The very first feature film I worked on was an absolute flop. I was there to shoot it and the writer was there to sort of direct and produce it. It was very unorganized. This was back in the year 2000. I was twenty one at the time. It was an experience and I learned a few things. Namely that you need a director. The guy who wrote the film was also acting in it and producing it. So he was already wearing a few hats. We never really had a director. Directing became a collective effort on the part of everyone. But without a single person at the helm to call the shots and make sure everyone was on track, we were ultimately doomed. Yet somehow we still managed to shoot about 30% of the film. Don’t ask me how we got that much done, because looking back the entire production was an absolute mess. But you need those experiences to learn from them.
About four years later I directed my first feature. This time I came to the table knowing I wanted to direct and I told everyone in the production to come to me with any ideas that they had. I would keep an open mind and listen to them, but ultimately I had final say in what was included or not. I wasn’t being tyrannical about it. I was establishing a much needed chain of command that everyone respected. I had several people come to me with ideas that I did in fact include in the production. I kept my crew small and tight so that everyone was always working and no one was just standing around holding a boom pole all day, bored out of their mind.
I hired a cinematographer and had a great producer to help organize the shoot and fund the project with me. The title of the film is Falling Apart, even though the film itself was far from that. We finished it, we screened it at a local art house theater and even sold some limited edition copies on DVD. Ultimately making back our investment. It was by far not a great piece of work due to our overall lack of experience and budget at the time, but it was a definite learning experience and a success.
It took us three months of shooting on weekends and off days with a cast and crew of about twenty people that worked for copy and credit. We got very lucky. Everyone was really great to work with, no one complained and everyone showed when they were supposed to. Everyone left the production with a positive outlook and I still know most of those people today.
By the time we shot our next short film my production team was an oiled engine. We assembled another great cast and shot our next short film in a month. We had learned a lot in the year since shooting our feature. Not to mention feeling a little high on ourselves for having a feature film under our belt. The result was a short film definitely superior to our feature.
Since then I’ve been working as a professional cinematographer and photographer. Continuing to hone my skills. I don’t direct as much as I shoot but I enjoy what I do and I continue to push forward.