Common [Crazy] Problems in Film Production

“Filmmaking is athletic, not aesthetic.” That’s what Werner Herzog said and that is almost 100% accurate.

There is a reason all major films go through extensive pre-production. Other elements in this world don’t necessarily share the Director’s desire to create a brilliant piece of art. Sometimes these elements will seem like they are just out to destroy your dreams. Those include the weather, the government, and even the actors. As a Director, you need to protect your vision and nurture other people that will help you turn your dream into reality.

A pre-production would help you prevent most of the problems. However, it doesn’t save your from all of it. No matter the preparation, there are still some problems that you will never imagine you will have to face.

But this is Hollywood… our realities are stranger than Disney Cartoon.

The Rider

The rider is a list of personal requests of actors that could be anywhere between their preferred food to the colour of the clothes that production crew will wear on the set. Naturally, the crazier riders belong to the bigger stars.

For new or small actors, their request will most likely involve food. The minute they become members of the Guild, a lot of their interests are protected especially when it comes to their health. If they happen to be Vegans or on a specific kind of diet you are required to serve them the kind food they requested. You cannot fire them on the basis of their diet.

It can become crazier, of course, for bigger celebrities especially.

You may have heard of Ben Stiller mandating that none of the extras make eye contact with him whatsoever. This is over and above ‘a herd of personal assistants’ he hired and fired and almost all claim that they were verbally abused by Stiller.

Stiller never denied the claims. In fact, he said, “In the movie business you’ve constantly got to prove yourself. So I can be a real asshole on the set sometimes.”

If you happen to have a medium to big star on your set, it is only sane that you expect and tolerate some amount of lunacy.

Not Getting Along

Not all actors with great amount of talent are likable. Some are just downright irritating. There are actors that talk too much, too insecure, too stupid, too smart, too vain, too ugly… you’ll really never run out of reasons to hate them. After all, it takes a certain amount of vanity and nerve to become an actor, right?

It is also fairly common for the production crew to hate actors. Sharon Stone was one such, err, victim, for lack of a better word. Basic Instinct, perhaps the landmark of her career, grossed over $350 Million. Screenplay Writer Joe Eszterhas wrote in her book that Stone was so hated by her co-workers, crew member took turns on urinating in her bathtub.

If you’re the Director, you need to make a choice on whether or not you want to get involved in something like this. Obviously, the performance of the crew never got affected and their performance should be the sole basis of your decision on whether or not you want to continue working with them. However, there is such a thing called common decency. The crew displayed something terribly despicable but so did Stone, that’s how she ended up being so hated in the first place.

So once again, if you encounter nuisances like these, you need to make a decision if you want to get involved. You’re there to make a film but you may also be a human being with principles.

The Hole in the Script

This is, perhaps, the greatest horror you will ever encounter as a filmmaker and it happens often, no matter the production budget.

Sometimes, someone sits down and think about your story for the first and casually says “It doesn’t make sense” and turns out to be right. It will be your worst day, the day you find this one small detail that everyone missed but lays the entire movie senseless. Some holes are just too significant to miss that studios opt reshoot certain parts of the movie.

This could happen to you. There is only one cure and that is to reshoot. There is another option, though, and that is to ignore it. The latter, obviously, will open you to criticisms that could paralyze your young career. There are movies that get away with it. Ransom (1996), starring Mel Gibson, had one big hole. His son that was held kidnapped for ransom recognized the Police that kidnapped him when the Police went to their house to claim his reward. If you review the movie, the kid never actually saw nor heard the Police.

It slipped quiet smoothly. They were lucky. You may not be as lucky.

You can prevent this by spending time on your script and opening your mind to criticisms.

Locations and Neighbours

There are some problems that could have legal implications. Location problems are the most common.

Let’s put it this way. Shoots are rarely completed within the time you originally pegged. It certainly is not an 8-5 kind of thing. The lease contract you will have to sign with whoever owns the location will always have the lease contract to protect him or her. It can get worse, your shooting days could double or triple. When that happens, you need to be prepared with a back-up. You can request for more days than you anticipate (but that would mean more budget) or have a second location ready.

Then there are the neighbours. Unless you are shooting in a desert, your location will have a neighbourhood and they might not take it as well. There will be significant increase in street traffic, noise, and light. That’s irritating for anyone. Neighbours should be given all relevant information, including the projected length of the shoot. In some cases, they might demand to be paid as well. You need to listen to their concerns and make sure your lease contract is signed by everyone concerned and contains relevant details that will allow you to shoot in peace without incurring costs.

Bathrooms could also be a concern. Going to the bathroom is a natural human need. There’s just nothing you can do about it. If your celebrities don’t have trailers of their own then you need to make sure there are enough bathrooms for your cast and your crew.

Have portable toilets but if you ever rent one, then be clear on who will be responsible for costs if there are leaks or if it stops working. All these details must be clearly stated on the lease contract.

Scandals Can Happen

Finally, there is the ever growing trend of Hollywood scandals. This may not be much of a concern for small productions… or it may be. You’ll never know. It depends on the situation and who are involved.

There is the much publicised incident with Jack Nicholson having an “intimate moment” on top of a 1952 Jaguar that was being used in a film. The owner of the Jaguar turned out to be James Caan. Caan was “nice enough” to let the “intimate moment” run its course but you may not have the same luck. You may find your movie in peril if one of the people involved in the scandal turned out to be a minor or one of the props you are using is borrowed from a certain brand in exchange of some exposure or other similar occurrences.

There are more. Hollywood has been around way before anyone cared to document anything and there are more than are not really talked about. You, as a filmmaker, simply must keep your eye on the prize. Know what you are trying to achieve and ignore everything else that does not sacrifice your personal and professional integrity.

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