Last week I did a day on the upcoming feature film Mutual Friends. Roweena MacKay, our line producer from How We Got Away With It was also the line producer on Mutual Friends. The week before I was G-Chatting with Roweena as she was filling me in on the crew issues that they had been having: they ended up going through five different sound ops! In a three week shoot that is an extraordinary amount of change in a position as important as the sound op. Anyway, I said to Roweena “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.” Like a good producer she quickly responded that she could use an extra set of hands on tuesday if I was available. I was, so I agreed to come in for the day. I love working with Roweena and I love being on set so it was a no brainer.
The day consisted of some day exteriors and then some night exteriors. The weather was perfect and it was a joy to be around a group of people fighting the good fight, working on a project they believe in. I ended up mostly being a 2nd AC which was a trip because Kyle, our 2nd AC on How We Got Away With It, was the 1st AC on Mutual Friends. So I spent the day helping Kyle make lens changes in between locking down locations and being a general set of hands.
It was a great experience to be on the set of a feature film with a similar budget and shooting schedule as How We Got Away With It. I was really struck by how much planing can make or break a day. Our planning for How We Got Away With It was consistently solid; we only missed two days and we never went into OT. We missed our day on Mutual Friends and had to go into OT to make it. Considering that it was a day of exteriors only, where we were handheld the entire time, there was no reason we should not have made the day. But some simple planning, mainly in shot lists and set-ups slowed us down.
There are so many aspects to keep track of on a low budget feature; there’s a reason why there’s hundreds of crew on studio features. But the passion it takes to make a low budget very often seeps into the camera and is evident in the final project. Something that studio films are very often missing.
At the end of the day, Roweena and the director had to fire their gaffer. This guy was a real dick. It wasn’t my film and I was irate at the way he conducted himself. With only four days left and a nine hour turnaround it left Roweena and the crew in a very precarious position. The director asked me if I would gaff for the last four days of the shoot but I had two days of Jones McCree shooting and I wasn’t in a position, after a week of planing, to move everything around. Also, I said to the Director, “If this was my film I’d want someone with more experience than me to gaff.”
Ultimately they found someone and finished out their shoot without a hitch. I always tell people looking to get into the film industry “just get on set, something will happen.” There may not be an industry that rewards hard work more than Independent Film. You’re not gonna get rich, but if your goal is to create, and your a passionate hardworking person, you will very quickly find yourself in pivotal positions.