5/3/12 – Kendall
Get a good producer.
Confidential to the film student who doesn’t feel like reading this whole post: I ask you at least take this lesson to heart- NO, YOU CANNOT BRING A LOADED GUN ON SET JUST BECAUSE THOSE KEWL GUYS IN NEW YORK DID IT.
Get a good producer. Just do it. I know what you’re thinking, “but I’m a director, I’m pretty sure I can handle buying a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread”. If you’re laughing at that last sentence it’s because you’re not an independent film crew member who’s been graciously provided 30 seconds to wolf down your stale sammich somewhere around the middle of your 16-hr workday, for which you were generously supposed to be rewarded with “copy, credit and meals”. Let’s learn from others’ mistakes, shall we? Like these guys for example:
Yes, you read that right. They stopped doing their yoga so they could run out and shoot a deer. Then they accidentally shot two, whoopsie. I’m not interested in arguing the ethics of killing- the fact is, a gajillion different kinds of animals are killed in this country every day, and that’s just to make chicken nuggets. We kill unadopted cats and dogs, we poison annoying birds, we pest control the pests, we shoot the deer. I am not a hunter and generally do not support the way a lot of people go about it, but I am from Arizona and descended from decent, God-fearing ranchers and cowboys and these hippies skinned, cooked and ate the deer themselves, which is a lot more than most hunters in this country do.
The problem is, these people are not hunters. They are not gun-owners. The guy they tossed the loaded rifle to had no prior hunting experience. None. Should I walk you through all the reasons this was a terrible idea?
A lot of people think of producers as “No” people. Good producers are more like a “Easy-Buddy,-Set-Down-The-Loaded-Weapon-And-Let’s-Just-Figure-This-Out-For-A-Second” people.” And this is where the difference between the directing job and the producing job becomes really obvious, as does the reason why it’s difficult for one person to play both roles at the same time. As a director, it’s your job to look at the script or scene and figure out how exactly to take what’s on the page and put it into a form that your audience will process effectively. All of the elements that land on the screen have to line up correctly, and you are the line leader. What kind of gun would a bunch of hipsters have? What should the character’s reaction be after he shoots the deer? As a producer, it’s my job to look at a script or scene and figure it out logistically. What kind of gun can we afford? How can we do this safely? What kinds of laws are in place around this and why? All of these things can be answered without a ton of work, but they don’t readily spring to mind when you’re in creative-brain mode and trying to tell your story.
Examples of this pop up constantly. Usually they’re not a huge deal and come in the form of peanut butter sammiches, or circles of death (i.e. pizza). Sometimes they’re a little bit worse and result in a whole production day starting late because no one could find parking, or the owner of a location vowing to never let another film crew through their doors (thanks, guys). But sometimes there are much, much worse examples, such as a guy with no gun experience being handed a loaded rifle. The top priority of a good producer is the health and safety of the crew and if you have to slow down your pace a little to do something right, it’s worth it. Easy buddy, you can’t just ask your lead actress to deliberately trip on a curb in 6 inch high heels. Or hang halfway out of that open car window on the highway. Or set that light stand up in front of the only emergency exit in the building.
In the above example, it all turned out fine, though the state is still looking into the permit violations and there could be some fines or something- no big deal. And the film is supposed to be pretty good! I’m happy for them. Except this was an incredibly and stupidly risky thing to do, as they will admit themselves. Bring a producer on who knows how to break down scenarios like this so you don’t have to worry about it. Focus on the creative, get your logistics handled, and create a project you’re not only proud of, but that you have great memories of as well.