This post is going to be in stark contrast to my previous one. Warning, for ahead lies the written word of an angry film student running on too much caffeine and not enough sleep.
People really need to stop minimizing the work that filmmakers do. I see complaints everyday about how they’re supposedly these stuck up, whiny, over-privileged group of workers that get to fool around all day and make a lot of money doing it.
(DISCLAIMER: in this blog post I am not, in turn, minimizing the work of any other workers in any other industry, I am simply stating how underappreciated filmmakers usually are.)
In reality that is far, far from true. In my experiences so far, as merely a college freshman, working on films have been some of the most mentally and physically taxing experiences of my life. And this is coming from someone who has taught martial arts to 4-6 year olds for 5 years.
A typical day on an independent film set, I have found, usually lasts about 10-12 hours. Sometimes longer. There are no breaks, except for one meal break, that is about 30-45min in length. The rest of the time pretty much adds up to everyone running around like chickens with their heads cut off. There is NO time to sit down. The gaffers and assistant cameramen set up lights and carry materials back and forth across the set. The director works with the actors, instructing them, blocking them, even changing up their lines last minute. The director of photography (DP) sets up their next shot. Assistant directors sprint back and forth between all the departments – the art department, camera, makeup & costume, sound, etc. to make sure everyone is ready or to ask if they need any help. Script supervisors scribble swiftly in the corner, making note of every miniscule movement that happens during every take.
On a film set, you have to be physically and mentally committed 100% of the time. There can be no lag. You’re tired? Too bad, so is everyone else. Oh, there’s less than a 12 hour turn around before the next shoot day begins? Too bad, time is money and no way in hell is the producer going to push back a shoot day.
And the best part is, that’s only the production end of everything! Before that is the pre-production, where all day producers and locations managers have to find and negotiate with locations. The director, script supervisor, and DP make a breakdown of an entire 120 page script. Shot lists are made. Every single time there’s a cut in a movie, it’s pretty damn safe to say that was a single shot. Now think of how many shots would be in your favorite movie. A lot, huh? Yeah.
Post-production is just as fun. Typically there are 1-2 editors responsible for editing an entire movie. Maybe pick up shots are needed. Music needs to be coordinated. Marketing needs to be figured out, and distribution. The list goes on and on. Making a movie is not some quick little process that involves pointing a camera at some actors, calling action, letting them do their thing, and then calling cut. It’s a year (or longer) process that is nonstop.
So next time you want to get bitchy about how much money filmmakers make, take a moment and consider how much work they actually put into making a film that will most likely just get slammed by critics. And that’s IF they are getting paid at all! In a lot of independent movies, the crew works for free. They dedicate their mind and their bodies for the sake of the film, no matter what toll it takes. Yes, this is their decision, but put yourself in their shoes. Would you do the same thing?
Stop minimizing the work that I, and so many other, filmmakers do. We’re tired of hearing that all you think we do is sit around all day and watch movies and press buttons on cameras. Yes, we love what we do and wouldn’t trade all the hard work for anything. But sometimes, we want to be recognized for what we do. If you have never worked on a film before, you are in no position to judge. End of story.