On Building a Film Family
I first wanted to get into filmmaking because the idea of sitting in my room writing all the time sounded miserable. I like having a reason to stay moving. I like to go places, to see things, to call people, to send emails. I like to have people to work stuff out with. I like to be around people, to talk with people, to meet new people, to collaborate and discuss and consider. Having other people to bounce ideas off of and solidify concepts is incredibly valuable. If I’m by myself too long - more than a day or two - I begin to feel stir crazy, like I have incessant words and thoughts bouncing around my brain with no place to go and nobody to hear them.
And film production really is the perfect place for that type of personality, because that’s what it is - an incessant series of small interactions. Because of that, really quickly, when you get into film, you begin to understand how important relationships are. I suppose they’re important in any job, but they are especially important in the filmmaking world because filmmaking is an incredibly socially taxing job. Every production is a massive, rolling Katamari of clinking, bouncing parts, hitting off people and locations, and filled with contracts and trucks and gear, and in order to handle it all, you need reliable people, intelligent people, and nice people.
There is a cliché in the filmmaking world that the way to get shit done is to yell at people, to be bullheaded and charge ahead and shout your way to the top. Hollywood producers wear slick jackets and gel their hair and shout into their phones and at their assistants and at women in cocktail dresses in loud clubs. This may be true, in some places, but in my experience, an effective film production is pretty much the opposite of that. If it’s going well, it should be a few people hanging out in a series of small rooms, typing notes on computers and muttering quietly to each other. It should be respectful disagreements and understanding responses to the fact that, no matter what you do, at some point, the Katamari's going to unintentionally roll over you. But as long as you keep your cool, in a moment you’ll be clear.
Film production is a good job for the even-keeled. People who are deft at speaking their minds honestly while avoiding conflict are rare and incredibly valuable. A good person on a film crew works hard, gets stuff done, and is easy to be around. And once you find one of those people, you cling to them, because they - not talent, not money - are the most valuable assets you can find.
One of the first things I noticed, years ago, when I began to think about filmmaking as a career, is how often certain directors seemed to work with the same people over and over. It could be a director of photography, an actor, an AD, or any number of positions, but whoever it is, it is incredibly common to see them listed repeatedly with the same set of names.
In our work in Portland, we have worked with tons of people, ranging from ACs to gaffers to DITs, colorists, sound mixers, musicians, makeup artists, DPs, pizza places, and sandwich shops. And I get excited about the opportunity to call any of them up again - because I like them. Because they work hard and they’re reliable and they’re interesting. And that was when I realized why filmmakers worked with the same people. Because, if done right, a film crew is like a family - except they choose to be together, because they know they get along, and because they care about the same thing - making movies.