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My first ever film was a disaster

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Picture this:


It's 2016. Ish.


Teenage Susannah, starry-eyed and hell bent on making a mental health awareness film.


I had zero experience in film, little to no equipment, and best of all zero expertise on the subject matter I was tackling. A recipe for a masterpiece, I know.


Regardless of my inadequacies, I forged on with nothing but my good intentions and Film Riot youtube videos fueling me on.


I dragged a couple of friends into my fool-hearty mission, (Doug & Lydia I’m so sorry). We wrote a tragically bad script, held questionable auditions, and decided to shoot the film in a dark apartment with a couple of soft-boxes and a DSLR.


Again, recipe for a masterpiece!


Not that equipment was the limiting factor, because you can shoot a lot better with a lot less. Our actors weren't the issue either! In fact, they were great. By some insane stroke of luck we landed one guy that was basically another member of the Skarsgård family. I think he’s off working on some TV show now, but I digress.


My point is you can make a good film with almost nothing, but not if the filmmaker has no idea what they want, or even how to achieve it if they did.


Anyway, we started shooting and unfortunately, we were NOT equipped to make this film happen. Not even a little.


I remember we would be in the middle of a scene and I would stop everything to sit down with my laptop, plug in my SD card, and look at the footage to see how it was going and what else we needed.


Everyone would just be sitting around waiting on me. What? You mean I was supposed to figure this out before hand?

Me and my collaborators (who were desperately trying to help me make this thing work, bless 'em.) would debate at length on how the scene should be approached…On set...In front of our talent...Who awkwardly stood there while we bickered.


Once again, I was supposed to figure this out before we shoot? Who knew!


Needless to say the film didn’t make it…I tried to edit it, but it was such a mess I literally gave up and everything just died out like a sad, sad fire.


There’s nothing worse than that “Hey, how’s that film going? Is it almost finished?” When you know you completely fumbled it. You feel like you let everyone down, and mostly yourself.


This temporarily traumatized me from shooting another film for a while. Thankfully some self-education along with film school got me on track with the basics. I've made many more embarrassing films since, but each one better than the last.


That first short film may have been a failure, but in a way it's the most important thing I've ever made. It got me started. It got me from thinking about making films, to making films.


The worst thing, even worse than failing, would be to never try at all.



Susannah

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