The Part Where It’s Genuinely Fun
I spend so much time on this blog bemoaning the tribulations of making a web series, that some you must occasionally think—Good Lord! Why does this guy keep doing this if the whole process is something akin to self-flagellation? I actually spend quite a bit of pre-production asking myself that very question. It’s not solely for the final output. That’s still many, many months away at this point.
This week I was reminded of why. The actual experience of being on set is genuinely fun. There it is. Two of our four shoot nights so far, we haven’t even gotten everything we were trying to get. In both instances, it was mostly because of this one two-minute long Glidecam shot that always takes about an hour to get up and running. There’s just a lot of moving parts to get that thing as an uninterrupted take. I think we finally got it last night. I’ll know more once I cut some of this footage together over the next couple weeks. Still, even though we’ve been behind in our shooting schedule, the act of getting together to make the show is really entertaining. We’re a group of friends all getting together. And though it doesn’t feel anything like hanging out, it does have a really nice energy to it. There’s the feeling of the performances and the camera angles coming together to create something new. There’s the feeling of discovery when the actors bring something unexpected to their performance that makes you reexamine how the scene plays. The fun of finding little bits of business to thread in and around the words. The whole thing has this thrum of discovery, collaboration, and creation, and each shot you finish means you’re one little step closer to realizing that initial vision.
Most behind-the-scenes videos focus on what’s happening before, between, and after set-ups, because the nuts-and-bolts reality of watching camera set-ups happen and actors, constantly say the same lines over and over again is really boring. It’s only engaging to the people who are in that moment focusing on doing their part. Each actor trying to keep their performance fresh for themselves and the camera, to convey the same thing as the last set-up, but with that veneer of it being the first time this moment has happened. The camera team—or in our case—Ryan (or David; whatever one man is the camera team that night), keeping an eye on focus and framing, making sure we all hit our marks and that all the pieces are falling into their visual place. The person operating our Marantz sound recorder, making sure that the levels stay above -20 and below 0 for this take. The person operating the boom pole, trying to keep a VERY directional shotgun microphone pointed specifically at the mouths doing the talking, the feet doing the shuffling, or the clothes doing the rustling. All of these people bind together for a short span of time, usually no long than a minute, to make one thing out of many individual pieces acting in unison. Then chaos reigns for minutes at a time as we move the camera, the people, the lights, and the sound to the next set-up before pulling together for a minute of intense focus once again. And then again, and again, and again, until we have all the pieces that make up a scene. Then we do it for another scene, and another, until we have all the pieces of an episode. It’s a very unique feeling. And for all the stresses that lead up to it, and the stresses that having a large group of people and a lot of moving parts can bring, it’s really a lot of fun.
Everyone wants to do their best. For themselves and for each other. And when we all help each other do our best in the service of making something unique, it feels flippin’ awesome.
Thanks for reading.