I have a lot of respect for independent film makers. It’s no easy task to script, cast, film and produce a movie and it takes a lot of dedication to see it through. I’ve worked with some brilliant and authentic directors and some that have stood out to me are Robert Carruthers (Zombie Driftwood) Kasper Lewis, (Rotten Cotton) Anthony Niner and Indie Cult Film maker Jason Impey. These guys are not only extremely forward thinking, driven and passionate about their work, but they also all have one thing in common – they appreciate opportunity and they appreciate those that help to lift them up. To be a success at anything in life, first you must learn to master gratitude. Gratitude is the very essence of everything. Without it, we wander through life expecting everything to be served to us on a plate and never really connecting with anyone authentically.
When working on a low to no budget film, film makers are often strapped for cash and relying on allies, friends and supporters to help them achieve their goals. Those that fail to realise the importance of gratitude do themselves an injustice. On a film set it’s the little things that make a big difference. When the cast has been stood in the blistering cold for hours, the offer of a cup of coffee to thaw their chilled bones can go a long way in keeping everyone happy and keen to help.
Having been on various films sets, I have sat back during the long waits and observed how differently things are done from set to set. One of the not so positive things that have stood out to me is when the director fails to realise the importance of his cast, crew and helpers. Everyone on a film set is important and not just the lead actors. Yes, the leads may help sell the movie but even the water boy is important, (if he even exists on some sets!) he keeps the cast hydrated and happy. Everyone has their place in the grand scheme of things – The make-up artist makes your products (cast) look like a product that the consumer wants to buy into. Even the runners help to make things run more efficiently and quickly, which means your scenes get shot quicker, saving you both time and money and keeping everyone happy.
I was on a film set very recently where the director kept everyone stood in the cold for hours before he rolled up with no explanation, apology or introduction. We were then lift lingering around like unwanted bad smells, blowing on our painfully cold hands to keep warm and wondering what the hell was going on! It just seemed like carnage with no plan or forethought.
I have seen directors turn up unprepared and without a storyboard, not knowing what or how they are going to shoot. Some directors are great at improv and use their creative genius to roll out the scenes, but if they don’t have a natural affinity with this art form, then they run the risk of floundering like a lost fish out of its depth in an unfamiliar ocean.
I worked with a director like this a few weeks back and whilst he had no script as such, his mind was like a machine gun firing off brilliant ideas. His energy and passion was contagious and he viewed the rest of the cast and crew like special guests on his journey, so everyone was batting for this guy as he was a teamplayer. Most people are unable to carry off this style of improv however, so unless you are a creative genius who can execute your ideas precisely and brilliantly, a script is a good idea!
The absolute worst thing a director can do when he doesn’t know what he or she is doing is to act like they don’t care or show arrogance. You know the type “this is my set, like it or leave it.” They might not say it outright, but you can see it in their expression and the way they interact. When you are asking people for favours and relying on their support, you cannot be arrogant or act like you are superior to everyone who is there to assist you. You can’t reach the top of wall without climbing on their shoulders, so don’t kick the dirt down on them when you start to near the top or that wall of supporters will crumble. It’s like a starving man being given a plate of food and instead of being grateful and relishing it, he throws it on the floor and takes a leak all over it! Not only has he tainted his own product, but it’s unlikely to be offered again.
Communication is another area that spells the difference between becoming a respected person or being regarded as a bit of a fool. It’s not always possible to remember everyone’s names but terms like “oi you’ and ‘blondie’ have no place in a professional environment.
There are a lot of Walter Mitty’s in the industry and they will promise you the earth without delivering as much as a grain of sand. As a responsible adult, it is your choice to either roll over like a doormat or make the right decision and walk away. If in business you are not given the respect you deserve as a human being and co-worker, you should not feel that you must compromise or move mountains for someone who would not move as much as a pot of tea for you! Know when to walk away and cut your losses.
Often, they may use the hoover technique when they fail to deliver. This means making all the promises on the planet to try and suck you back in. Once you learn to recognise a ‘Hooverer’ it will help you in many situations in life. If the first time you gave this person a chance and brought them opportunities they failed to deliver, it’s highly unlikely that they are going to be any different next time round. If they have not shown you respect and you go along with it and keep going back for more punishment, you are simply allowing them to devalue your worth and use you like a commodity.
A lot of this goes on in indie film, so keep your eyes open, observe and rather than focussing on what people say, pay attention to what they actually do. This simple practise will help you not only clarify your own thoughts, but will help you when it comes to deciding whether you really want to be associated with such an individual.
Film can be an exciting world. It’s not glamorous and more often than not, it does mean standing around and being outside your comfort zone for long periods of time. You may be cold, hungry or thirsty, but you all really want to make this an awesome scene and work together to make it great! The important thing is how you are treated when you are on set. If you can’t put your hand on your heart and honestly say “I am treated fairly.” Then ask yourself what you are doing there.
There’s a wonderful world of opportunity for actors and film makers out there. Be real, be authentic, give respect where it’s due and expect to be respected. Follow these rules of life and make yourself a great future!
Kaz B – Writer for Mens Stuff Magazine and The Daily Sport.