Suddenly I See

Hunting for a crew, concrete deadlines, shooting dates, and a script which still isn’t finished. ‘The Watcher Self’ moves into pre-production.

It’s been a busy week at the Watchtower.  Pre-production for The Watcher Self officially began on Tuesday 3rd January 2012 with the hunt for a crew.  Being the writer of this film makes it easy to forget that time can pass you by very quickly when you’re working on some dialogue at the keyboard before suddenly realising you have no-one to make the film with, let alone appear in it.

I’m pleased to say that I have three new members of the team: a Director of Photography, Location Manager, and Make-up Artist.  All of them exceptionally-skilled in their fields when you look at their CVs.  So far, so good, but crewing can be a slow and disheartening process sometimes.  But I try to remain positive!

The nerve-racking part of this process is when you realise that you actually have to set concrete deadlines.  People need to know when this film is to be shot.  Dates have to be set.  Shooting days have to be arranged.  And everything else has to be sorted well in advance.

‘Well, you know, we’re sort of, er, kinda shooting the film in April.  Possibly May.  It needs to be finished by the end of June, or maybe the beginning of July.’

Yes, that’s the sort of thing I’ve been mumbling up until now.  But when a potential crewmember asks you for shooting dates and the number of shooting days required to translate your vision into moving pictures, it’s like a mini shock to the system and a huge wake-up call.  A good one, nonetheless.

Three months of preparation sounds like a long time but it isn’t, especially when you’re working with a shoestring budget and maximising your resources as much as possible.

But the more people who join the crew, the less nerve-racking it gets.  Because these are all professionals with a passion for making films, and they are there to help you — there to help me.  It helps if they believe in the script, of course, and I think, so far, they do!

My first key meeting was with the Location Manager in Central London last Thursday. We discussed the various requirements of the script — which is still only in draft form — and the logistics of some of the locations.  For a long time, the final scene in the film was set in an airport.  I’d known all along that the possibilities of pulling this off were remote, but I simply couldn’t think of another way to do it.  That is until a couple of weeks ago when I discussed it with the Script Editor.  A new idea suddenly popped into my head: a low budget idea using one of the existing locations.  It’s also a better ending.  I’m happy.  The Script Editor is happy.  The Location Manager is ecstatic.  It’s all about creative collaboration whilst still retaining the integrity of the script without too many compromises.  No-one likes compromising on locations, but sometimes you have to.

My next scheduled meeting will be with the Director of Photography.  It’s a conversation I’m hugely looking forward to.  We have exchanged several emails already about the visual look of the film, the most creative ways of covering certain scenes, and just seemingly sharing a common love of the same genres.  The Director of Photography’s visual view of the film is the first opportunity for me to start considering options other than those I’ve had in my head all this time.  I know some people find this difficult.  I find it exciting.  I’m looking forward to discussing ideas, whilst at the same time still knowing what I want to convey with each scene.  If I can communicate my ideas effectively and clearly enough to the cinematographer, I think we’ll get excellent results.  I’m also pleased that we’ll be shooting on some nicely compact digital gear; I’ve seen a number of films recently which were shot using similar equipment and they looked stunning.

But all this is academic when you consider that the script is still in draft form.  Admittedly it’s a very healthy draft, and it has a Script Editor attached who really ‘gets’ it, but it ain’t no shooting draft — yet.
When the time comes, I’ll write a bit more about the development of the script’s later drafts up to the shooting draft, and how writers work with Script Editors.  Script Editors are a critical and vital part of the development process.

But, for now, I see deadlines.  Sudden, proper, fixed, in-yer-face deadlines.  The film is due to start shooting in April and the script still isn’t ready.  So I’ve got to get my skates on because I’ve got work to do.  As time passes by, more and more people are going to need to read something, including the cast.  And I don’t even have a Casting Director yet!

It’s suddenly become all very real.

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