Tag: mistakes

3 Things I Learned About Filmmaking from… Highland Dance Competitions

dncWe each take many paths in life and learn from all that’s around us. Learn something on one area of life and cross over to another. Here are three nuggets that crossover for me between Highland Dance competitions and filmmaking:

1. “Dance Beautifully” Does Not Necessarily Mean “Dance Standard”

The closer you dance in a competition to “dance standard” (in the eyes of judges) the more awards you win. The higher the level of competition, the more challenging it is to win awards, because eventually there are only slight differences between those who win awards and those who don’t. Yet… anyone in the audience will tell you passionately and honestly that so many of the dancers dance beautifully, awards or not. This declaration is not friends and relatives being kind the dancers, it’s the truth. Parallel this situation to movies. You can enjoy a beautiful movie whether it wins awards (achieving “movie standard” in the eyes of judges) or not.

2. Dance YOUR Dance

When competing on stage at pre-premier level, different dancers know different steps to pretty much all the dances. To the audience it’s like watching several different dances on stage at the same time, dancing to the same music. Sometimes it looks like one of the dancers is going to bump into another because of the varied choreography, but somehow they manage to steer clear of each other. On stage, if you forget a step, a glance left or right to a competitor can just confuse you more because chances are they will be dancing totally different steps. You have to know your dance and dance it with confidence no matter what’s happening around you on the stage. Good advice for filmmaking too. Choose your path with confidence and take it, no matter what the competition is doing around you. Be aware of what’s happening around you (so you don’t “bump into other dancers”), but be true to yourself.

3. Despite Any Errors, “Dance On”

Highland dancers forget steps. They knock the crossed swords out of alignment. A shoe can fall off. The piper can make a mistake in the music. One step can be wrong. So many errors can happen “on the day.” Dancers can stop and wait for the dance to end, stop and leave the stage, or they can dance on. “Dance on” doesn’t erase the error, but can provide a sense of accomplishment at overcoming obstacle, and for the bigger errors that the audience notices, it also triggers deep-felt admiration in the whole room. Take that determination into filmmaking. Mistakes will happen, but work with them and finish the film. Film is not as much a live performance as Highland Dancing, but sometimes you can’t go back to fix a shot; you have to “dance on” to the end.

What crossovers happen in your life?

Cheers… with a little FILM and INK,

The Painful Second Chance

datesFill-in the blanks cast contracts, really? Fill-in the blanks? It’s an elementary school activity. What could be easier?

The Assistant Coordinator (APC) asked to take on the task of preparing and coordinating the cast contracts. The production office was busy. The Coordinator (PC) was busy. It was time to learn how to do more and to grow in the job. Her initiative was supported and a training session was arranged.

Growth, however, can be a painful experience.

A few days after the contracts were completed and signed, the weakness in the documents was revealled. It was a typo on a number of different contracts. So what’s the big deal about a typo? It’s not usually a big deal, but that only depends on where the typo is. This one was in the list of numbers that confirmed the date(s) of work for each performer. This typo was a multi-thousand dollar one.

Sure the mistake passed several levels of checks and approvals, but it started with the APC and trust was extended that she was ready to take on the responsibility and the contracts would be carefully checked. Approval checks typically involve both spot-checking and a level of trust; they are not intended to duplicate the work done. Enough of blame. What to do next?

First, of course, production paid the performers as contracted, in effect paying for the current and undisputable mistake.

Next, how do you deal with the issue moving forward? Should the PC take back the responsibility because the potental for error is high risk and high cost? Do you raise the extent of double-checking work done to a level of duplicating the work (even for a trial period)? Do you assess if the APC has learned from the experience to be more careful and not repeat the mistake in the future? Does the APC have sufficient self-confidence left to try again? Does production have the budget to risk affording the APC a second chance?

It’s a painful decision all around. Extending trust now is tainted with reservation.

The immediate reaction of the PM and PC was to return the responsibility of cast contracts back to the PC. Initially. It was a conservative position. It was a logical choice.

The APC, however, with shakey confidence, still wanted to prove she could do it – to production, to herself. The relevant points covered in training made so much more sense to her now. As painful as it felt, she needed that second chance.

The PC was first to agree. After more convincing, the PM extended trust again, albeit nervously.

For the next set of cast contracts, the APC was diligently focussed. The PC resisted further stepping up the level of double-check so that the responsbility was truly with the APC along with the task. The PM was just nervously patient.

This next set of contracts were flawless. In the end, the APC grew in ability, responsibility, professionalism and confidence. The apparent ease of fill-in the blanks never fooled her again, and expensive typos were a thing of the past. She was well on her way to becoming a great PC herself… thanks to the painful growth made possible by a second chance.

Not knowing how the second round would go, would you have given her the second chance? Really?

Cheers & a good shoot to you,

Popcorn Movie Seat

I went to a 1:30pm movie. First screening of the day in that theatre. Bought the popcorn and was first into the room. I had every seat to choose from. Great! I went for middle-middle. Yeah. Best seat in the house.

As I went to sit down, my purse slipped off my shoulder and landed heavily on my forearm. The impact triggered the reflex that makes the bicep instantly contract to prevent the purse from landing on the floor. But today, the hand was holding a full bag of popcorn.

Wow, what a shower of popcorn that was. At least half the bag was liberated in that split second and distributed strangely evenly in the nine seats around me. White popcorn. Dark room. Dark seats. Only if the popcorn were glowing or on fire might my faux pas be more obvious.

Sure I could move to another seat, but to whoever came into the theatre next it would be eminently obvious that it was me who had done the redecorating. So I smiled at the incident, brushed my head, shoulders and seat clear, and then sat down amid the mess and ate the remainder of the popcorn in the bag while I watched the movie – okay, the remainder of the popcorn didn’t even last through the trailers. And perhaps not so predictably, no one sat in the eight popcorn seats around me… though I don’t recommend using this story as a strategy of saving extras seats in a movie theatre.

Cheers & a good shoot to you,

3 Things I Learned About Filmmaking from… Horseback Riding

Life can teach you about filmmaking even when you’re not making films… here are 3 things I learned from horseback riding:

1. Get back on when you fall
It’s not “if” you fall, but rather “when”. As with horseriding, a career in the film industry is full of ups and downs. Keep trying. Especially try to learn from your mistakes – though this is a harder concept than it sounds. Your persistence will pay off in the long run as you become a seasoned professional.

2. Relax; your stress is being communicated
Horses KNOW when you are stressed as you sit on their back, and they will echo back your frame of mind. Horseriding then becomes harder and harder you fight their reaction and your rising stress level. Once relaxed, the job is easier, more pleasant, magical. Film crews can feel your stress level too. Find a way to relax (but stay focussed) and see the production atmosphere around you echo back a more pleasant, more functional environment. 

3. The shovelling and the cleaning is all part of it
The image of riding off into the sunset on a perfect, warm summer evening may attract you to horseriding as the glamour may attract you to working in the film industry. You still have the clean and feed the horse, shovel and sweep the barn… small payment for the reward of a perfect day of horseriding. In film, there is payment for the glamour too… all those small, seemingly insignificant jobs that contribute the bigger picture – right down to cleaning garbage cans on set. Be prepared for these jobs, they are the payment.

Happy trails and a good shoot to you!