How many of you have heard of the Bermuda Triangle? That mysterious place where filmmakers have vanished—dragged down with their movies until they are never heard from again. Okay, I took some artistic liberties with that one. But there is a Filmmaker’s Triangle. A nebulous, moving area composed of three things that feed off of each other. If you see the movie ship headed toward any of the three sides, go the other way! These three things are Stress, Attitude, and Selfishness. The killers of a good time. If you, or anyone in your crew, get caught in these they can ruin the production day, or even the entire movie. Shall we take a cautious look at these deadly three?
Stress comes in all sizes and forms. An actor who thinks he has to get a shot right the first time, or a director who has the pressure of finishing on time in an hour. A crewmember who’s gotten in trouble for bumping the boom pole (again). As directors, or anyone, we need to be aware of the stress levels around us and adjust accordingly. Sometimes you don’t know someone is stressed until they burst into tears or freeze up. Trust me, backing off the pressure, or giving reaffirming words takes much less time than waiting for an actor to be able to function again. Of course, on the flip side, slowing things down to take off pressure can be even more stressful than it was before!
You have to know the people around you—how they’ll react under different pressures or motivations—and be willing to make them happy, even if it means more work for you. And remember, your stress level as an individual affects the group as a whole. Especially if you let the stress show itself in negative ways, such as non-gentleness, frustration, physical agitation, tone of voice, and attitude. Attitude? Look out! Here comes the second side of the Triangle.
“This is taking forever.” “Why do I have to this again? I just did it twice!” “If the director knew what he was doing we would be out of here by now.” “No, I don’t want a pacifying compliment, how dare you?”
Now, hopefully these thoughts wouldn’t come out of our mouths, but they can show through in our actions or tone of voice. All it takes is one person with a chip on their shoulder. Pretty soon everyone is uptight or upset. Why do we get this way? Initially it’s because of our fleshly nature, but why do we let ourselves go and dig down our heads down into the comfortable sand of being miffed? Well, it’s easier to sulk than to change our attitude.
Directors, we have to be an example here. It’s tough, but you’re the leader. If the director ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Stay positive!
And all you others: actors, crew, production team, cinematographers, this applies to you even more than the director. There are way more of you than there are directors, and if you don’t encourage them by your attitudes and actions, they’ll never reach the best that they could be. Nothing is so discouraging as a cranky team. Nothing. (Unless you count the camera falling into the pond and getting eaten by a giant Canada Goose that’s upset because you didn’t feed it in disobedience to the sign. Aha! See? A bad attitude on the goose’s part ruined the film day.)
Anyway, my point is, you have a choice. Remain positive and encouraging and helpful, or let your emotions go where they will and be huffy, because it’s all about you. Uh oh, I think we’re surrounded now. There’s the third side off the port bow!
This may seem like a no-brainer. “That’s MY copy of the script, so go find your own,” or, “You’re in MY director’s chair.” But I’m not talking about the really obvious things. I’m referring to the little things; the tiny, tiny decisions we make that can add up rapidly. “I’m tired and trying to stay positive, so I’ll let somebody else go look for the missing prop.” “Oh, I’m busy right now. If you want something to drink, it’s upstairs.” Or, “I don’t want to run down there to align everyone, so I’ll just yell instructions.”
Let’s look at that last statement. The theory behind it is sound, but what is the possible outcome? Have you ever had instructions yelled at you? Chances are, you won’t do exactly what they want you to do, so they’ll yell again, and you know what? Their voice changes and things start to get uncomfortable. Even if they’re still using a kind voice, no one likes being hollered at twice. Then they “give up” on you and “stomp” over to show you how they want something done. They may not literally stomp, but it’s still very embarrassing to have forced them to come over and show you what they want. See the potential for hurt feelings and stressed-out people?
Your actions are the cause that creates an effect. You can either be wiling to do as much as you can to make things easier for other people, or you can have a “cater to me” mindset. Can you still have someone do something for you and not be selfish? Absolutely! What I’m talking about is a mindset; a heart attitude that should say “you first, me later.” This serving heart goes a long way to keeping everyone stress-free. Stress? Ah! We’re back to the beginning. Maybe I should call this the Filmmaker’s Circle. No, it doesn’t have the same ring to it.