Our final day at our fancy-condo location was both great and anxiety-inducing.
On one hand, we were consistently getting great footage and amazing performances from all the actors. On the other hand, we were not getting all our scenes done each day, ending later in the morning and risking having to delay the following day’s start time in order to give our crew a decent break in between.
There are rules about how long a break you’re required to give people in between long days on set – and indeed, that is as it should be – but sometimes it is difficult to balance the need to be good to your crew vs the need to get the film done. Crews have to get at least ten hours (actors, 11), but that’s barely enough in real terms. In an ideal world, we’d be giving everyone way more than 10 hours between extremely long shifts, because that’s barely enough time to go home, sleep and come back out again. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible (frankly, with our wildly ambitious shooting schedule, it’s rarely possible).
On Day 8 we struggled to squeeze in one last scene at the end of the day. It was a crucial one – the final shots of the entire film – but it was way past our previously-agreed-upon end time and it caused some tension on set. I voiced my concerns about burning out the crew, but I didn’t want to add to the tension by arguing, so I stepped back and let the scene play out. I recognized that if we didn’t get the scene at this location we’d never be able to replicate the setting. In the end, we shot it (and it looked great) and everyone walked away as friends.
The day was a great lesson in how to cope with stress, how to handle conflict on set, how to treat your crew in order to keep them on your side, and how to handle big personalities who don’t always see eye to eye (which describes a lot of artists, let’s face it).
If I walk away having learned only one lesson after this shoot is over, I hope it is to always value each person’s contribution on set – not just by treating the crew well, thanking them for their work and not abusing their good will, but also by understanding enough about the job that they do to not make unreasonable demands of them, or expect things on an impossible timeline.
For the record, I think everyone on this show has been very respectful and appreciative of the crew’s great work. These aren’t lessons I’m learning because we’re getting it wrong, but I can see how easy it would be to get it wrong, so I’m trying to stay mindful.