Five Ways to Navigate the Shoulds & Supposed-Tos of Moviemaking. – OR – Better to Ask for Forgiveness than Permission.

Published, MovieMaker Magazine, April 19, 2013

Introduction.

Have you read Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART? If you have, spread the word. If you haven’t yet, here’s the gist of it: The world will be saved when we ALL MAKE WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE MAKING. There is an idea in your head that fills you with joy. This idea is tapping on your shoulder daily, telling you to open that restaurant, sing that aria, build that sculpture, write that screenplay-novel-play-poem, shoot that film, dance that tango. This joy inside you is what will save the world. And don’t you want to save the world? I know I do. If you do, the sure-fire way is to follow your bliss and make what The Muse is telling you to make. Go. GOOOOOOO MMAKKKKEEE YYYOOUUURRRTTHHHIINNNGGGG.

Begin.

Ahhh, but the rules.
Rules, regulations & guidelines are keeping you from making your thing. Am I right?
– Or – is it that YOU who are allowing rules, regulations & guidelines to keep you from making your thing.
Stop.
Today we’ll discuss ways for you to stop.
And we’ll use the example of  – say – the making of a movie.

Somebody somewhere once said “If you’re gonna make a movie, you’d better have permits for your locations, or else.” Someone somewhere said that “if you’re gonna make a real movie and if you want to to be taken seriously, you’d better hire union actors. Or else.”  And yet another so-called sooth-sayer announced: “If you are going to use union actors, you’d better declare your shoot a UNION SHOOT. OR ELSE!!!”  …Renting equipment? You’d better buy insurance or YOU’RE GOING TO DIE. Filming in the City of Such-and-such? You’d better notify the COMMISSION OF THE THING, or YOUR WHOLE FAMILY WILL EXPLODE.

There are a lot of very serious people in the world who are enforcing some extremely serious rules. Got it. If we want to work with them, we will absolutely adhere to their uncompromisable regulations. Clear.

However……if we choose to make our art our OWN WAY, within our own delightful system that we ourselves have invented that is ITSELF part of our art, then, dear OFFICIAL RULE MAKER, we just may not get around to meeting you. But, all the best!

For those of us who are making movies our own unique and innovative way, here are five useful approaches to five certain requests that are sometimes made of us in this well-meaning, law-revering moviemaking culture of ours:

1. Location Permits

Let’s say you need a hotel room for your movie. But you don’t necessarily have briefcases full of greenbacks designated for a hotel manager or owner. Couple creative alternatives for you come to mind here. 1) Depending on your shot list, you may not ever need to show the exterior of your hotel. Empty your own bedroom of its personal touches and BAM: mysterious motel room. No permit needed!  2) Cruise remote suburban areas where films are not often shot and genially approach 20 – 30 hotel proprietors until you find the one who loves movies and can’t wait to host you for some ridiculously low fee.  No permit needed. This was the case for us. We are forever in love with Saeed Farzam at Pavillions Motel, Santa Monica.

When you’re not so keen to go the route of location permits, be open-minded, tenacious, persistent, and filled with faith. Seriously. Believe that you will find or invent the location that you need, and you will.

2. Burning Fires Openly

To some, this is a questionable act. For others, this is necessary preparation for a scene about a house that just burned down. How can you film charred remains with no charred remains, I ask you?  Still, let it be said, dear filmmaker of good intentions: In this scenario, you have to have permission from somebody. You may not have a permit from the city; you may not have consulted with ALL interested legal parties; you MUST however, be sure the ground you are about to singe is on property that is legally your own – or on that of a friend or family member who has given you the thumbs up. – This, and you want to be sure to have on hand every manner of garden hose, fire extinguisher – and buckets of water aplenty. Kind of essential, really. Peace of mind that comes with these measures taken is an added plus. We toasted a mattress, some old 2 x 4s and a broken screen door among other things, in the field behind a generous & thoughtful friend’s home. A cozy campfire among neighbors!

Long story short: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

3. Auditions in a public park

During pre-production of our first feature film, our pockets were not necessarily lined with dosh for the rental of an audition space. And anyway, the little kid we wanted to see for the role agreed to meet us after his drama class, which was right around the corner from a park. What could be more convenient. The gods of moviemaking were clearly handing us a free space to hold auditions. We met him & his parents near the jungle gym. Lovely family. Turned on our video camera; asked Mom & Dad if they minded; went ahead with our small leading man’s on-camera interview. When the City Parks representative kindly asked us to cease and desist, we did. Said thank you to our family, and left the premises. But we had our winning audition on tape.

