Friday, January 17, 2014

WAIT: Filming, Part 2


“Why do you do it? Why do you make movies?”

That’s a question one of the lead actors from my new film, Wait, asked me on our final day of shooting. I’m a fast thinking, loose speaking guy, but his question had me at a loss. But it seems the perfect jumping off point for this post – a look back at the past two months, and all the pleasures and troubles they produced.

Part of the difficulty of filmmaking is finding other people who view the world the way you do. People who understand the story you’re trying to tell, and don’t question the way in which you’re telling it. People who understand their character, and require very little explanation as to their motivations. In short, casting a film is about finding people who “get it.”

The first time I met Micah Parker, I knew he got it. He walked into his audition and didn’t just read for the part of Christian, he was Christian. His hair, his outfit, the cadence of his voice – it was exactly the character I had written and envisioned. The only unfortunate part about Micah’s audition was that he was first, which meant a number of poor young actors read after Micah, completely unaware that I had already cast Christian in my head. (Some of them, though, gave such good auditions that I actually cast them in other roles. You always have to be looking.) Micah knew Christian so well, that when we eventually filmed the full scene he initially auditioned for, I had him dress in the same exact outfit he wore to his audition.

Christian’s a tough character. He chooses his words carefully, and routinely keeps his intentions from the audience. He rarely verbalizes what he’s thinking, instead, he’s a man who communicates his feelings through a look of torment, or an expression of hope. It’s a layered character that, on paper, admittedly isn’t very substantive. I knew it would take the right actor to convincingly bring him to life.
Micah Parker in Wait
I meet with all my actors before we begin filming. One on one, just the two of us. We talk about their character, ourselves, love, relationships, life, and so on. The day I met Micah for our face to face, we had only scheduled 45 minutes to talk, but we ended up talking for hours. Micah never referred to Christian as a part; he always spoke of him as if he were real. In many ways, Micah knew Christian better than I did, which brought the character to life in ways I never imagined.

Our final day of shooting was a long one. Twelve hours on set, non-stop. For a large portion of the day, it was just Micah, myself, and the camera, making it up as we went along. Shooting unscripted scenes; pick-up shots we thought might work. He was doing things Christian would do, and it was my job to stand back and film it. In those moments, I felt as alive as I possibly can. I blocked out the obstacles of our production – the financial bullshit, the emotional burden – it was magic in motion.

I never tell my cast or crew about behind the scenes hardships. Why inform them of things that could distract them from their performance? Truth is, the production of Wait was met with countless challenges. I wrote about one a few months ago (which you can read here), but that was a trip to Disneyland compared to events that followed. I don’t have the energy to detail those headaches right now, but on our last day of shooting, while in my drunken state of creative inspiration, I told Micah about a few of them.

Before we filmed our final scene, Micah, now aware of some of the production problems, very hesitantly asked me why. “Why do you do it?” he said. “It sounds so damn hard. So I gotta ask, why do you make movies?”

I was at a loss. But after a few moments, it hit me. I looked at him and smiled. “Because I’m alive.”


More Posts on WAIT

36 comments:

  1. That's a great answer. I can't illustrate anything else. Good luck with the editing.

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  2. Wow that's amazing. I might bookmark this for future inspiration. Everything you've written here is exactly what I want. Like I won't mind the bad stuff if I can follow my dreams like you.

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    1. Aww thanks so much, Nik. That really means a lot to me. The road to dreams is a goddamn tough one, but you gotta push through!

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  3. All I can say is Stay Alive, Alex!

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  4. That's perfect. My sentiments are pretty much exactly like Nikhat's. I say it an awful lot, but I'm so happy for you!

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    1. It really does mean the world to me to hear you say that, Stevee. You have a great career ahead of you yourself. Stick with it!

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  5. So many obstacles....but if it were easy, everyone would do it, right? I'm proud of you for pressing on but I also know that there is no other choice for you. It's like breathing--it simply must happen. Thanks for posting this and being honest with everyone that it is not all roses and sunshine. Real dreams don't come true just by closing your eyes and letting them happen. It truly involves hard work and heartbreak but I know is going to ultimately result in immeasurable joy.

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment, Dawn. And for every other bit of encouragement and inspiration you've sent my way through this process. It means SO MUCH to me, truly.

      It may sound cheesy, but it really is like breathing to me. It's a compulsion, something I have to do. Thank you so much for your support!

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  6. Very very cool my friend. It's great that you were found someone who was able to inhabit and fill out a character you wrote so well! Hope your post-prod. work goes well and we can see this film some time in the near future!

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    1. Thanks buddy, I really appreciate it! I hope to have it done soon as well, but there's certainly no big rush, you know? Gotta take my time with this baby.

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  7. The work required to make a film from just the basics is almost overwhelming. Add complications, collaboration, finance and accounting to the process and it amazes me that any film ever gets done. When it is done however, you will be able to look back on it and say "this is one of my life's accomplishments".

