How do you make a movie?
Find a writer who’s not me.
Find a director who knows what he’s doing.
Find an amazing cast and crew.
Film for five days straight.
Get bronchitis, laryngitis, and a life-sucking bout of depression.
Now, your movie is done. Just kidding, your movie isn’t done. It feels like your movie is never done.
When I moved back to Ohio, I knew I would be close to old friends. I didn’t realize one of my old friends would be doing cool things like, oh, rocking out in an amazing band or making movies.
Dunlap and I were in a few theater shows together in high school, but I think we mostly just liked each other’s company. (We also shared the superlative of “Most Likely to be Famous.”) When he heard I was moving to his ‘hood, he got in touch. It all started with several beers and escalated until, all of a sudden, I’d been cast opposite him in an indie flick called Decent People, written and directed by long-haired artistic genius Kevin Naughton.
Decent People isn’t a nice movie. There aren’t nice characters. Dunlap and I play two despicable people who get what’s coming to them. Filming began two weeks ago after several rehearsals and detailed planning of my hair and makeup. See, the film only takes place over a two-day period, with A and B costumes that have to look exactly alike for every take. (These are things you don’t think about when making a movie. For instance, my hair is currently purple, and it must remain this current shade of purple until filming wraps.)
As I type, filming is not complete, but I’ve learned quite a bit already. Having been an actress in a previous life, embracing my character’s tics, vocal delivery, and facial expressions has been like sinking into a warm bath–even when I have to scream in Dunlap’s face and call him horrible names (after which, we usually hug and say, “I’m sorry, I love you,” because that’s what friends do).
Doing the same scene over and over from different camera angles can be a challenge. Working in 90 degree heat can be hellish. Smoking a cigarette on film? Looks cool in the movies; sucks in real life. At one point, I’d rushed so much nicotine into my system, I thought I was going to vomit and/or pass out.
That was about the time I got bronchitis and started crying in public in front of our movie crew. After five days of shooting, I crashed. I burned. We had to take some time off, only recommencing film creation Sunday night. My depression was at critical levels, so much so that I made my parents come visit because Jake was out of town and I was afraid of being alone.
In hindsight, I should have expected the crash, the burn. I’m a moderately-functioning introvert who usually has a two-hour “in public” time limit. I’d spent five days with PEOPLE, being on all the time. Literally, in front of a camera all the time. For someone who’s accustomed to only communicating with my computer and only showering when I know my husband is coming home, being surrounded by human beings for five days straight could have landed me in the psyche ward. Luckily, it didn’t.
We still have probably four more days of shooting, and that’s if everything looks right, sounds right, feels right to our Master of Ceremonies, Kevin. Decent People won’t come out until next spring, and I’m nervous because I hate seeing myself on screen. When everyone else was watching the dailies, I hid in the other room and tried not to wince at the sound of my recorded voice–but everyone says I’m doing a great job. My facial expressions are icy, downright terrifying. That makes me smile, because I’m twisted and compliments like that make me smile.
So how do you make a movie?
Find wonderful, understanding people.
Laugh at your mistakes.
Don’t get bronchitis.