Typically, one would be excited about the prospect of classes ending halfway through the semester, leaving just free time and projects. For me especially, the promise of no more 9-5 days of lectures was my lifeline some days— more time to work on projects and more time to rest and explore. I understood the value of learning theory, especially from such qualified professors, but one of the big draws of the program for me was the promise of hands-on experience. Finally getting to work with the film cameras and going location scouting with teammates seemed like it would be a lot of fun— and it was. But I learned very quickly that the end of classes did not mean the end of work. If anything, things have been getting more and more busy in anticipation of shooting, but I almost prefer it that way.
The process of making a short film, even the shortest of short films, is remarkably more time-consuming and arduous than what I imagined it would be prior to studying film. I had filmed things for class back at my home university, and I understood the vague idea of the filmmaking process, but this was my first “real” experience in that field.
Just writing a script or a pitch takes so much more time than I imagined (though I didn’t actually help write the script for the project I’m working on. Shout out to my other two team members!) Even when just thinking of ideas for a story, you need to weigh what makes a story good against what makes a production possible. Seeing the effort my teammates constantly made in writing the script, only to have it dissected by professors during classes and pitches, really solidified how difficult writing is, especially at a career-aspiring level. I was never really one for writing and never intended to go into it as a job. Now, I’m certain that it’s not something I’m built for. It makes me sympathetic to all the shows and movies I thought had bad or incomprehensible plots because that probably wasn’t the first draft of that plot, and it ideally wouldn’t have been the last.
In the FAMU main building, there are plenty of posters like these all over the place, advertising films, festivals, and events. Once I have time, I’d really like to check some of them out.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other aspects of filmmaking. Producers, cinematographers, gaffers, editors, sound mixers, and recorders— the list goes on and on. There’s a reason the credits at the end of a movie or show are as long as they are. The TV show you expect to air weekly without issue is made only by the dedicated efforts of many talented and probably overworked people. Some advice that was given to me while we still had classes was that one should try every role in film production before deciding on a career path. I wonder if I’ll have enough time to do that before I graduate, but if there’s anything I’ve gained from this program it’s a wealth of experience. I feel like I’ve done more relevant work in the past month than I did my entire sophomore year.
Once the dramaturgical pitches were done and the scripts were decided upon, we had the lighting exercises. During these, we practiced lighting a scene and shooting on film. The cinematographers of every group took turns handling the camera, testing the exposure, and whatnot. Other students got to help with the lighting, cables, direction, and acting. Everyone cycled every few turns, so even those with minimal responsibility with the camera (such as editors like myself) had something to do.
Working with film puts into perspective how advanced digital cameras are. I never had to test exposure while working with a digital camera, and the process of doing so flew over my head a bit. I think my only complaint about the lighting exercise was that I wish all of the classes were like this, partly because I found it to be a lot of fun and partly because I would’ve liked a chance to operate the camera myself. The final product was beautiful and really shows the quality of film as opposed to digital.
And now we arrive at this week, pre-production week. It’s been full of consultations with camera supervisors, sound recorders, and our production manager, all of which have been very useful. Shooting week being so close makes me pretty nervous, but no matter what happens, we’ll have a film by the end of the semester and have learned everything that comes with making a film. The process has been great so far.
Searching for locations has had the pleasant side effect of showing me more of the city, riding to the end of bus lines, and discovering small parts of Prague I never would have found otherwise. Sometimes, I ended up in dark and empty lots. Other times, I found myself in a nice cafe by a park. I appreciate and admire both of my teammates greatly for all the work they’ve done since the beginning and for all the work they have yet to do. Alongside our own project, I’m working on a few of my classmates’ sets as well, which will be very fun.
A rather beautiful road I found while location scouting for something entirely different. At this point I was really really lost.
This blog post has been my shortest yet. It is, unfortunately, because of how packed things have been lately. But don’t let my brevity be confused for apathy— I’ve really never been more grateful to be here than right now. I feel like the things I do are more than just middling class assignments but part of a greater project that I’m glad to be working on. I’ve met so many great people since I arrived here, and it excites me to work on more film things in the future.
See everyone in the next blog post, na shledanou (see you later)!