The title of this post should read, “The Double Edge of Collaboration or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Accept the Value of Choosing the Wrong Person.” About a week ago we wrapped a short film I photographed for my friend and classmate, Shadae here in Atlanta. I just dropped him off at the airport. He stood on the curb with his luggage and his hard drive. I poked the hard drive and said, “That’s your movie.” He corrected me, “This is our movie. It was a collaborative effort.”
There’s truth in that. I’ve talked about filmmaking being this massively collaborative effort many times. Part of the collaboration is choosing the right people. Shadae felt I was the right DP for his film and I in turn choose a Gaffer I thought would be the perfect collaborator in helping me create the look and feel of his film. I can’t begin to stress how important it is to choose the right people, people who not only share an end goal or vision, but share the same level of dedication and work ethic as you and on some level people who are cheerleaders or even ringleaders, depending on the circumstance.
I spent a great deal of time connecting with people in Atlanta in December. I asked friends and classmates who knew people here in the industry. I emailed people I’ve been a fan of for years because their work inspired me. I had a meal with them, talked about their work, about Sweet, Sweet Country and invited them to collaborate with me. I stayed connected over the next few months and have been absolutely astounded by the contributions made to making Sweet, Sweet Country happen.
As a director, you struggle with giving up control and trusting that the people you’ve connected with will care about your film as much as you do. The truth is, no one is going to support and believe in your films as much as you do. However, you hope that you can inspire people to believe and work hard with you on creating something that means so much to you and ultimately to them.
On that note, my own film has been pushed back until the summer. I had the pleasure of finding two great lead actors that I’m very excited to collaborate with on Sweet, Sweet Country. Unfortunately, I collaborated with the wrong person for casting here in Atlanta and a great lesson has been learned. My options turned into not having a full cast and rewriting my film to fit what I had or just putting warm bodies into roles that needed real actors that could work opposite the quality actors I choose.
No filmmaker wants to talk about their production being pushed, but no filmmaker wants to be forced to compromise on the core vision of their film. As a filmmaker I made a decision that puts my film on hold, but doesn’t compromise my story nor my vision.
As a film student I try to walk away from every issue and problem that pops up as a learning experience. While new to me, this sort of thing happens all the time. Movies get pushed back for a variety of reasons. For me, I learned that collaboration is a double edged sword and a costly one at that. I won’t even discuss what this decision cost monetarily. I figure walking away a little bit wiser is what I get for the money I’ve spent.
I’ll leave Atlanta weeks earlier than planned, with no film in the can, but more importantly, I’ll leave Atlanta a stronger filmmaker who values earnest and worthwhile collaborations, even more than before. In the end, I’ll be back in Atlanta making a film at home, which is what matters the most.