Each year, one lucky Digital Production student’s screenplay is chosen to be made into a film. This year, that lucky student was me. We were given $1,000 from pre to post production to bring Pam’s Coopers to life, and it was a rollercoaster ride from the beginning.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a career in film but was never sure what part of the film industry I wanted to tap into. I started off as an actor, quickly realizing I was more fascinated with what goes on behind the camera than in front; unfortunately after all the acting classes, auditions, and agents. I then tried screenwriting and producing, both of which I enjoy, but neither of which I had the full creative power I craved. So, I took a look at directing. Sure I could direct tiny short films with my friends, but a set full of actors, a crew, a strict budget, and a tight and shifting schedule seemed extremely intimidating; until I directed Pam’s Coopers.
My classmates and I auditioned 12 actors, having to make executive decisions based upon acting ability, appearance, and personality, three things of which are surprisingly hard to come by. Once the actors were set in place, it was time for all of the prep work. This included scouting a location, renting/learning how to use the equipment, scheduling which scenes would be filmed on certain days (accommodating the actors’ schedules, our schedules, and the sun’s of course), and endless practice runs and shot lists. Those few weeks of pre-production flew by and before we knew it, it was show time.
Walking onto set the first day of filming was so natural. There was no stress, no tension, it was like I stepped into Narnia. I was in such a serene state of mind, everything sort of just fell into place, and none of it would’ve been possible without my crew. Everyone knew their roles and was very comfortable in them, and it didn’t hurt that we were friends. We worked like clockwork, we all had distinct jobs whether it be lighting, sound, or cinematography, and depended on each other to function properly. Patience became our virtue as it took at minimum about 15 minutes to set up each shot, run through the scene with the actors, set up lighting, and tell Harry to stop eating so that we could roll sound. In just 48 hours, the crew went from being friends to being a family: we woke up at the crack of dawn together, we spent hours setting up equipment together, we laughed through our triumphs, took long deep breaths through our failures, and we really saw the amazing talent we have and bounced off of that good energy.
My first cast was also extremely influential in my experience. I was able to talk to most of them before filming, more about life than anything else, so by the time we started rolling there was already a bond between us that made our interactions almost instinctive. We adapted to each other’s process, and by the end of the shoot, I could give them one or two word notes and they’d completely give me what I wanted in the next take. It was really interesting for me to learn the difference between directing 11 year old twins and a man in his late 20s. We joked around all the time: before takes, after takes, during breaks. The laughter brought a level of comfort to the set that made crises conquerable and our jobs doable.
Sure Pam’s Coopers was definitely a learning experience filled with hurdles and curve balls that made me want to pull my hair out. Sure I couldn’t feel my feet after a 10 and 13 hour work day back to back. But I’ve never laughed as hard, felt as tranquil, and as part of a family as I did those two days of filming, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I’ll definitely screenwrite, produce in the future, but directing is my niche and I can’t imagine myself in a greater position.