There is a Talmudic saying that, when translated, goes something like this: A man should wear a jacket with two pockets, and in each pocket he should keep a scrap of paper. On one of the scraps should the words be written: “All you are is ashes and dust.” And on the other: “This world was made for you.” I think what it means is, “This is all you get, babe. It may not be all you want, but it’s all you get, and that’s enough. so get busy, already.”
And I’ve been trying to get busy, really I have. But a frustrating and belief-challenging reality that I’ve been forced to grudgingly come to terms with is that in the film-making world, no matter how smart, or versatile, or creative, or talented, or energetic, or multi-taskable (is that a word? It is now) you may be, the formula works out like this:
Army of One = Army of None.
Right, right. Sure, you deserve an intelligent, and I’m sure, heartfelt, rebuttal. The floor is yours.
What’s that you say? You’re a great writer- inventive, innovative, moving, lyrical in your storytelling. Awesome! You’re a gifted Cinematographer, too! Mis en scene! Lighting! Composition! Cameras! Lenses! Blee Blahs! I’m sure you are- first rate. Audio Engineer? Man… don’t you remember, it’s how you got your start in the media business in the first place! So location sound, ADR, SFX, Mixing- gotcha covered like a Jimmy Hat, yo. Music? 10 years of piano and composition, people, studying under the renowned Maestro Whathisface, not to mention all the bands you played with and all that recording gear you still have lying around. PLUS Bongos.
Now, hold on a minute, there, Genius, What about Editing, Post-Production, Promotion? Puh-leeze. Final Cut, AVID, Pro Tools, After Effects, Photoshop, Combustion, is that enough for you? Not to mention the mad “Don Draper” PR skills- your pitches leave them hanging on every word, fighting to stuff fist-full’s of $100’s in your pockets to get this monster rolling. Hell, you can even pinch-hit at acting if you have to! You can do it all.
Well, you’re right. That’s right. You heard me right: you CAN do it all.
But not at the same time. To quote a very smart friend of mine, “I can do anything. But I can’t do everything.” And that makes him more right.
The bottom line is that if you aspire to make a professionally-produced narrative film longer than 58 seconds, you have to have a team. A competent, consistent, capable, reliable team. No way around it. At the very least, for the development period and for the shoot. Below you will see a recommended personnel list. And from this list, you may pick only one of the jobs below for yourself; the rest you must delegate to someone else. And each position requires a dedicated person. One person per job – No doubling-up. (Again, see the “Army of One” rule above):
- Director/Camera (C1)
- Props/Set Design/VFX
- AC1 / Production Assistant (Focus Puller/Marker/Grip/)
- AC2 / Production Assistant (Loader/Slate/Shot Log/Continuity)
- PA3 (Gopher/Runner/Release Forms/Traffic/Crowd Control/Misc)
- Craft Services (This can be handled by the Producer, if she’s your wife)
Notice #10, The Producer. It really should be: THE PRODUCER. The bedrock of the whole process; the cork that keeps this leaky bait-bucket from sinking. Sure, this is your baby, but it lives at the whim of the Producer. He/She may not ever set foot on the set, or touch a camera or one piece of gear, or ever even meet the crew, but then, he/she doesn’t have to. Because while the Director is the one who makes the movie, the Producer is the one that makes the movie happen. Scheduling, budgeting, managing, wrangling, juggling, coordinating, cajoling, acquiring, allocating, arranging… and shmoozing. A whole lot of shmoozing. So here’s another quick formula for you:
NO Producer = NO MOVIE.
I can go on and on about this but the big takeaway is simple. Assemble a team of 10 who will follow through for you, for the long haul, when it’s no longer a cool or entertaining diversion for just two weekends a year- who will put their heart and pride and skill and sweat in the game. And when you’re all sitting together, scripts and shot-sheets in hand, for your first big production meeting, take a look around the table. Because there’s your Army; now go forth and conquer.
Yes. Truly we are, each of us- only ashes, and dust. And the world was made for us.