Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Working on Set

(More photos will be forthcoming.)

I recently had an opportunity to intern on a feature film set.  This was my first time working on a feature.  We spent three weeks working on an indie movie called Leap, now Army Dog apparently, which stars Casper van Dien and his daughter Grace.  I'm not going to spill many or perhaps any details about the movie itself.  It should be coming out on DVD sometime in the next year.  I just wanted to make some broad observations about production and my experiences with it as well as promote myself and this awesome production that a number of people put a lot of work into.
I really don't want to sound lazy, but when it comes to movies, I will always be a viewer first and a content creator second.  There are a number of reasons for this.  The first is that I am a creature of leisure.  Faith, family, friends: these are the most important values of life.  I'll add to this hobbies and recreational activities.  Work has its due place and a value of its own, but leisure is the best part of life and I love to sit back and watch a movie.  No matter where life or career take me, I will almost surely be a movie viewer for the rest of my days.  Secondly, the final product and its rewarding consumption are the end of a project.  While production has its own set of blessings and enjoyments, especially when its running on schedule, no one would do it if the subsequent movie were just going to be thrown away unwatched.  I'm in the game to create this viewer experience.  Lastly, all any artist, even an Orson Welles, John Ford, etc., can do is make drops in the ocean of mankind's cultural deposit.  This is a humbling thought for anyone involved in art.  It hopefully does not lead to feelings of futility for new artists.  I will always obviously value the entirety of what everyone else has done over the pittance of my contribution.

Most of the crew eating dinner after a "short" day.

My background in film, as evidenced by this blog, has largely been an aesthetic background.  My undergrad education was largely liberal arts and I've always had that philosopher and artist mind.  It's easier to do the brainy parts because you always have your mind with you and these concepts are broad truths that one can tap into rather than discreet facts that you either know or you don't.  I take more easily to thought than embracing experience.

For a long time, though, I have wanted to move away from this into content creation.  I don't want to be on the outside looking in, another hopeless daydreamer needlessly living out one life while desiring another.  On top of this, liberal learning, while its own reward, is supposed to be the foundation for original creative thought.  What I write on this blog is meant for content creators as well as viewers.  It is a basis for new creation.  The world is full to the brim with critics.  Also, I see content creation as putting my knowledge to work for the good of others and not just my own edification.  I despise the sort of cultivated consumerism that I often see that says life is all about owning the nicest stuff.  Cultivated taste is fine, but everything should be in its place.

Coming from this background, what did I think of working on set.  Working on set is just that: work.  When you are carrying around grip stands and apple boxes, you don't feel like an artiste, although I was a grip so that's what I do.  It's hard to picture the artistic whole while you are literally sweating working on the pieces.  It's also amazing how much of what makes it into a movie is just random fortuitousness on set.  I'm sure the director probably had more of a macro view of things than I did.   The experience was more that of an easy football practice with less running and where I never got pummeled.  It's amazing how certain life experiences come back to you and surprise you with their subsequent relevancy.  Working on set does require a tough mentality.  That was the other striking thing is that the lower level positions do not have a huge learning curve or require years of education.  The two things most necessary on set for me were the ability to work all day and the ability to pay attention and focus all day.  Stamina and focus: that's it.  All the exhausting physical labor tends to clear my head of excess thought so staying focused is surprisingly easy.  Although the process did not involve huge amounts of creative input from me, I still had a fantastic experience.  The people were great, the environment was vivifying and it was exciting to be a part of something so big.  I'm excited for the movie coming out on DVD in a few months.

The guys working a jib.  It's simpler than it looks.

It was very interesting getting to meet "film people," too.  My experience is that these are people who have really looked at all of life's possibilities and pursued what they wanted or the "cool" jobs that other people watch movies about.  Most everyone's alternative careers they had been in would make incredible fuel for dinner party conversation.  These people do not box themselves in by the regular.  They have a real sense of possibility.  Many of them also know production very well too and have found a niche in the process that regular people may not have thought of.  I imagine that most of the non-actors who have dropped out of the film world, not that there's anything wrong with that, fancied themselves future directors.  Our crew was very nice and tremendously encouraging.  This was partially because I actually did a really good job.  I will absolutely toot my own horn on this one.

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