Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Network you say? Well, I've been considering it...

So, I'm trying to get my foot in the door of the relatively small professional filmmaking community of Northern California, specifically the Bay Area. It's proving quite difficult. It's not like that Matt Damon film that was shooting in San Francisco the other week took out help wanted ads for production assistants.

So far I'm using Craigslist, perusing the "crew gigs" section... Most of it is unpaid "Mickey Mouse" jobs. Every so often there's a friendly warning against doing unpaid work. And they're true. From being put on "crackhead patrol" while shooting a music video in a dingy SF alley at midnight, to being stranded in San Jose at 4 in the morning after the production wraps, to being kicked off a crew halfway through a shoot for reasons I'm still not sure of, I've had my share of bad experiences with unpaid film crew work.

In fact it was one of these negative experiences that prompted me to pass over a crew call for some indie flick called "All About Evil." Another unpaid PA gig, I thought to myself, still stinging from a recent disastrous shoot, screw that. Turned out this film had some star talent, both in front of and behind the camera, and is currently seeking distribution. And I could have been a part of it. So yes, there are some good gigs out there after all, even if they don't pay you. I'm sure the networking opportunities on "All About Evil" would have been invaluable.

But that's the trouble with the indies and B movies...the line between "collaborating with" and "working for" is blurred, not to mention you could end up working on something that's borderline porn or it could be the next Napoleon Dynamite. You have no idea if this is Oscar gold that honestly has no money to pay the lower-ranking crew members, or if this is some piece of shit that nobody's gonna see and they aren't paying you because they don't want to.

I mean, the fact that it's filmed in the director's mom's house and crewed by a colorful band of weirdos is not an accurate gauge for how good or successful a film will or will not be. Both Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead and Peter Jackson's Bad Taste went to Cannes and scored distribution. Those were essentially back yard films. I guess what I'm trying to say is it's a shot in the dark, taking unpaid crew positions.

I have devised, in the meantime, a great plan for getting onto movie sets - extra work. Yes, what could be better than sitting around for 12 hours, getting fed, and getting paid to do it? And for me, it offers a literal fly-on-the-wall experience to examine how a real production is done. And you never know who you'll meet.

I was doing a crowd scene a couple months back for a movie called "My Name is Khan." While casually chatting up the Random Extra #127, I found out he was a former ILM employee - so what was he doing here? It sounded fun, he shrugged. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's common practice for VFX artists to come out of the woodwork and do something like this during their downtime (this was reinforced when I had the pleasure to meet another former ILM employee at a convention some months later. Apparently he was an extra that same day as well!) Anyways, I got some advice about working in VFX - something I was beginning to take interest in at the time. The shot was completed and we were herded back to extras holding, and I lost the fellow in the crowd.

I also had the opportunity to chat up crew members during downtime about working on a production. Indeed, I met a PA who was working as an extra the day before and ended up talking to the right person and being given a crew position, but her case was just blind luck. However, I got offered this one little nugget of advice: "Network." Okay thanks. I'll try to do that.

So this is one of them blogs all the kids are talking about, eh?

Let's start with the introductions. My name is Jesse. I'm in my last semester of college. I want to be involved in movies. Now why did I choose that word, "movies?" I could just have easily said "films." There's just something more...I don't know. The term "movies" just carries so much more weight, it seems. "Film" is so literal. "Movie" is...more spiritual, you know? It encompasses that aspect of wonder that you feel as a child when you see a movie for the first time.

Films are strips of celluloid. Movies are magic. Films are seen. Movies are experienced.

Don't get me wrong - Films and Movies are like Yin and Yang. One has to master filmmaking before mastering moviemaking. I have no problem being called a filmmaker or saying I am studying filmmaking.


So I stared at my computer screen for about an hour while I tried to think of an appropriate title to this blog, while the thumping beats of Lady Gaga blasted through my headphones (I'm not ashamed). I knew I wanted something that had to do with making movies. I didn't want something totally literal or self-belittling like "confessions of a poor, downtrodden, indie film student struggling against impossible odds to get a job in one of the most competitive industries on the planet." I wanted something that would be constant as well. Something that will be always true about me throughout my career. I won't always be a poor, downtrodden indie film student - if all goes according to plan, that student label will no longer apply in 4 months. I didn't want something totally jumps out as movie related like "We'll fix it in post," "In the can," "That's a Wrap" and so on. I didn't check but I imagine those are all taken. I tried going with something screenplay related like "EXT. BLOG - DAY:," but then I realized you can't be outside of (or inside of, for that matter) a blog. A blog is something you're on. And there was no guarantee I'd be blogging in the daytime exclusively.

Eventually I settled on Overcranked. If there's one thing that's gonna remain true about me it's that I'll always be hopped up on stimulants.