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.
Hello and welcome to… well, it’s not quite the grand finale but it is a send-off before I go on vacation for three weeks and thus, I take a hiatus from writing these! Here, we’re rehashing some of what I mentioned in the first paragraph of last week’s article. If you don’t recall:
We are wrapped (aside from a few voiceovers but shhh let me live)! It has been a process, it has been a time, and if there were not so many webseries about making webseries I would make a webseries about making THIS webseries because DAMN. The drama. Constant cancelling. Constant rescheduling. Recasting. Losing our DP after many arguments. Reshoots. Reshoots because of recasting. Reshoots because our mic wasn’t working because someone forgot to turn it on. Using one person as an extra in different jackets who was already both our camera operator and an actress in the first part of the scene. Actors showing up with no knowledge of the script whatsoever. Being banned from a primary location. Our camera operator dropping to the ground mid-scene. Rewriting scenes in ten minutes because someone didn’t show up. Rewriting an entire primary plotline because sometimes you have to save yourself rather than your artistic integrity. Other things I cannot mention as more people I know IRL devotedly read these articles but it got messy. This entire webseries was cursed but WE MADE IT.
Essentially, this is both a tell-all of like… at least half of our major issues, and a review: what happened, how did I handle it, and what should I have done? Basically, it’s a homage to @Bri_Castellini’s lovely articles about all her mistakes. It’s also what I thought I would write about when I first started writing these; Bri even mentioned that I should talk about all my on-set drama when I was trying to figure out what to do and I was like “yeah sure!” … and lowkey never did.
Also, this is only part one! Part two will follow in three weeks. There may potentially be a part three. Yes, I understand that I should not do a multi-parter right before a hiatus. I’m doing it anyways.
A precursor: a lot of stuff got messy. I’m a teenager who was dealing with teenagers. I’m not out to expose anyone in this except myself. I know I said it’s a tell-all, but it’s really a tell-some. There are some things I mentioned in last week’s article or will mention in this one that I will not elaborate on for a multitude of reasons. That all said, let’s enjoy the ride!
MISTAKE THE FIRST
WHAT HAPPENED: Our DP and I didn’t get along. It was fully my project-- I created/wrote/directed/produced it, and I thought she would be a great help because she took Communications Technology and is an absolute sweetheart. We ended up disagreeing on a lot of things which took up precious time on set. She wanted more say in the project than I was comfortable with and didn’t like that I was the “boss”. Ultimately our feuds got personal and we couldn’t draw the line between our personal and professional lives. She ended up quitting just as I was about to fire her and it culminated in a big blowout fight… in the middle of class.
WHAT I DID: In the beginning, I tried to keep things professional and bring in a third party to mediate, but she wasn’t comfortable with the third party. I made attempts to listen to her problems with how I ran my set, but as soon as personal issues were brought into the mix, I became vindictive and rude. I figured that if she could bring her personal issues into our professional issues as well as saying that her overall problem with me was more about my personality and how that came across in a professional environment, then I would get to be petty about it because it clearly it was my right. This was especially because I had already detailed that there should be a separation between our personal relationship and our professional relationship. Some of the things I said were completely justified; others were not.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE: I should have further pushed the concept of separation between a personal relationship and a professional relationship and I should have kept trying to find a third party that she was comfortable with. If that all failed, I should have cut my losses sooner than later and not engaged in any petty fights or drama.
LESSONS LEARNED: Make sure you know more than basic information about who will be working with you. Always stress personal and professional separation. Keep a clear head during arguments.
MISTAKE THE SECOND
WHAT HAPPENED: I scheduled a scene for the quiet week before first semester exams. I made a point, on the advice on our teacher supervisor, to check in with everyone working on that scene before the shoot to make sure they were comfortable with shooting the week before exams. Everyone gave me the all-clear. The shoot day came and as soon as I called “321 action”, everything spiralled into disaster. The lead in the scene, who had the most lines and was supposed to carry the scene, didn’t know a single line. She would also often stumble over lines once she got them down-- like she’d know them, but articulating them would be difficult. When I asked why she didn’t know her lines, she said she was studying for biology because it was the week before exam week and she was stressed. It also made the scene incredibly difficult to edit because we had so many stops and starts.
WHAT I DID: I got suuuuuper frustrated. It makes sense that I would be, because the situation sucked a whole lot. I was also stressed out of my mind. However, hearing those tapes back-- I was done. Like my voice was dead, I was super short with everyone, and everything I said besides “321 action” or “cut” was a reminder that we were overtime and wouldn’t finish and would be kicked out. I snapped a bit at the actress, who said it was fair that I did. However, I was also a jerk to the three other actors who were a) trying their best and b) having to go overtime for something that wasn’t their faults.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE: CONCEAL DON’T FEEL. My emotions are usually pretty obvious because I’m dramatic as all hell, but I should have hidden my anger more because it wasn’t a fun work environment. The actress being unprepared wasn’t my fault, but my reaction could have been a whole less volatile. If I’d focused on efficiency more than snapping at the actress, we may have gotten better footage to work with.
LESSONS LEARNED: Emotions suck and you should leave them at the door if you want to create a professional environment.
MISTAKE THE THIRD
WHAT HAPPENED: Our lead actor was a guy that I had specifically recruited to audition with the intention of casting him in the lead role because I had seen him act and thought he suited the part. However, his commitment level was like… zero. He definitely tried, and he was nice about it, but he just didn’t care and had a busy schedule and once just straight-up didn’t show up.
WHAT I DID: After going through every contingency in the book for what we could do with his character (I had already cast all the guys in my school that could act and changing the role to female was so complicated and changed a million dynamics), I ended up seeking him out a lunch and saying that either he had to make a commitment or we’d part ways with him. He just genuinely didn’t care (again, not in a mean way, I just think he’s only cared about like two things in his entire life) and I rewrote everything.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE: I should never have cast him. It was obvious from the get-go that he was uninterested; I just didn’t want to rewrite a million scripts to change the gender of the character especially because at the time I liked the character’s dynamics with everyone. (I like the new version of the character’s dynamics with everyone better now for the most part). You can’t force someone into something, especially with something so high commitment.
LESSONS LEARNED: Don’t push your limits. Don’t force someone who doesn’t want to audition to audition. Always have a bazillion contingencies for everything.
Eden Griffin, who eventually took on that role!
See you all for part two in August! Also-- if anything from that good old paragraph of issues at the beginning intrigues you, let me know so I can include it in part two!