Problems & Solutions
The following is a journal entry following the development, production, and post-produciton of my new short film: Monsters and Miracles. Please join our community at the film’s website to receive exclusive access to behind the scenes content, chances to see early cuts of the film, and to participate in this film as a mutual collaborator. You can do so at our website.
Lumet writes that the creation of a film is the solution of thousands of tiny problems. What is the cast going to wear? What are the crew going to eat? What order will we film in? What lens will we use for shot 1C? What quality will the light have in this scene? The list goes on infinitely.
Throughout pre-production, many of these questions are answered. The traditional system of filmmaking is in many ways designed to discern all possible problems and answer them via specific production or theoretical solutions.
In a way, filmmaking boils down to math. The resolution of equations. Solving for X.
And all of this is deeply important, because money is at stake. Each film represents the work of starting a business, and unlike other businesses, when the shop opens up, you can’t “change your sales strategy” or “adapt to market conditions.” The product you’ve created is the film you’ve made, and if it isn’t working the investors don’t make their money back.
The economic model of a system usually informs the production practices that emerge from it.
Just to be clear, I do understand that no matter how one makes a film, if it is to be of any consequence, there will be problems and the solving of those problems will conform to the viewpoint or wishes of the creative team behind the film, to a certain extent.
I guess what I’m curious about is the way we frame those problems in the context of an end result.
We often assume when making a film that we know the correct outcome. We assume that the solution has already presented itself, and that the implementation of that solution into reality is just a question of spending money in the right places. This is the kind of thinking that goes into problem solving in every other kind of money-earning enterprise.
But this relationship with problems and solutions is not necessarily the relationship that is fostered between the painter, the musician, or the author. These artists are setting out on a course of abstract adventure, to seek a great unknown through the medium of their craft.
Such too, is possible in the cinema.
All of this is a long way of saying that as I am moving forward on this film, and am routinely faced with the same kinds of problems as I have always confronted on previous films, I am striving to change my attitude to those problems.
I recognize that making a short film is not a recipe for profit. As such, I am attempting to change my attitude toward the nature of problems and their respective solutions. I’m trying to see each problem that presents itself in the production of this film as a new piece of information about the reality of the film we are making.
If an actor can’t say his line correctly, what does this say about the line? Or what does it say about the direction given to the actor? Or what does it say about the filmic reality we are creating? My hope is to achieve a way of moving forward in my work that allows each decision to inform the next decision, creating a film whose life is evolutionary in nature, rather than a work of pre-fabrication.
In the last twenty-four hours we’ve made advancements in recruiting key collaborators. I’ve been researching the visual style of the photography, building a network of possible cast members to audition, and setting up meetings with members of my production team. We’ll be casting out of Dallas and Austin over the next two weeks. If you have suggestions or know talent who may fit our needs, feel free to reach out to me via the contact page on our site.
Please join our community by signing up on our front page. You’ll receive updates and exclusive content. In joining our community, you will be treated like collaborators on our journey to make this film. We will consider your advice and value your opinion as we all move forward as a community to tell this story.
Thanks for following us on this journey! We are excited to be taking one small step forward at a time.
Travis Lee Ratcliff
Monsters and Miracles