. I need a constant workflow.  Paradoxically, This has helped me to think more clearly.

So what’s happening now?

Easy: I’ve diversified. I’ve just finished shooting a short piece on a painter friend. I’ve started teaching media classes. I’ve begun shooting a new film. I just had a wonderful meeting about it. Here’s a photo.

Sticky

A big part of my process. Note cards on the wall.

I’ll be directing, shooting, editing, and probably exporting the film myself (with a great deal of help from friends). I also have another short film in the ‘thinking’ phase that deals with some of the issues explored above.

All of this is an attempt for me to remind myself why I love filmmaking. To remind myself that this is supposed to be fun.

And what’s going on The Cape House?

Good things, exciting things. I’m writing a new version of it that has a lot in common with my short film Purple. I consider Purple to be one of my better films, and it was definitely the most fun I’ve had making a film. I’m going to detail the process in an upcoming post, but until then, take a minute and give it a watch.


So, what’s the lesson I’ve earned? 

Make long term and short term plans. Be working on a bigger project, and let something you see inspire you to shoot a film next week, the next day, or at that very minute. Embrace it as a life style. This gets more accomplished than going from one project to the next. It keeps you moving, thinking, and creating.

I spent a long time being frustrated with The Cape House, but then the simple thought occurred to me: This is just part of the process.

So I’ll continue the film. What it is, and what will be, continues to evolve. The process is what makes it.

Thanks for reading.

Best,
Liam.

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