The Universe Makes It Up – Preprod Meeting #2

Date posted on April 12, 2010

I should know better than to write impulsively (but then what’s the use of an online journal?  baka pang-twitter lang talaga ako, haha).

Last night, despite the frustration and lingering strain of my financial catastrophe, the universe seemed to have made it up (not entirely, mind you) by gifting me with a productive production meeting with my staff and crew.

It was a huge boost amid all the uncertainties, insecurity attacks and personal problems that have plagued me in the last few days. Not all the members of the staff were there, but it was attended by our producer, production designer, post production supervisor, location manager, our art director and our continuity supervisor who got promoted to assistant director. I only met the last two for the first time last night.

The meeting was quite productive. My producer has been giving me regular updates on the development, but I’m always reacting to her questions and texts, and they come sporadically, so it was refreshing to have a sweep of all the major developments so far. Of course, with that came a run down of things that we have yet to accomplish and existing problems, but that all kept us on our toes and aware of the need for urgency. For example:

  • We have completed most of the cast, except for the three main characters. Kumusta naman, yung main pa, hahaha… Our talent coordinator have been working hardest on that but these actors, they’re just so hard to nab. Getting straight and definite answers was a challenge that our top picks all said no at the expense of time. It definitely stretched my knowledge of local showbusiness. I had to keep up to date in order to know who my options are. It was also an exercise in resourcefulness. I ended up thinking out of the box and considering people who I would never consider for the parts in the script.
  • All the locations, save for one, have been locked. That was what the location manager thought, until questions about logistics started to arise and it became apparent that there were still a couple of details that needed ironing regarding some of the locations. Like the street for one of the bar scenes. It is located in a busy area and although we are shooting in the evening to late at night, we have a long scene at the façade of the bar, and traffic will definitely be a problem. She said there are no rerouting options – but what we really needed is to know if it is possible and if not, what our alternative plan will be.
  • My very organized production designer had anticipated most of the requirements and his biggest consideration now is wardrobe. The expenses will definitely get bloated if we ended up planting actors among the extras that we will be getting from the location itself. When he raised that, I suggested that he come up with a costing projection that would allow us to know how much more expensive it would be if we went with more planted actors or if we just assigned speaking roles to the extras (which was less reliable considering we have less control on acting talent than wardrobe). It was the same thing I said about some of the problems regarding location, where we are unable to close deals on certain locations because our LM was not sure how she would respond to the locations’ concerns. It was a crash course on production management, but the crew are slowly getting the hang of it.
  • We also discussed some production design issues with regard to the locations. We had to fake many of the rooms in the school we’re shooting at to function as per the script’s requirement. The PD also brought attention on the last scene, a very crucial one, and said that there’s no viable option for it in the school. That added one more problem for our location manager to resolve, but it’s good that we caught it early on. I was already aware of it during my writing, but I keep forgetting to raise it. That scenario proves how important it is that you have a good team who do their jobs well and with genuine dedication – because those who do will be your asset in making sure you don’t miss out on anything important. Only then do I get the space to focus on my own job as director.
  • Preproduction has been so overwhelming that we tend to overlook post during meetings. I asked our producer if she already sealed the deal with our post production sponsor. She said she’ll do it tomorrow (which is today – update on this later). When the meeting was done, I asked our post production supervisor if he had any concerns and if there was anything he could start working on. It’s a good thing that he has a lot of initiative. He said he already asked our producer about some of his worries. He updated her about his correspondence with the film stock companies, and the two of them were able to talk about details for the sound recording. It was only on our way to meet another friend who agreed to be second AD for us that I remembered to have him take charge of finalizing the stock requirement for the shoot. He agreed to coordinate with our DP on that, soon as our DP visits the locations. Our post prod super even took on some of the minor tasks, like coordinating with our college org to sign up some volunteers to act as PA’s.
  • Our LM mentioned that one of our friends from work was interested in helping out, whether as script continuity or editor. Our script continuity was there with us, so I told our LM that that position’s been filled but our friend is welcome to help out in other ways. That’s when our producer and the original script con thought that since we’re still looking for an AD, our original script con can fill up that job and our friend could come on board as the new script continuity. That worked out quite well. I had a good feeling about our new AD upon our first meeting, so that’s one problem resolved quickly and quite unexpectedly. My new AD immediately proceeded to taking down notes during the meeting and promised to do her breakdown of the script the following day. That’s such a relief because I’ve been scheduling that in my schedule, now I can delegate it and I can focus on other things that only I can do as the director.
  • We proceeded to do a scene-by-scene of the script. It gave me the chance to see how many bit players were required and therefore gave me the production team a picture of the challenges that would arise during the shoot. Like making full use of the volunteer extras, how many would be required per scene, how much more needed to be signed up, etc. How many of many of my friends will I have to ask to come? It also gave me the chance to discuss some of my vision for the scenes as well as my ideas for other aspects of production – like production design. We raised issues of nudity for the actors (“we might show the curve of the thigh…”), possible use of body doubles (“you mean we have that as an option?”), and make up (“does make up of a bruise rub off easily when scrubbed?”).
  • Having listed down the things that have yet to be accomplished in the different departments, we were able to set deadlines for them and impress upon everyone the need for utmost urgency. By Friday of this week, April 16, we hope to lock location and casting. We’ve planned for an ocular visit with the DP, PD and other staff on Wednesday or Thursday, a reading with one of our possible leads on Wednesday evening, casting of bit parts for the student on Friday, set dates for fitting (wardrobe), reading/rehearsals with actors, and most importantly, we have now specific dates for the shoot. Pending schedule availability of the main actors, we will more or less be pushing through with shooting on these dates.
  • Marketing. We have yet to meet with this company we’re targeting after sending a sponsorship package. We have yet to send the requirements for this other organization who might provide us subsidies for some of the production expenses. I have yet to get the production allowance from the school. We have no money. Period. That ought to say it all.

Despite a run down of so many problems, I realized that I actually do have a great team behind me. The amount of work to be done is unbelievable even though this is a short film of modest proportions (maybe not so modest, but still a far cry from a full-length project). It was exciting to be in the middle of all that. Going by that, it sorta confirms that I’m in a place where I ought to be.