reflections, three years on

Nearly three years since “All the Others Were Practice” was finished, I have had some distance, and time to reflect on the process of making the film, what went right, what went not right.

It is the fault of the director and the casting director, if an actor is mis-cast. An actor is hired for a job like anyone else. They show up when scheduled and ply their craft to the best of their ability given the circumstances.

On “All the Others Were Practice” I cast all of the main roles through a series of auditions nearly two years before we filmed. I knew the filming was going to be very bare-bones and I was going to be spread thin just making the movie. I needed actors who could have their own resources to draw on as they craft their performances.

All of the actors participated in a staged reading, the audio was recorded like a radio play. The actors all got along well, and had chemistry. It seemed like the perfect cast, and I moved forward with fundraising.

And then I second-guessed myself. I re-cast the main role. I didn’t audition him with anyone, no screen test. I saw him do comedy live a few times. He has a great energy and timing, he’s funny and charismatic on stage, and self-effacing and sweet in person. But he had zero acting experience and had never been on a film set, or in front of a camera in a film setting.

I was so caught up in the making of the movie that I ignored the fact that he had zero acting experience and had never been on a film set. It was a selfish decision. It was the main role in the film. He would be on set nearly every day. He had more than half of the lines in the script, was on screen in every scene.

He did an admirable job, but he had to hold up the entire film, interacting with nearly every actor. He had never filmed a scene before, never had to memorize lines before, he didn’t have a sense of the repetitiveness and boredom on set. And I did a poor job of helping him prepare for it. But he showed up every day and gave it his all. Even thought the performance is not what I imagined going into the filming, it has a charm and honesty that works in the role.

Early in the production, I had a dream. I was balancing on plates that were spinning on the tops of long poles that disappeared far below me in a mist. As I jumped from one plate to another they would disappear below me, so I was jumping endlessly from one to the next to avoid the void below.

That is how the production went. We jumped from day to day, running around town and crossing off setups. I was in charge of the entire production from catering to camerawork. There was some help from the producer, but he’d never been on a set before and was on his own learning curve. It was like a top who’s string was pulled, or a string of firecrackers. Once it was started, the only way it was going to end was either an orderly wind down, or total immolation.

When we wrapped, I had no idea what we had just filmed. I was able to review the day’s takes every evening, but only for exposure and the presence of audio. I knew there were tensions on set, but I hoped that we’d be able to edit around them. I knew there were audio issues, but “we can fix it in post”.

As I began the edit, it became clear that the film we had in the can was not going to be the bubbly silly romp I had intended. Having a live baby on set ended up being too expensive at the last minute. There were scenes of Glen and the baby that were some of my favorite in the film, but they didn’t work because they had to be hastily re-written.

Some other scenes couldn’t be used because of lighting. Half of Glen’s written scenes didn’t work as filmed, which puts it off balance Glen is a balance to Jôrge in the script, his ‘straight’ man. But because of technical reasons, most of the meaningful scenes with Glen are not he cutting room floor.

And then, there is the sound. An actual person dedicated to sound was only on set for a few days. Every other day, I would set levels on the lavaliers, and set up some microphones just out of frame. I hadn’t reviewed the audio well enough in dailies and missed that clothing rustling made most of the lav sound unusable . Most scenes had multiple audio recorders, but in nearly every take there is at least at least one channel that was unusable. Yikes.

In the first pass os editing, I tried to mold the footage to the script. It was off kilter because of the missing Glen, Pam and baby scenes. I decided to let the footage tell it’s story.

There are some conversations that, after they were edited, seemed to have the opposite meaning they had on paper. I just went with it.

The final film came together into a reasonable approximation of the story from the script. The music helps tremendously, smoothing the awkward pacing and covering the garbled audio.

I do really like the look of the film, I think it is pretty.

When I wrote this film, I was looking to make a kind of parody of a gay film by following the conventions of a heterosexual romantic comedy, but with all male actors. In the end it turned into a movie about a guy who sleeps with a lot of guys, which is exactly the kind of film I didn’t want to make. Sigh.

I am proud of the film, but not for any of the reasons that I thought I would be. I am proud of it because I think there are some very funny and touching performances in the film, and I think that there are glimmers of what I set out to do. And I finished it. It was an amazing learning experience, not just in filmmaking, but in communicating with people, and organizing a project from start to finish, in trusting my instincts, and in humility.

Thank you to everyone who worked on this film, who donated your time or money to help make it happen. I hope you can enjoy this tiny film as it is, flaws and all.