Hi! I’m Kyla, teenage filmmaker & creator of the teen drama webseries To The Max. This column will serve both as a production diary and an ever-growing list of how I’ve found my way around every issue I’ve come across and every mistake I’ve made.
This very column is proof that I make a bunch of mistakes that should definitely be learned from.
“What’s the mistake?” I assume you’re asking, given that we’re only about a sentence and a half into said column.
The mistake is, of course, that I posted one part of a two-parter and then vanished to Europe for a month, and now instead of making a triumphant return and displaying my newfound confidence in my intelligence, I am left recapping old mistakes.
If you don’t recall-- four weeks ago I began a “tell-all” of all my mistakes, detailing what happened, what I did, what I should have done, and the lesson I learned. I talked not getting along with a vital crew member, dealing with an actor knowing approximately zero lines, and having to recast someone with no commitment. All were super messy and super filled with teen drama, which is honestly just good promo for To The Max, because it’s super messy and super filled with teen drama. This week, unfortunately, is a little less messy and a little less filled with teen drama but I can promise I’m still going to push the whole “learn from your mistakes” angle because here at community.stareable.com, we are emotionally mature and we work to better ourselves as filmmakers and as people! I’m proud of us!
Without further ado:
MISTAKE THE FOURTH
WHAT HAPPENED: I got a text from a cast member who has a parent who’s a teacher at my school giving me an early warning about what I deemed to be a crisis. He told me that students were no longer allowed to be in the hallways unless they were moving from class to class. Initially, I thought it was because a teacher had potentially seen me kind-of-sort-of-maybe vandalizing my own locker, but it turns out that admin just wanted to save a fortune in fines because us loitering in the halls is against fire code.
WHAT I DID: I know it’s been four weeks, but remember that whole thing about how I’m literally the most dramatic person to ever exist? Um, yeah. So I may have been super extra about the whole situation, cried over it, refused to break the news to the cast and crew until I could tell them in person (which didn’t pan out because people started finding out about it anyways), and then cried about it some more and threatened to protest against admin at the assembly to address the hallway situation (because their logistics for where kids were supposed to go for lunch made no sense). Eventually, I went to a few of my favourite teachers and asked to use their rooms, and tried to repurpose all my totally dramatic hallway scenes and entrances.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE: I should have skipped stages 1-99 of dramatics and gone straight to the last stage of repurposing things, making things work again, and asking my favourite teachers to use their rooms so I would still have a place to film. Granted, it was a frustrating setback, but like… that’s literally all it was. A frustrating setback. There was no need to melodramatically weep over it like I was Martha crying over Moritz’ grave in a bad regional production of Spring Awakening.
LESSONS LEARNED: Dramatics are never necessary, on-set or off, unless you’re acting in a scene where the script calls for you to be dramatic. Setbacks are just setbacks. It’s not the end of the world. Trust me, I feel like you’d have a way different reaction if the apocalypse happened than if you got banned from your primary shooting location.
MISTAKE THE FIFTH
WHAT HAPPENED: We had a supporting actress with a finicky weekend schedule, which led to a multitude of last-minute/same-day cancellations, mostly due to the fact that she did not check the schedule. It was our second-last shoot and we just needed to do brief one-person coverage-- so like, half a scene-- and a more complicated eight-page scene so five actors, including herself, could be wrapped. Three days before the shoot, I texted her to say that I knew she couldn’t do anything after sundown and thus if she had to show up later than the call time it was fine and we’d get other people’s coverage done first. The scenes had to be done that day because of extenuating circumstances involving the location. She never responded to my message. The shoot was scheduled for the evening with her part set to begin at 6:30; that morning at 8:30 I sent her a message to confirm that she would be there. Oftentimes in the past, I would text her a reminder about a shoot and since she hadn’t checked the schedule, she wouldn’t know that it was happening and would cancel extremely last minute. Two hours before the shoot, she asked to change it to the next day. I myself was booked solid the rest of the weekend-- not to mention that the rest of the cast and crew had work or plans as well. Despite the fact that she had agreed when she joined the cast to film after sundown on Saturdays, she said it would be too late. I received that confirming text at 6:40-- ten minutes after she was supposed to be there.
WHAT I DID: I forfeited doing hair & makeup on myself and others and I passed that off to a cast/crew member with reference photos. I grabbed my laptop and spent ten minutes writing a brand new script that wrote that character out of the scene, even though her character was a vital part of the scene. Thankfully, a different character managed to gain some character development because the missing character had hindered her speaking so openly about her trauma. However, that different character was played by the incredibly untalented me, and it was difficult to do the scene without being super in my character’s head because it was both newly written and intensely personal.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE: Again, I did most things right in the moment-- but not everything. I should have allowed more time for myself and my fellow actors to memorize the new lines and become comfortable with the new material. I also should have passed the scene off to anyone else to direct as I was in no state to do so. However, all this could have been avoided had I been proactive. Once the actress initially meant to be in the scene couldn’t make it last-minute the first three times, I should have cut her then and made all our lives easier.
LESSONS LEARNED: Sometimes the difficult conversations are the most important ones you have to have. It’s better to act than to react.
MISTAKE THE SIXTH
WHAT HAPPENED: It was about an hour and a half after school had ended, our teacher supervisor had left after we told her we were almost done, and we were doing a two-person scene in a small closed room. As such, it was just myself, my fellow actor, and the camera operator. (There were two crew outside the room as well.) After a flubbed line, our camera operator asked for a moment, put the camera down, and fainted.
WHAT I DID: I caught the camera operator and called for someone outside the room to find a teacher. Thankfully, there were two still in the building. After we ensured she was okay, we packed up everything and everyone went home. We reshot the scene on a different day.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE: In the immediate situation, I did everything right-- specifically in terms of getting the teachers. When filming To The Max, I often skirted rules so we could stay later than 4:30. Sometimes I’d fake having a teacher supervisor when we didn’t. The problem is that even though I have my first aid training and so does another crew member there that day, and even though we all have cell service to call 911 in case of a real emergency, we’re all still teenagers. I myself grappled with health issues shortly after this happened and I insisted to my cast and crew that if I went down, they were not allowed to get a teacher because we had to finish the scene. Of course, that was quite possibly one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said and my cast and crew recognized that as completely absurd. I thought that, especially in regards to my own health issues, we were basically adults anyways and could handle ourselves. I was wrong.
LESSONS LEARNED: If you’re a teenager, you’re a teenager, no matter how adult you feel. Health and safety take priority over all else on set-- no exceptions, not even you.
The difference between the half-done first shoot and the reshoot! Fun fact: Eden (on left) was supposed to be wear the striped shirt the first time, but we forgot it.