So, what’s the difference between a webseries creator turning into essentially a filmmaker? Oh god, let me count the ways.
1). The Breakdown Matter: In Webseries world, you don’t need a detailed scene breakdown, the game is less high stakes and there’s more time for everything. Thusly, on day one of the shoot--we didn’t have one. So from 10pm-2pm on January 2nd, that’s what we did.
Last year, we were constantly ahead of schedule and able to add shots. This year, we were constantly 2-3 hours behind and running to cut off nearly every shot that wasn’t completely necessary. I hadn’t ever overseen a set like this before, and without the incredible support of my team who stepped up to do roles they didn’t initially sign up for, it would have been a disaster.
Pre-production was like looking down the barrel of a gun into hell (this line written by one who has NEVER held a gun). Like, was it gonna happen? Which bar was best? How many theatres do we have to tour? How to get everything for free? Was this the right choice? What’s the most important? (Answer: most important is fun, cheap, and invested). It can feel singular, and once you jump in, you realize: thank god I’m not alone.
Moral of the Story: If you mess up, hope your team will steer you back to shore.
Alternate Moral: Hire theatre kids--they understand the need to get the job done at all costs.
Alternate Moral: do not hire me to do scene breakdowns, as I will let you down…..sorely.
A shout out to our lone DP/AC/Grip Michael Kohlbrenner. He’s a hero, and most people would have given up or begun to settle for the work involved. Hire him.
Moral: Hire a script supervisor. Don’t even try to keep the sweaters, coats, and minutiae in your mind--get someone else to do it.
A bar in Pittsburgh allowed us to stay an hour past our out time, a school in PGH allowed us 2 hours past the out, we didn’t leave the theatre til 11pm every night when we were to be done at 8pm. We borrowed dollies and wifi and banked on the good will of strangers, who again and again, helped us out.
One time, we were filming a scene involving some sexually suggestive material, and the mayor stopped by to watch. I was afraid he’d tell us to “take your dirty movie and get lost, kids!” Instead, he invited us into his headquarter for hot chocolate. Once inside, I put my feet literally inside my UPM’s sweater to warm them. It was funny and simultaneously…tragic.
Moral: Next time, we’re filming in the goddamn summer. But if you are filming in the winter, go where the community is warm.
4). Source everything IMPORTANT to a specific person: Make this “This is my responsibility” and “This is your responsibility” for the important stuff. Small crews are great 'cause everyone has to be all hands on deck, and the downside is “Things get lost” (see above). Things will get so mushy that it’s good to know exactly whose job it is.
Moral of the story: Duh, duh, duh.
Getting it done is important, and getting it done well is even moreso. No point in making something that looks rushed and uncertain. Luckily, when I forget that, I have the best collaborators in the world to remind me.
On the second occasion, my UPM put her arm around me and said, “These are the hours.” She was referring to the hours you have to put in for film, but it resonated with me in a different way. These are the hours you put in to make it, these are the hours you do to get somewhere, these are the hours that matter.
So, I’m tired and well. HBO, you out there? This year, we need a script supervisor.
Alexandra Ann and the whole Blank team.
Madame Producer (December 2017)
Turning Into the Protagonist You Wrote (October 2017)
Annoying and the Female Creator (April 2017)
Meet Alex Spieth (February 2017)