At least that’s how I’ve been feeling lately with the feature I’ll be shooting in May. And I’m learning what it means to invest yourself into one work for years. I’ve read about filmmakers who have spoken of the years that go into a film. Now I’m starting to see how that feels.
It took years to write the script. It began with a short story that I wrote in a fiction class at NYU in 2010. It was originally called “Witchay Woman,” and it was…not great. The potential was there, but overall it didn’t really go anywhere. It centered around a house party with a character named June who was home for her best friend’s wedding. She was grieving over her father’s death while simultaneously trying to be a good sport about losing her best (guy) friend to another woman. Mostly it was drinking and smoking pot in Wisconsin and sad, desperate talking.
…oh wait. I may have spoiled the plot for the feature. Kidding. But that is actually the predicament of the movie. So, now you know.
So over the years it became a script (it’s still becoming a script…). And I always knew, at some point, that I was going to go back home to Wisconsin and film this. As an experiment. And then I made a short. And I thought, well, we’ll make a couple more shorts and then we’ll see. Get some practice and then make a real movie, right?
And then my mom told me that she was planning to tear down our cottage and build a new home. Our cottage, our perfect old farmhouse on the lake with fields and meadows and the creepy old boathouse. The perfect and only setting for this movie. For a girl who has no money, no connections, no nothing – shooting the movie at this house was the only way. It’s beautiful. I mean, you will see. You can see it in the Winter Guest trailer. This was one year ago that she told me. She was planning the tear-down for this fall (2014). So we had to shoot the film. We had no choice. Ready or not. I cried like a spoiled child. I was so not ready for this. I had no money. I had little to no experience.
It’s been a blessing, really. The truth is – you can’t be ready to make your first feature length movie. You should do some shorts. Winter Guest is 35 minutes – a simplified one third of a feature. The next one will be 10 minutes – but tighter, smarter, with a better camera and a boom mic. The feature will be the ultimate test. It won’t be perfect, but, honestly, it had to happen this way. I’m 27 now. We won’t be completely done shooting until I’m 28. It probably won’t be seen at festivals until I’m 28, more like 29. (And guess what – she’s not taking it down now until 2015. Go figure. At least I’ll have time to mourn it when the filming is over)
I’m swimming in this movie now. Pre-production. Treading water. Some days exhausted.
Some of it’s just the stupid minor work of twitter and instagram and blogging (Not the writing of the blogs, but the little things, like making sure the photos are centered, etc etc – see all those links? Bam – there’s an example). And researching how to do this whole thing – endless YouTube videos. Some encouraging and some that freak me out. (If you’re looking for a great video resource that will reassure you and maybe frighten you just enough to take action, go to Film Courage– it’s wonderful)
Some of it is sending out a newsletter, planning our Indiegogo campaign, emailing and skyping with actors, researching grants.
It feels like so many small things just piling onto me until I die.
Was that dramatic? Yes.
I keep a little $1 notebook from Target in my purse at all times. Yesterday, while house cleaning (day job), I filled three full pages of little tiny actions I absolutely had to take for this movie. Set up an IMDB account (did it today – will link it when they approve), set up a craigslist ad for a production assistant, email the musicians we want to play in the wedding band in the movie, create a Facebook page.
Sometimes I wish this feature could just be a painting – and if it doesn’t turn out well, then I could burn it. I don’t spend years on paintings. Maybe a month on and off. Hardly.
The writing was the easier part. Now I have to show up in the world, appear responsible, ask for help – ask for money. The hardest part. But the amazing thing is that this ball is actually rolling. And I enjoy it. I like to see things get done. And I think we’re gonna make a great movie.
But sometimes I don’t want to swim anymore. So I step out of it, read a book like My Berlin Kitchen, eat little cookies from the Mexican bakery down the block, and write a letter to my grandparents. Because I’m kind of tired.
Up and down, up and down. It’s the only way to survive this. Pretend it doesn’t exist for a while and then return with full force. It’s my new way of life. I’m just getting used to it.