“Experience is the teacher of all things.” – Julius Caesar.
A film director has the potential to influence many people through media (Irving and Rea xv). However, influencing others’ lives wouldn’t be very effective if there were no experiences involved – experiences that shape a person as he grows, experiences that are invaluable and cannot be taken away by anyone, experiences that have the power to influence others.
The most influential movie directors, like The Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock, wasn’t the one who invented modern cinema but he has defined it (Wood, 2002); Akira Kurosawa hasn’t been surpassed by any other film maker (Wood, 2002); and Steven Spielberg continues to come up with big-budget successes than any other director (Wood, 2002), wouldn’t become the most influential if it weren’t for the experience.
Like all movie directors, they started from scratch, like what I am going through now. They passed through a series of events in their lives that helped them become the most influential: successes and failures, happiness and sadness, frustrations and anxieties, even the occasional illnesses like colds and fever. As for me, I have felt the tension since I have done this for the first time. I asked myself how I should do this. What if something goes wrong? What if everything goes wrong? Is there anything else that I need? My emotions got mixed up. The pressure kept building, the heart kept beating strongly in my chest, and there were so many things that kept on popping up in my mind.
For my first project, I directed a film entitled “Light from the Darkness.” It is about a prisoner named Brian who was sentenced to death. However, he isn’t a criminal after all. He is innocent and is not guilty of anything and unworthy of this sentence. As the final day approaches, he hopefully awaits for that light from the darkness that he is in to save him. He knows that he is going to die, but he still has hopes in the midst of hopelessness. There will be a phone call signaling the cancelation of his execution. This light is Brian’s only hope, but that hope didn’t come.
In the back of my mind, I have a clear idea of how the film should turn out. Basically, the film is about the death penalty and about the innocent individual who is unjustly executed. I am personally against this kind of punishment, especially when innocent people are involved.
I imagined someone being strapped to the electric chair or in other situations similar to execution, waiting to be killed and with no other way to defend himself. I asked myself how the men and women could have possibly faced this horrifying part of their lives, being found guilty when really they are not. I also thought that a continuous nightmare should have occurred to them every now and then before their execution came.
With these questions in mind, I came up with this kind of film even though it is just a silent movie. Bearing the situation in mind, I came up with the script. What I wanted to see on the big screen is what’s in my head, and I almost did. Preparations were made beforehand: I used only black and white pictures, prepared the storyboard to help with the flow of the film, worked with a crew of 5 people who were mostly actors and “old sparky builders.” We used different locations like the college hallway and also the confines of our dormitories. Eventually, the overall settings worked perfectly like pieces of the puzzle fitting perfectly together.
Then, I took more than 189 pictures and kept only about 45 of them during the editing of the film. I knew what I wanted: the most powerful pictures that expressed the fear on Brian’s face, especially when he was strapped to the electric chair, the guardian’s seriousness while watching Brian’s execution, and the darkness of the hallway since my college looks like a real prison.
I also have to talk about other people’s films to help me come up with light from the darkness. For example, a project that is called “Side Order” is a story of a character named Mister Potato Head. It sounds funny enough, but strangely, I see it as a cute short film. Another project was called “Love Always Everyone.” This film always struck everyone, including me, because of the professionalism of the director. For me, it is clear that the work was precise, sharp, and well constructed.
I have learned a lot of lessons from most of the films that I have watched. The story called “Sentakushi” has created a good combination of a lot of colors and ideas. On the other hand, the project entitled “First Date” didn’t give many lessons to learn from. It could be perhaps because they were not diving deep enough inside their work.
While making the film, I had some frustrations, particularly with the crew. There was a time when they goofed and laughed around like they weren’t serious about the project. During the execution scene, while the convict is waiting for the last phone call that will save his life, I was like, “Do you guys think people would be laughing in this kind of situation?” I felt heartbroken when most of my roommates didn’t take the project seriously and when lots of people were against me. I felt like I have only one odd against many. This kind of attitude made me nervous since I am a perfectionist when it comes to doing a visual project.
Another frustration that I had was when I couldn’t get the props that are needed in the film. I was turned down when I called the prison so I could take pictures. The policemen wouldn’t let me borrow handcuffs from them. I also tried to borrow uniforms from them but to no avail. The chair was built and set up in our apartment. I had to set up most of my project alone. I found myself overstressed, but I remained excited to direct this project. There’s this mix of nervousness and excitement that burns in me that I myself could not put into words.
Efficio Cognosio (Learn by doing). There is no substitute for experience (Irving and Rea, 1995). This project may have been the first, but I am confident that it won’t be the last. I was very happy while doing this film. I am looking forward to doing the next one. Experience, after all, is the best teacher. Even though I am not good in theory, I realize that at some point, one has to start from the beginning to learn how to produce better work.
From the very first day, I stepped into the directing world, with the people around me, books, manuals, and other written media as my guide, I am going to use everything that I have learned during the past few months. More than that, I am going to add what I will be learning in the days to come as well.
In the end, I was very surprised at the outcome of my film. With all the things that I went through, despite the many frustrations and the odds that I faced, everybody did enjoy a lot of the movie. They even asked me to make copies of it. It is very heartwarming to know that they have appreciated what I have made. I felt honored but not totally rewarded. I knew I could have done better work, a more precise and detailed film. The picture quality could have been even better if I used better materials and a little bit more time.
After all, this photo story project made me realize how one could feel by being in the skin of a director, who has the duty to hand out a given project before the deadline arrives. Anyways, I really enjoyed myself even though the story itself wasn’t that much fun. It’s part of growing up, and experience is the teacher of all things.
Surname, First Name. Personal Communication. City, Mauritius. 2008.
Irving, David and Peter Rea. Preface. Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video. Newton, Massachusetts. Butterworth-Heinemann, 1995.
Wood, Jennifer M. The 25 Most Influential Directors of all Time. 2002. MovieMaker Magazine. Web.