Thursday, April 30, 2009

Best Laid Plans: Milestone Part 3

Every writer says to write what they know. So this past year or so, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Writing about what I know has certainly brought on Best Laid Plans, for example. It’s brought on my first effort at a novel and it also brought on Milestone. While the circumstances surrounding the plot in Milestone are certainly not autobiographical, the emotional place the story lives in is. So then, the question becomes, how do I direct a story that comes from such a familiar emotional place? Truth is, I had no idea.

In watching Becky's and Brian's audition, I realized that it was so helpful to see great actors interpret the script in their own personal way. They brought certain moments and ideas to their performance that struck me as both interesting and different. So while I was entering territory I’d never really been in before with regard to directing a film, the one thing I did know was that I wanted to hear from the actors. I wanted their ideas and thoughts about who they were playing. This could not only broaden the story in that three heads are better than one, but it could also move me further away personally from the story – which I thought was vital. Nobody wants a director that is too tied in emotionally to a story that they can’t see the forest for the trees, so talking to them – getting their point of view was amazingly helpful.

Rehearsals were a blast. Brian and Becky were so much fun to work with and I got lucky in that they were open to any and all ideas. Whenever you’re trying something new – and even sometimes when you’re doing something you’ve done a thousand times before, you’re always waiting for someone to call you out as a fraud. You’re always anticipating that someone will tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing. Thankfully, both Becky and Brian never looked at me sideways, never called me out as a first-time writer/director and always added on to my proposals. I realized I loved directing and the push and pull of knowing when to throw your two cents in and when to let the actors run with it.

I know that some film directors do very little rehearsal, but for me it was essential. Playing a new role on set meant that I wouldn't have the space in my wee brain to really give the actors my full attention once shooting began. I didn't want to be in the position of debating moments on set while the rest of the crew was waiting around. I knew that ideas would still be percolating but I wanted to make sure the actors had a solid foundation to work from (and me too for that matter). Although I can't speak for them, I think the actors were pretty keen on the rehearsal process as well - or - being good actors, they surely hid it very well! By the time the production dates approached, I felt pretty damn good about the performances and could make room in the 'ol noggin for everything else I needed to be thinking about... like say... the shot list.


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