It is a proven fact of life that anything that can go wrong, will. You cannot believe for one second that anything to do with movie productions will be any different. Regardless of who you are or what you are doing, no one is immune to the inevitable fact that things do not always go as planned. The only thing you can do is be prepared at all times, so that your entire world, career, and the way you shine is not affected by the unfortunate circumstances that come your way. Always having a “Plan B” or “Backup Plan” is part of the mature, sensible, adult’s life. We must be prepared to take all scenarios into account, and learn how to rectify any situation with ease.
Things that Could Go Wrong
Perhaps the people you work with, be they actors or otherwise, have something arise that causes them to be unable to reach the set on time. This could be due to an injury or illness – hey, it happens!
The HMI that you needed for an important scene may not have arrived yet, or you run out of the funds required to be able to pay everyone involved in the making of a film. Perhaps weather conditions prevent you from going through with everything, and all you can do is to sit and wait for rain or storms to end so that you can proceed with filming. What’s even worse is when everyone complains about your poor organizational skills, as if you could control the weather! Your equipment may stop functioning. As infuriating as it is when people need to leave because of important prior commitments, people occasionally do need to do things other than being at the filming site.
There are so many things that could go wrong when making a film. However awful these scenarios may sound, the art of good directing is being prepared against all odds, as well as knowing what to do when everything goes wrong. No one knows this as well as a good director does. When one thing goes wrong, it can create a domino effect, and everything can really go wrong. This could produce chaos for you. However, if you are prepared, you can be resilient and rise to the occasion. This will allow you to shine and not let the elements of chaos affect your ability to perform your job.
Your Job as a Director
You need to be able to pull the crew through any and every situation. No matter what happens, the work is done on time, you get the movie made, or you shoot the scene that you need to get shot in a particular day, against all odds. As a director you’re the caretaker of the crew, and you need to play it calm and keep your cool. When you panic, everyone knows that there is something to panic about, and they lose their cool and focus, too. This is something you cannot risk at all.
Think of yourself as the parent of the crew. You hold them together and pull them through the tough times. You need to work with your crew. Working together will allow members of the crew not to feel as if you are being unprofessional, or that they have something to worry about. Be there for them, rather than ranting about the issues!
Your most important task as the director is to come up with solutions, rather than fretting about the effects of setbacks. What if you have a problem or something unexpected happened? Come up with a solution to deal with it, rather than placing the weight on your actors. You didn’t see something coming? Now that something has happened, take charge and pull the crew through it. That is what being a director is all about.
Are you worried that your actor won’t be able to make it on time? In that case, you need to ensure that you can either begin the scene with or without him/her, have an understudy fill in, or shoot other scenes that do not involve the actor. This will allow you to “Keep the Show on the Road.” In order to be prepared, you need your list of understudies for this part, as well as your scene list. Having these handy will make this run smoothly.
As bizarre and morbid as this may sound, your main actor could become seriously injured or could die (fate’s not in our hands), or may not be able to make it for other reasons. Anything could happen, and you need to be prepared for unfortunate events. The advantage of understudies is that they are available at all times, so if you need them to fill in, they can and will. Ideally, the understudy that steps in will be the person who was your second choice for the role.
The weather can be a pain, but you need to be prepared in advance so that you can get everything done despite weather conditions. The weather may not be in your hands, but do you know what is? A Smartphone! If you’re not a Smartphone user, you definitely own a laptop or a desktop at the very least. Check out the weather reports a few days in advance on one of these devices. Go through news channels to get an idea of what the weather is likely to be like the next few weeks. You need to check out any and every source available to you so that you can get an idea of what the weather is likely to be like a few days in advance.
If it rains unpredictably, you can rehearse another scene instead of waiting for the rain to stop. Practice a scene that you were practicing after the current one; that way, you will have at least done a large part of the work. Once the rain stops you, can resume with the scene you initially intended to practice. Something is better than nothing, right? Getting finished with the other parts of the movie would give you the edge toward completing everything else. Once you’re done with those, you’d be able to return to those parts that couldn’t be shot earlier and begin shooting them.
Perhaps the most painful scenario is being told that you do not have the funds required to get the movie done and/or to pay off the actors. The good news is that it is a very unlikely event, if you planned appropriately before the filmmaking began. Everything must be carefully thought out before you start filming the movie. Financial Planning is one of the most significant factors in filmmaking. Planning accordingly and getting all the funds you need from sponsors is imperative before you begin shooting. You know about the need for good financial organization before you decided to make a movie, after all!