Better to Ask for Forgiveness than Permission!

4. Gun Permits

This one’s a bit of a dice roll. But why not roll ’em. Life is short. Make hay while the sun shines. We filmed our gang-member-shoots-pistol-in-air scene – complete with 12 volunteer ex-gang-members – with a completely rubber, bullet-free, total prop gun….in….an outdoor city scene at night with no permit.  I was having a bit of a heart attack I must admit. What if someone mis-interpreted what was going on. What if someone dangerous strolled past our little staged scene, and decided to get involved. What if the cops showed up and fined us $10,000.

My advice for you: Pray.

Totally serious. Naive? Perhaps stupid is more apt? Some might say so. Still, in the absence of any other measures taken, I prayed all week leading up to our scheduled ‘gun fight day’. I decided hundreds of times in advance that everyone was safe and protected. That we were all going to be completely okay. We also cut all yelling, swearing, and, well, talking  – from the scene. The whole thing was shot in silence.

But yes: Pray. To whatever god, or non-god – to whatever person, saint, animal, mineral, other being or universe you love that gives you hope and comfort while you film your brave and excellent independent film.  PRAY.  Close your eyes and Pray.

And on the day… night fell…. the ex gang members we cast acted out their thing….and the cops showed up. Our director jogged over to their car.

And now, I know our director’s good with people – charming and all that – but this went beyond. As unexplainable as a UFO-sighting: our uniformed friends chatted with him for about 5 minutes….and then quietly drove away.  “Just finish up quickly” I think is what they instructed. Some police people out there are pretty cool, dear fellow filmmakers.

(Thank you moviemaking angels.)

5. Family Home Videos

The police also found us on a different day: a charming sunny afternoon where we were filming in the quaint hills of Highland Park, L.A., and calmly asked us what we were doing. It’s these kinds of days when are rewarded for the clever and trusted producer-extraordinaire you invited on board. Our producer Andrew Ahn warmly greeted our friendly neighborhood patrolmen, then happily told them about our family video. We were proudly documenting our Korean, Mexican, Irish-Welsh roots. Our next addition to our collective family home video library.

When you have no permits, you are always making a family home video.

Conclusion

It’s not so much that rules are made to be broken. It’s more that rules crave to be creatively circumvented. The entire history of human beings is teeming with examples of rules that have been innovatively re-envisioned. Rules must never be allowed to stop you & your art, dear talented friend. Rules are simply another way that life prompts you to be more creative than ever before. Never allow rules to slow you down to inaction! Allow rules to fuel you into inspired action! You MUST MAKE what you are called to make. Heed your heart! Do it’s bidding! Make your thing! Save the world!

T.S.

Tara Samuel is an award-winning producer-actor from Toronto. Also proud Co-Founder of notorious film collective WeMakeMovies. Recent Winner Best Actress, RUBY BOOBY. Producer-Lead Actress of WILD PRAIRIE ROSE, shooting on location in Beresford, S.D. June, 2013. Samuel’s writing and directing has been celebrated on the festival circuit; articles on filmmaking published widely, most recently in MovieMaker Magazine. Samuel teaches a 6-wk screenwriting course in Los Angles with co-instructor John Sandel, The Script Kitchen. For more information or to join our class, please email scriptkitchen@gmail.com

Tara Samuel is a script consultant and editor on fire about sharpening your screenplay. She is your ScriptKicker. In close collaboration with you the client, Samuel zeroes in on the specificity of your characters, hones your story rhythm and maximizes your audience engagement helping you to create a perfect story-ride. Samuel kicks your script into ship-shape; kicks it through the goal posts, kicks it out of the park. www.scriptkicker.com

Tara Samuel is story editor for screenwriters Jon Rannells, Ruby Booby, Mexico-Machismo, Mr.Happy-Joy; Paula Tiberius, Male Order, Bitch Magnet, Kathryn Winslow, Downtown Mrs.Brown, Sam Zvibleman, The Rwanda Blend, Justin Miller, The Sound & The Shadow, Andrew Ahn, The Good Life, SummerVacay, Biggz, Gareth Bennett, Bang Baby Bang, Deborah LaVine, Aunt Janny’sMoney, Darrow Carson, Absolving Grace, Whit Spurgeon, The Interview – among many others.

