In the commentary to my film YOU ARE ALONE, I said that making a movie was the hardest thing to do. Period.
Though there’s hardly anything simple about it. Dealing with the egos, the tantrums, the hysteria that goes with no sleep, no food, too much coffee, stress, stress, stress. Sorry. There are few things in life of which I’m certain, but this IS one of them. Directing a film is the most difficult task a human can perform. Any if you’re reading this and shaking you’re head, well then, you obviously have never directed a film. So, you really have no clue.
If you’re nodding, going, HELL, YEAH. Then read on . . .
Protein. Yeah, that was one of the big complaints on the set of Friends (with benefits). Despite the more seasoned pros on the set claiming we had the best food and coffee they’d ever had on ANY movie set. (I do believe in feeding people well, especially when I can’t pay union wages, and in many cases Pas are working for little or less, good food and coffee is the one thing I CAN and WILL provide.) There were the very vocal few who felt there wasn’t enough protein during breakfast. Of course, in most cases these were the people who did the least amount of work. Why is it that the most useless people complain the most? Do they have nothing else better to do? Obviously. They’re not really working. They’re just looking to create drama. That is what they do best.
These are the people that need to be stepped on like bugs on a movie set. I don’t care if they’re your friends. All they do is breed hostility. They make what could be an otherwise happy set, miserable. And why? Because they need some fucking protein in their breakfast? No, because they’re lazy assholes to begin with. GET RID OF THEM.
One of the worst “problems” on the FWB set was a young woman who claimed to be vegan. Who complained at every meal. Who never once asked nicely if we could perhaps have something different for breakfast. (Asking nice goes a LONG way.) But instead spread her nasty attitude like a virus through the set, even infecting the cast. She was worthless on crew. And because of her attitude, I absolutely refused to even listen. Then one day I saw her eating a plate of scrambled eggs. The vegan eating eggs. Snagged. You know what she could do with her protein complaints from that point forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I love most of the filmmaking process. Especially writing and editing. My least favorite part would be the actual filming. Mainly because of the one or two rotten apples that spoil it for everybody. Every set has them. I wish I knew how to get rid of them. All I can do is report them to a few line producers I know after the shoot. (I do, believe me . . . and yes, there are list of “unhirable” people out there, both crew AND cast) It’s a small community. Eventually word gets around. And word really gets around with it’s a department head who’s causing the problems.
Unfortunately, because you’re shooting for just a few weeks, and usually not dealing with unions, finding a quick replacement is impossible. (Especially if you’re not in New York or LA.) So, do you cut off your nose to spite your face? (We did that a few times on FWB, and usually the work would fall onto either my shoulders, or more often than not the shoulders of Ashley McGarry, who shared the writing, editing and producing credits with me, and who ultimately ended up also earning the title of Production Manager, because she, well, managed the production when those that were hired to do so either didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, whatever. She did what was needed to get the film made. I did likewise. But there’s only so much two people can do.) So, no. You try to ignore the morons, hope they get a tiny bit of work done, that their department heads actually whips them into shape, and focus on the task at hand: making a movie.
And there are bright sides. When all goes well during a day of shooting, it’s becomes the greatest day of your life. Hands down, it’s one of the greatest highs. Despite the exhaustion and stress, you are flying.
And don’t get me wrong, this entry is about the FEW, the not so PROUD.
Seventy-five percent of the Friends crew were stellar, hard working professionals, who did a great job, and rarely complained. Really, in addition to the aforementioned Ms. McGarry, who went above and beyond and probably deserved another dozen titles, my dream crew would certainly include Adrian Correia as my cinematographer, Dave Groman as my sound recordist, Jodi Baldwin (one of only two people I asked over from the You Are Alone crew) on costumes, Stefani Rae Fisher and Mara Palumbo on makeup and hair, to name just a few.
It’s the other twenty-five percent I’m ranting about. Actually…it’s the really just the bottom ten percent: protein girl, vomit guy, wrong contract dude, and those who can’t schedule or telephone extras (etc., and so on) despite the fact that it’s their job. (If you EVER find a first AD that you love…when the film ends, keep them chained in your basement and never let them go. Great Assistant Directors are the holy grail of the independent film world.)
It’s that ten percent which, in a perfect world, would be sacrificed to the Gods at the wrap party. Burned alive at the stakes, as we danced around the fire, drinks in hand. I’d gladly light the fire. It would be our gift to other independent filmmakers. Freedom from ever having to work with these certain few.
(I mentioned the You Are Alone crew. I guess that only two people from YAA were asked to come work on Friends With Benefits pretty much says it loud and clear. The rest is on that DVD’s commentary. But yeah, that would have been one huge fire.)
Next time I’ll address what makes a great crew member, a great collaborator, in this most difficult artform.
ALSO…the official Friends (with Benefits) site has tons of fun new links (DELETED SCENES!!!)…and it’s even iPhone compatible. Also check out the Gorman Bechard site, my personal site, for everything on the books and films, if you haven’t already.