Remember that like you, your crew members are just human beings and you need to be able to empathize with them rather than shouting orders at them and telling them that they are wrong. Look at things from their perspective. You’re the director and you need to make them believe you’re there for them so they know that they can turn to you, no matter what issue they have. Empathize with them and try to understand what they want to know or what they are trying to ask.
If you’ve hired someone who is inexperienced, be patient. If this particular person is an actor, pair him or her up with one of the more experienced actors. Offer tips yourself – explain your expectations for the role, and what the audience will be expecting. These guys are still trying to find their footing, but they do have potential. That is why you hired them. Just help them believe in themselves. If the newbie is someone who has something to do with the lighting and editing of the scenes, get them to work with the more experienced people so that they get some hands-on experience.
Remember to work with your crew rather than scolding them and shouting at them. Only if you make them feel comfortable will they be able to ensure that everything runs smoothly and as you want it to. You know how some people tend to panic and worry when they know they don’t have their parents’ approval? That’s what your cast members are like – they want and need your approval, and you need to help them know that they have your support at all times.
You need to convince your actors to trust themselves. Only actors that trust themselves will be able to act properly and be convincing on the screen. Tell them that you have faith in them. You need to create a bond with your actors so that they know they can come to you against all odds, regardless of the situation that they have to deal with.
When the equipment isn’t suitable for a scene or if it doesn’t function properly, you may feel like the worst thing in the world has happened, but that is why you need to be prepared. Get alternative equipment beforehand, in case something happens while you’re filming. Get the equipment you need beforehand so that regardless of what happens to your equipment, you’re prepared and can go ahead with the filming.
Communication with the Crew
You also need to ensure that your organizational skills are good. Without good organizational skills, you’d get a bunch of complaints from the crew and you wouldn’t be able to do much about it. Think of things from their point of view. They may have to travel long distances to get to the site, or they may have had prior commitments that they turned down for the schedule and plan set by you. Their jobs are important to them, but if you don’t ensure that everything is ready for a scene to be shot, you’re going to have an angry crew that complains about your management and organizational skills. This is not good for your reputation at all!
When Plans for Shooting a Scene Fall Through
You need to plan alternatives. Find other options and keep other places in mind so if weather or other unforeseen circumstances prevent you from shooting a scene where originally planned, you have everything sorted out for shooting elsewhere. Ensure that all actors are prepared so that you can go ahead with the shoot and have everything and everyone on the set.
If planned a site isn’t suitable for a scene because of weather conditions and if no alternative site is feasible at that time, contact all crew members to let them know that the scene’s filming has been postponed. Remember to plan ahead so that you do not call your crew at the last minute for a scene. That is torturous and you need to keep in mind that these guys also have their own lives. A bad decision on your part would affect everyone in the crew.
Planning scenes carefully is key. This will allow scenes to run smoothly for you and for your actors. It is a given that Murphy’s Law will take effect at some point. Good damage control requires that your contingency planning allows progress to continue to be made.
Sometimes when things do not go according to what you may have plans, the best option is to ”just go for it” and be spontaneous. If it is raining, go ahead with the scene. You may be able to capture a moment that would look great in the rain and make the scene even better. If you’ve got the actors, the equipment, and the site, why not go ahead with the whole scene regardless of the climatic conditions?
Sometimes directors tend not to take the necessary precautions when shooting a scene. If you know, for example, that it will rain, then getting a bunch of umbrellas for the crew is important. Keeping medicines on hand for the actors would be a good idea. These guys have to act so that people can watch them on screen, and they need to be presentable. You can’t have actors rubbing their heads due to headaches or fatigued because of flu. Getting medicines such as aspirin and flu medications would be a good idea. Sometimes an actor may be coming to you directly from another place and they may not have had the time to stop and look for medicines.
Also, be sure to have tea and kettles and ovens on site (or near it) when shooting, so that the actors can eat or drink so that they are able to think and act properly. These refreshments would help them stay fresh and nourish themselves as they act out their parts.
As the director, your role is to ensure that everything goes as planned so that the end product – the movie – is made well and is successful. For that, you need to ensure that the actors are all comfortable and that they are provided with the refreshments (and medications) needed so that they are able to act out their scenes properly. You bring everything and everyone together; without you, everything would fall apart. You need to keep your cool at all times.
These have been some examples of what could and often does go wrong where the role of a director is concerned, as well as some of the many things you, as director, could do to rectify filming situations gone awry. The main thing is for you to keep your cool no matter what, so that you are able to deal with the whole filming process. Keep all of these scenarios in mind and with appropriate planning, you will be able to stay on schedule with filming, and with your actors and crew feeling confident and happy.