Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for the Director's Chair

I once said the tale of me and Missy's first experience as filmmakers was a story unto itself. As a novelist I work by myself the process of directing a film is one of collaboration. One which you have to balance your vision with the needs and desires and machinations of the members of the cast and crew and sometimes you pick winners to work with and sometimes, well sometimes you do what we did. Pick some winners and pick some divas and drunks to work with.

Our first director's experience was an experience in: How Not To Pick People.

As great a find as Pam was, there was one young woman who started off the rehearsal by saying, 'I don't think she would talk that way'. Another red flag were these words, 'I hope we don't have to be off book by Monday' the Friday before filming started. Off book is a polite term for 'lines memorized'. Oi this young woman and another young man changed the dialogue every single time we did a take! Talk about an editing and continuity nightmare for our script supervisor and me and Missy in the editing bay.

We had to work without a/c in the middle of July in Kentucky and it was the hottest day on record for the year at that point. Humidity is hell! As we wrapped for the day and the location was beginning to cool a nasty storm system blew through and hurricane force winds knocked a tree on a house nearby and took the power out. Mind you we had an actress from Texas who was due to fly out the next day who still had two scenes left to film and those same actors were pulling stunts that would have gotten them fired on any other set.

Honestly, Missy and I were green and Too Far From Texas was our first experience on any movie set but we'd been writing scripts for 7 years at that point with some interest from Lee Daniels (Monster's Ball, Precious) and Zide/Perry (American Pie) but never really able to breakthrough. In fact Lee Daniels liked us so much he passed twice in one year. The second time he called personally to tell me and Missy not to give up because was had talent but that 'You're the Reason' wasn't quite what they were looking for. It had many elements that Precious had but it was more a love story than those things in the end so they had to 'pass'. That's Hollywood's way of saying no without saying no.

Directing is hard because you never really know what your cast is going to be like until you get there on the first day. There may be warning signals, you say the character dresses like a tomboy and she brings cheerleader, bordering on hoochie clothes, but often times there's nothing until you're on the set and she's constantly saying 'am I in the shot', one of your leads is bucking to drink real beer in the shot, and the other is drinking behind your back.

Too Far From Texas was a lesson in what NOT to do. But we had to do reshoots with three of the loveliest actors I have ever been privvy to know. Paul Reynolds-the Brit who would not quit. Probably the most professional of men and just a real stand up guy I feel like got the short end of the stick with this.  Heather Kustes, a sweet, soft spoken girl who restored my faith in actresses as a whole. And a troubled guy with a good heart Donavon Shain, who had more raw talent and charisma than he knew what to do with.

I wish them all well and much success in the future adventures.

Happy Directing!


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Very nice blog, Amy.

Unknown said...

I'm so blessed to know you Amy. You are amazing and your talents just don't seem to end. I'm proud to call you my friend, fellow-muse sis and overall just good person, darn it.

Love you and I'm sure you handled the above situation with the same smooth stride you approach all obstacles.

PamelaTurner said...

"Of course you're in the shot." LOL