Three months ago, I was sitting opposite Charis Jackson, our Producer on The Out of the Woods Project. It was the last week before principal photography and we were discussing possible locations.
Suddenly, Charis’ face went completely blank as she looked at her computer screen. “What do they mean they want $20.000!”
This was one of those moments of horror in filmmaking that we’ve all heard of. We had just lost the woods in The Out of the Woods Project!
A manager at the location where we were planning on filming most of our movie had previously told us they would let us film for less than $500. Now they were asking for way more, effectively making it impossible for us to use that location because of our tight budget.
All of this happened less than a week before we needed to film there and only a few days before we would need to set up a large set piece on the property.
We needed to find the most important location for our movie all over again and with only a few days to spare. I was the Production Designer and the Location Scout and technically this was all my responsibility.
“Sometimes you have to let go of your preconceived notions of how everything is supposed to be. Some would call that compromise, I call it opportunity.“
Filmmaking is a difficult business to be in. It is one of ever changing circumstances and schedules. I went into filmmaking naive and completely unaware of the pressure and stress involved.
One of my greatest lessons in stress management and flexibility came when I Directed my first short film back in film school.
The day before principal photography I lost my main location. I was unable to find a suitable one in time and lost a whole day of shooting. Then my lead actor called me and told me he could no longer be involved in the project. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. So I laughed.
I had to work full time on other student’s sets and had no idea how to solve the issue and had no time for location scouting or setting up casting calls.
All I had left was a faith that it somehow would work out.
Two days later it did. I cast a new main actor and found a location (although it was not as good as the first one I had found). I honestly had no idea how it worked out, but it did.
Through my time working in film, I have learned how important it is to cope with the fear of change. Even if you lay the best plans, things in life can still fail and you have to be ready to deal with it. I’ve learned to somehow be collected and cool in the storms of life when everything around me falls apart.
Sometimes you have to let go of your preconceived notions of how everything is supposed to be. Some would call that compromise, I call it opportunity.
We can’t always know what is ahead and sometimes it is for the better that things go wrong and our plans fail.
Many would say that Jaws became a better movie because the mechanical shark kept failing, and they were forced to adopt a “less is more” philosophy.
It was only due to a scheduling conflict with another actor that Harrison Ford was chosen for the role of Indiana Jones. Harrison brought something to the role I doubt anyone else could.
One of the most difficult and troubled shoots in history produced one of the best films of all time; Apocalypse Now.
The fact is that losing our main location on The Out of the Woods Project made us look in places we had not previously thought of, and as a result we found an even better location!
Being the Production Designer on a feature film means that every member of the Art Department looks to you for answers to their questions. There were times where I didn’t have any answers due to changing circumstances, lack of finances, lack of time or I simply didn’t know.
In those moments I have found that you have to have confidence and hope even though you don’t have all the answers and may not know how you are going to reach your goals.
You have to be honest with the people who look to you for direction when you don’t know how to get there, but you all will, somehow, work together as a team and reach your destination.
I want to challenge you to take courage and to have confidence.
Hold onto hope in the face of adversity and the ever changing circumstances and seasons of life. This is something I have grown in through my work in the film industry.