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.
A key part of filmmaking is planning. You’ve got your budget, your spreadsheets, your call sheets, your schedule, your shot lists, a billion google docs detailing every single detail that you’ll ever need to consider in every aspect of production.
While this planning matters a whole lot, on some occasions it simply doesn’t. On some occasions, everything completely plummets and your careful planning is absolutely worthless. That’s how it is sometimes.
But do you give up?
You keep going! You work around these issues the best you can. You persevere, you regroup, you figure out another way out. No matter how many solutions you think there are to a problem, there’s always at least one more that you haven’t thought of yet. You’re never truly backed into a corner. Ultimatums aren’t real. There’s always the option of faking your death. Remember that.
So while a key part of filmmaking is planning, another key part is flexibility! You have to be able to:
So here are some ideas (complete with examples) for how to be flexible!
POINTEDLY IGNORE IT
- Yeah. Probably not what you were expecting.
- But seriously. If someone gets an unexpected haircut, what are you gonna do about it? This isn’t the iconic elementary school app Toca Hair Salon. You can’t regrow it.
- You could always reshoot any affected scenes if you have time, but like… if it’s not noticeable why waste time/money/resources?
WRITE OUT THE PROBLEM
- If someone doesn’t show up? No worries!
- We just filmed a scene yesterday where someone told me she couldn’t make it about two hours before the shoot. Which was. FUN. In that scene, it was super easy to write her out-- it was a group scene and she had like two lines. It did make us miss an opportunity to set up something between her character and another in that scene, but we had everyone there and some melty cupcakes that would not survive another day.
- Likewise, in another group scene, the actress with the lead part and the most lines in that scene just straight up didn’t show up (because she had food poisoning and I never received the text she sent saying she couldn’t make it, we good). We switched over the purpose of that lead part and all the lines to another actress in the scene, giving the lines a new meaning because the characters had different motivations, and adding a few throwaway lines explaining the absence of the missing character.
FILM AROUND THE PROBLEM
- This can be meant both metaphorically and literally.
- Metaphorically-- an actress didn’t show up for a scene, but she was only in the beginning half of the scene, so we decided to film the part of the scene she wasn’t in and then film her part on one of our shorter days. (That fell through because of a super fun medical emergency, but it was gonna work probably!)
- Literally-- we forgot a poster one day when in the previous scenes the poster was there, so we just avoided seeing that part of the wall to the best of our ability.
REPURPOSE WHAT YOU HAVE
- We were meant to do a scene with two actors and a bunch of extras one day, but I found out that day that a lead couldn’t make it. So I gathered three other actors and the one that could make it and decided to do a completely different scene on the spot! Took a lot of line prompting, one of the actors (as I found out later) even bussed to the school to film, and was very… interesting with the costumes, but it worked out!
Clockwise from bottom left: Harmony Dawn as Vanessa in her own clothes, and then the disasters: Daria Miran as Heather in a shirt normally worn by Vanessa and Jackie, Ben Faulknor as Benjamin in a shirt normally worn by Benjamin’s enemy Thomas, and Eden Griffin as Jackie in our hair/makeup girl’s sweater & men’s jeans
DITCH THE IDEA
- It’s a tough pill to swallow, but sometimes things just aren’t doable.
- We’ve had a scene where our very specific colour symbolism flopped because one of our actresses dropped her shirt in the toilet, and so we had to ditch the colour symbolism.
- We’ve had a scene where we really wanted to silhouette a character against a window at this one dramatic moment, but we ran out of time to put the shot together properly.
- We’ve had a scene where we wanted to vandalize a locker but there were too many teachers walking around so we vandalized the inside of the locker and just pretended that it was Totally Normal for someone to gain access to someone else’s locker and write a secret bullying message to them in private.
- We’ve had a scene meant to take place in an aesthetic diner but we couldn’t find one of those so we just set it outside and lowkey froze to death instead.
- It’s never fun to lose a good idea, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out!
To conclude: planning is great and necessary, but nothing’s ever gonna go the exact way you want it to go. Go hit up some mental gymnastics classes. You got this.