what missus Kendrick taught me bout filmmaking.
With Lego’s. Little tiny Lego’s.
For the holidays, my girlfriend’s mother, Mrs Kendrick (she’s English, no period after the Mrs … look it up), sent me a lovely little package, and one of the little treats was a tiny (read Japanese) Lego kit from a dope little company called NanoBlock.
I haven’t played with Lego’s since I was about 10 I figure… so it hasn’t been years, it’s been decades, if not a lifetimes. I kept the little pack on my desk, admiring it from time to time, realizing that I would be hard pressed to find a moment where I would say, “now, I make a Lego Santa Clause. And tree.” – you see, I hardly have time to eat during the day, let alone dive into this mini-puzzle, but, nevertheless I kept it close by.
Today was the day my friends. Waiting on a particularly long render I decided to go for it, instead of catching up on the blogs, bills and bullshit that is the interweb.
What I discovered, is that even in this manual task, it taught me a few very key lessons in filmmaking. Of course, you can see how demented I am, that I can take a kids toy and translate it into 4 years of college education, but, I like to think there is a practical lesson in everything. So, let us begin.
Detailed shot lists are like directions from God.
You don’t have to be religious to make films, but you definitely have to believe in the devil, in Hell, and have some sort of faith that what you are doing isn’t totally bullshit. In so, shot lists are the key, the bible, the ten commandments, or other lists of do’s and don’t in whatever religion you subscript to. They are your Virgil guiding you through the seven rings of production hell, so you should follow them, closely, and believe in them. That also means you should have them to begin with, and take as much time as you can doing your pre-pro. You’re just gonna get out of the forest of hell faster that way. Have faith!
Some parts on paper will take less time.
And some much more. Some things on paper look wicked easy. FOOL! They are not. Other things which may look like you will need extra coffee and perhaps a blood transfusion for, will breeze by. Remember that you can only schedule to the best of your personal knowledge. Things will go fast, and some slow, you must remember to float down the river and not lose your head if you find yourself behind time. You will catch up.
Steady is a good speed.
Don’t pause, don’t rush, and don’t go too slow. This is a tough one for a New Yorker. Your intuition is to blast through things sometimes, which is never a good idea with production. Things take time. So take the time to do things. The key isn’t to take too much time. Dragging out something too long will make you lose energy, and then lose interest, and then, hell, why do it. Steady and strong is how things get done.
Trust the design, but know how to modify.
This is a key one. Like trusting your shotlist, trust the concept. You will, on set, want to try a thousand new things. Don’t. Trust the concept, that’s what got you there to begin with. That being said, the real skill comes when you know exactly what you can modify. This is the zen spot directors get into when they really understand a project, trusts their crew, and knows their client. It’s not about throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks, it’s about adding just a little mint, and maybe, just maybe, a pinch of marjoram, to really bring out the flavor.
Measure twice, cut twice.
Right. Always be accurate in what you want, and what you need to accomplish. Filmmaking isn’t about doing it perfect the first time, but, it definitely isn’t about “lets give this a try”. Trying is for third graders with finger paint. Try to draw a house Timmy. Yay Timmy! You are Tom now, you are 20 years older, and you have a paycheck on the line. Be specific, and sure, if you need to take it apart and put it back together then do it, just make sure you got a damn good reason Timmy.
There is a right order to do things.
There is a very good reason this thing came with directions because it would take some sort of special idiot Lego savant to put it together without the help of this Ikea-esque paper. Filmmaking is the same, there is a reason we shoot things out-of-order and that’s because time is money, and shooting things logically vs narratively saves you time, and therefore saves you money.
If you have extra, used it.
Everyone is there. Set is paid for. Equipment rented. You find yourself with extra time because you followed all these commandments (Godly I know!) then use the time. Try something new. Fun. Different. There is no reason to waste anything on a set. Think of yourself as a Native American and this film is your animal carcass. Don’t let anything go to waste. Those ribs become a sick waistcoat, the eyeballs a keychain, the poopshoot a dope choker. Johnny Depp might really dig it, you never know. That being said you probably will end up with something like this little guy above who should be put down, so don’t get too attached. (yes, that’s a baby reindeer. Call me Robby)
Them be the things that came up during my hour making a little holiday cheer during a heavy render. Remember to make time for yourself, and that all presents are potentially gifts that keep giving. Thanks Mrs Kendrick, twas’ very much enjoyed.