Start right now

Tara Samuel loves Patton Oswalt.

Let’s get right to the meat and potatoes. You have something you want to write. You have it in your head – and in your heart too. It’s a novel, or a comic strip, a screenplay or a poem. Or – it’s a painting you keep seeing in your mind’s eye. Or it’s a rocket ship you know you can build. Or a restaurant that you know will be a huge success. It’s all the same. Meaning: whatever it is, you are absolutely meant to do it. You must do it. You are thinking about it because you want to do it, and you ARE able to. This is very exciting.

Now here’s the thing. Let this one piece of wisdom be your guide: You must feel Joy while doing it. That’s the bottom line. There are a million messages in your head every second. I know. I have them too. Enough to drive a person bananas. But among them are visions of You, doing something well. These visions fill you with smiles. (And sometimes tears of longing too.) Pay attention to these particular visions. Listen to them. And begin. BEGIN. (And if you’ve already begun, fantastic. Continue! Never stop!)

But what about good old Fear, you ask. I know! I hear you! I have it too. It kicks in daily: Tells me I’m not ready; tells me I’m not accomplished enough; tells me I’m not focused enough; tells me I’ll get to it later; tells me others have done it first. Nonsense! Raspberry, I tell you! A pox on Fear! Noble blog reader: Here again is where our one piece of wisdom comes in handy again: Are you feeling Joy? In all my experience, Fear ain’t fun. Does not qualify. Fear stinks. Fear can take a hike. Listen to the thoughts that give you Joy, dear dreaming adventurer. Dear pursuer of Greatness. Stick with the images of You, Doing the Thing you Love. Then go Do It.

One last thing: The So-Called Rules. There aren’t any. No such thing. Haven’t you noticed the way “official rules” are always vetoed and trumped by new “official rules”? Ha! Yes! People make them up! Rules are meant to be invented! So. Find a way to paint / sing / write / rap / draw / build, any way that you like. You do not need “the correct tools”, nor “the proper coach”. You are never obligated to follow “the conventional steps” or employ “the rules of the form”. Nope! No way, Jose. You need only follow your Joy. What about “I’m too old.” I spit on it. You can take that “I’m too old” and stick it where the sun don’t shine. “You are too old” is another rule some idiot once made up in order to sell his product. “I’m too old” goes out the window. No such thing. Never was. Now. Pursue your Bliss. That is what you are here to do. You are born to do it.  Begin right this moment. And Keep Going, Friend.

Two PostScripts for you:

PS #1 – Here is the trailer for the movie we made, RUBY BOOBY. We had not one penny in our pockets when we began. We simply started. We borrowed equipment from friends. Filmed it with a consumer video Canon HV20 camcorder. Yup. We borrowed locations from neighbours. We borrowed a tiny amount of cash to buy food for the team and then we bought the food at the Dollar Store. Then a friend made a website for us, and we raised some money – enough to pay back our generous friends, and to finish the movie. (You can also make your own website for free right here at WordPress. I did.) Just begin. There are no rules. Anything is possible. Start now.

P.S. #2 – I love Patton Oswalt. Love his stand-up; love his acting; love the way he lives his life. I love his giant heart, his razor wit, his silliness, and his persistence. Please read his keynote address at Montreal’s Just For Laughs 2012: “Letters to Both Sides”. Whenever you read the words “comedian” or “comedy”, please substitute them for “novelist”, “filmmaker”, “dancer”, “singer” or “inventor”. Or any other pursuit of your choosing. This article is directly about you, dear resilient reader. It is about all of us. So exciting. Read, read.
http://thecomicscomic.com/2012/07/27/patton-oswalts-letters-to-both-sides-his-keynote-address-at-montreals-just-for-laughs-2012/

T.S.

 

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What kind of writing you ask? What level of writing? All of it. This is my thing; it’s what I do. I love first-time writers; disillusioned or depressed writers; seasoned, award-winning writers. I love your poetry, your novels, your screenplays. I want to climb inside your writing and tap into its shine. I adore this process. Send me your writing and let’s make it as fully alive as it wants to be.

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