    Even when a film doesn't quite work (which many do not), it is an act of will to get it done. I wish you all the willpower you need.

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    1. You're so right man... despite all the hardships that go into it, it'll be great to have a finished product. I'm really excited to share it with everyone.

      Thanks for the comment!

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  8. Can't wait to see the final film (if I can see it) :) Good luck! That's such a great answer, by the way

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    1. Thanks Andina! I can't wait to share it with everyone. Really excited for this one.

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  9. Hey, I just found this site and after spending over an hour on it reading many of your top ten lists and "The Directors" posts, I pinned it to my desktop start menu.

    An idea for a top ten list: Top Ten Phone Calls.

    A couple of my favorites would be Adam Sandler and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Punch-Drunk Love, and the American and Russian president's in Dr. Strangelove.

    (Sorry if you already did this, I looked over the top ten list... list and didn't see it, but I may have missed it.)

    Thanks!

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    1. Hey Will, thanks so much for stopping by and checking out the site. I really appreciate it man.

      That's a great idea for a list. I'm oddly fascinated by phones in movies, because almost every single film that takes place since the invention of the telephone, features a phone. Isn't that crazy? Anyhow, your two picks would DEFINITELY make the cut. Hoffman in that P-DL scene is hysterical. I love it.

      Thanks again man, I'll get started on the phone call list right away!

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  10. Wow, this is really inspiring man. I wish you all the best in your endeavors, sounds like you've got a real handle on things. From one filmmaker to another, keep shooting, I know things got tough for you during all of this but it's all about that screen, man. You're affecting people, your actors, your crew, you're making a difference.

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    1. Hey man, thanks so much for this comment. I've always appreciated your kind words about my filmmaking. "It's all about that screen..." the truest words of filmmaking right there.

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  11. What a beautiful post! I am fascinated with the way character development takes place in filmmaking.

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    1. Thanks Steph! Developing the characters with the actors has been one of the best parts of this process so far. It's great to see how invested they all are.

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  12. Because it's who and what you are.
    Loved the post

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  13. Ooooh filming is over? Another big step. Exciting man.

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    1. For sure! Editing is up now. Such a tedious process.

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  14. Such a beautiful post, Alex - truly! Your last line summed up my whole passion for acting and films. Because I'm alive, and what else can I do but those things.

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    1. Thanks so much, Katy! I'm really glad you liked the post. That's the only answer I could come up with, you know? It's in my blood.

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  15. Wonderful post! Keep plugging away man. I LOVE these insightful glimpses you give into your moviemaking process and the journey you're on.

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    1. Thanks Josh, that really does mean a lot to me. I so appreciate you reading and commenting on these posts.

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    1. Thanks buddy. Really appreciate you reading.

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  17. This is going to be what critics will quote from you when you're as big as Fincher. I'd really love to read about more about the "making of", and I'm so very excited to see the film itself. The still of Micah is already breathtaking, and genius. All the luck in the world with the film!!!

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    1. Wow, thank you so much for this comment. It literally made my day. So glad you like the post and the still of Micah. I can't wait for people to see his work in the film... he's really quite a gifted actor.

      Thanks again :)

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  18. I haven't left a comment in a while (remember me :) ) but I feel like its about time I did.

    Alex your work, written here and on screen has always been and IS amazing. I know things must be crazy, especially in post, but as I have once heard, "I'm not telling you its going to be easy; I'm telling you its going to be worth it."

    In each aspect of your work, whether written or on screen, your voice seeps through. Your passion and creativity is evident, you are alive and you also bring life through the lens and even in this blog. That is why I'm certain this will be a phenomenal film.

    I'm wishing you luck for the rest of the project, remember you're GREAT at what you do!! I still believe you're gonna deserve and win an Oscar some day.

    Your description has already intrigued me and I know that every aspect of your production will astound all (as they normally do).
    Just thought I'd say that, I can't WAIT to see it! Good luck and remember as Winston Churchill once said

    "if you are going through hell, keep going"

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    1. Of course I remember you! Believe me, I don't easily forget such kind of generous people. Your words here could not have come at a better, more oddly aware (I'll get to that in a minute) time. First off, thank you so much again for saying such nice things. I'm sitting here right now, plugging away on the rough cut of WAIT before I send it off to my sound designer so he can begin to work his magic. While he's doing that, I'll color correct/color grade the film then it's done. Like done, done. Which is insane. I can't believe it's so close.

      Now, as for the aware part. I literally couldn't make this up if I tried, but just this very second... literally the exact moment I got your comment, I was editing a scene in WAIT in which the quote "If you are going through hell, keep going," plays a significant factor in the scene. Seriously, no bullshit. So I'm kind of stunned right now. Had to take a break from editing to tell you that. How strange, huh? Forgive me, I don't remember if we swapped info before, but I would love to stay in touch via email/Facebook/Twitter, whatever you're most comfortable. My mind is seriously blown right now, so I don't want to let this potential friendship pass me by!

      Thanks so much again for your continued support. People like you make it worth it. Truly.

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