I think one of the most important lessons young filmmakers can learn is thatyou must prepare to the fullest extent, with detailed shot designs, organized direction for the actors, key analytic insights into the meaning of the scenes and of particular creative choices – but that you must be completely comfortable with adapting this plan into the reality of your shooting days.
Have a plan, but let it go.
It is vital that you make the plan, it is vital that you organize your thoughts and that you very completely determine what your rational design is for the film you are making, but when it comes time to integrate that plan into reality you must be prepared to listen to the film you are making, listen to and adapt to the environment and performances you are receiving on any given day. THe film, in a sense, dies the moment you capture and record it. It becomes frozen in time on celluloid or sensor. What then becomes vitally important is capturing those frames with deep sincerity. You must seek images and dramatic truths greater then you could have ever conceived beforehand.
If your story and actors are sincere – there will be a magical host of opportunities you could have never designed in advance. You must watch for them.
When I filmed a short experimental project called The Reconstruction of Henry Morris we were shocked to discover that as we attempted to film a wide shot on a pier pigeons were diving into the frame and swooping out. I could never have planned for such an occurrence. The silhouetted bodies of the birds were one of the most interesting parts of the image we createdthat day. At the time, if I recall correctly, we attempted to divert them – we attempted to scare them off and keep them away from the precious image we were trying to harvest.
They could not be dissuaded entirely, but had we thought more creatively and intuitively about the situation – had we adapted our plan more clearly into reality – we would have seen how important and magical this accident was. We could have taken advantage of what we never would have been able to otherwise achieve independently or through design alone.
It is a difficult thing to contemplate for those who have never experienced the magic of shooting. Certainly the plan is essential and very real elements such as time and money must be accounted for in exacting detail in order for the overall production of any creative project to be a success. It is important to remember however that the support and overall purpose of the endeavor of making the film is to capture some entertaining, engaging, and moving truths. If you let your pre-visualization and pre-production prevent you from achieving this within the reality of your production conditions then the support, the time, and the money have been wasted.