Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Shot sheeting - Part Deux

Following up on my initial missive on breaking down every single shot I see in my head and writing each down in a list format that I call "shot sheeting" is also called "shot listing."

I just finished the completed finessed version of my script for my next planned feature, THE LONELY GOATHERD and the shot sheets for it almost simultaneously.

For the first pass, I just want to get the "bread and butter" shots on the list, so now's the time to polish and compress what I've written so the filming process can be streamlined and my ideas clearly conveyed to the cinematographer (also called the "DP" - Director of Photography), editor, production designer and everyone else who will read them in the creative collaboration.

Chances are any or all of these professionals will come up with ideas that enhance my vision so profoundly - that I replace pages over which I languished and labored with the new notes provided by these brilliant collaborators.

The DP and I may decide to re-do the shot sheets together based on the vision and all the other work we've done - watching other films for references, discussing emotions, tones, style and effects.

These same conversations take place with other collaborators, individually and together. We need to speak each others' language, understand one another and the way we like to work.

There's more - after I work with the actors, I take into consideration the notes they've made, worked out the blocking (where actors move in the scene) and if they have notes that will enhance their performance, the portrayal of their character, the scene and the film itself - I will listen and if they work to elevate the visual, verbal performance, I'll incorporate them.

It's important to be open to everyone's thoughts, but remain clear about what does and does not work to maintain the film's vision. I say yes to everything that enhances, improves and elevates; I say no to anything that doesn't build on what's already there.

I stay true to the vision of the film, without ever feeling like I have to say yes to soothe someone's ego; I'm not afraid to say no - but I don't want to lose a chance to punctuate a performance with a smart word, movement, shot, prop, whatever has been thoughtfully proposed.

I explain my decision - why I think the idea works - or not. People usually light up and listen closely when I give specifics of how a new thought is "brilliant" and fits right in; their eyes glaze over after I say, "Good thought. But in this case it won't work-- (because the antagonist needs to see it coming and- yadda yadda)"

After "won't work," they tend to have better things to do; few discussions ensue.

But they always come back and back with ideas because when someone gives me an idea that works? It really is brilliant and they can justly feel their thumb print is in the production.

I love working with people who know more than me - so I can learn new and different whatever it takes to make a better film. I'm pleased to say that others in a position to know more have told me they've learned from me as well because I tend not to work the way they've encountered previously.

I always tell the people with whom I work - I'm more interested in making a good film than being "right." The vision is the only thing to work for -- not ego or doing things the way they've always been done.

I know there are directors who are very dictatorial and rude, but the reason I'm so completely, totally and critically anal about pre-production and preparation is so I can relax, and remain open to seeing and inviting all the creative opportunities to enhance the vision during the actual production of the film - whether they come from me or someone else on the production.

The idea is that while I'm making this film a dozen times in my head before I meet with my collaborators, after I meet with them and share my vision/ideas, I expect them to come in with ideas of their own and begin the process I genuinely love - collaborating.

One thing about collaborating - the buck always stops here. For example, if the set designer comes up with an idea of putting egg shells on the floor so they crunch with every step and I don't carefully consider whether that genuinely enhances the vision/production, and come up with a very reasoned answer - and the egg shell idea BLOWS? I can't come back and "blame" the set designer.

It's still my decision.

Thus, the more transparent and grounded the vision, the better the decisions AND, honestly, the better the ideas that are passed my way from all the collaborators working on the film.

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