“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.
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.”
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