I read an interview some years ago in which James Cameron advised creatives to do this: “Make stuff.” Per Cameron, actually making movies is the single best way to learn, really learn the entire process of cinematic storytelling.
Screenwriter Ian Fowler did just that and wrote a reflection on his experiences making his movie Crazy Right. I am sharing that story with you over the next several days.
Learning How to Make a Movie: Part 2
By Ian Fowler
Jon Meyer is a genius. I do not say that with any lightness or joking. He’s probably the only genius I know personally. He’s amazing. Deciding to make this film I thought long and hard about what I personally wanted to achieve. Yes I wrote it, Yes I produced it, yes I directed it. I weighed the options. If I hired Jon the film would be done in a matter of months. That’s how he worked. He’s insane that way. It would be good. Maybe even brilliant.
But if I hired Jon, in my soul, I knew that no matter whose name was under the “directed by” line, ultimately that it would be his film.
Even with all the risk I had to know that Crazy Right, success or failure, would be my film.
So I turned to another local DP Nathan Coltrane, who I had seen making some beautiful shots for other people’s short and feature films. Nate is also a photographer. A damn good one too. I even recommend my ex-wife hire him for her upcoming wedding.
Nate is a big guy, quiet, unassuming, who knows what he’s doing behind a camera. He’s also a filmmaker. He’s made short films and music videos. He’s damn good at what he does. I sent him a message, we met for coffee, and we decided to have a test shoot with Patrick and Lindsae Klein and Dennis Fitzpatrick, all stars of the film, to see if we could get along. We shot for a day. I basically said “Nate, you’re in charge, make pretty pictures.” He did just that. I loaded everything into my slow ass computer and edited all the footage in about a day. It was easy. Actually I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Everyone did my job for me. I just sat back and watched. Great direction on my part I would have to say kiddingly.
So, amped and pumped and other adjectives that tell you how excited I was to make my first feature film I left my day job after 18 years to pursue a “career” as a filmmaker. I was going to make “my” movies.
It quickly became apparent that I had no idea what “my” movie looked like. We shot for 5 days, everything was going great! The actors were great, Nate was great but as I settled in to edit during our first week long break from shooting (schedule conflicts) I started to feel problems. I started to think, how does this work? How does this go together? This scene is great and cuts together effortlessly, but how does it flow to the next one?
I realized this critical necessity making my first feature. It sucked and Saturday with two additional actors was coming up fast.
Patrick Green and Lindsae Klein in Crazy Right
I put it behind me. I knew the shots we good, well-constructed, sort of happy accidents because I knew I wanted “cool” shots and Nate happily provided them as I said things like “oh, shoot through that” or “oh, look at that light” or “let’s get high or low or over there” or whatever. I have to say that it was that easy at first because I came from a writing background and nothing perturbed me more than poor structure in script writing. I had memorized it and wrote specifically to character and structure. Nothing else. The story would flow from those two elements. Scenes are just a microcosm of screenplay structure. They had to be well constructed or shooting them was pointless.
Actor Ian Stout showed up for his scene. It was a simple scene where he plays a delivery guy who drops off agoraphobic alcoholic Patrick’s booze and food for the week. But that’s when it happened.
Nate and I were setting up a shot and I said “Oh, it would be cool if we started on that light, in the closet, panned down as we dolly out, land on Patrick, push in on Patrick and then out again as Patrick hears Ian at the door knocking.” Patrick had actually been the one to suggest that the beginning of his character’s psychological break started in the closet and since we were filming the entire movie inside my house we had to use every element we could. So, the closet it was. And Nate and Patrick pulled it off perfectly.
I was excited. I said “Oh, Nate, set up here, shoot that way, get the reverse of that, Patrick, do this, and then that, and then do this and Nate, do that.” I was like a kid again. Truly. I don’t think I have ever been that excited on set. This is also the point where we started using the slider, the dolly and the sticks more. And it looked awesome!
Ian delivered his lines perfectly, I gave some directions to the actors and we even got a little magic from both Ian and Patrick and the screen door. I was on top of the world.
Until I started editing.
For Part 1, go here.
Tomorrow in Part 3, Ian does some filmmaking on the fly when he has to recast a major role 8 days into the shoot.
Ian Fowler has been writing scripts professionally for 8 years and began making short films 6 years ago. He’s written everything from science fiction to comedy for producers from LA to Toronto, original works based on producer’s ideas to books and even a life story. The best thing about writing so far has been getting paid even though none of the films have been made to date (especially the 100 million dollar sci fi script – hehe) In 2016 he set off to make his first feature film Crazy Right.
The movie’s Facebook page here.
If you have a story about making a movie which you feel Go Into The Story readers would enjoy and benefit from, email me.