Nearly three years since “All the Others Were Practice” was finished, I have had some distance, and time to reflect on the process of making the film, what went right, what went not right.
It is often the case that talented actors and performers get cast in the wrong role in a film. When this happens, it is the fault of the director and the casting director, it is not the actor’s fault.
An actor is hired for a job like anyone else. They show up when scheduled and ply their craft to the best of their ability given the circumstances. They need experience to build the tools to perform their job well, just like anyone else. When actors don’t have the tools they need to do their job on a film, it the responsibility of the Producer and Director to make sure they get the resources they need.
On “All the Others Were Practice” I cast all of the main roles through a series of auditions, nearly two years before we filmed. They were all very experienced actors and could bring a fair set of tools with them. I knew the filming was going to be very bare-bones and I was going to be spread thin just making the movie. I needed actors who could have their own resources on which to draw to craft their performances.
All of the actors participated in a staged reading, the audio was recorded like a radio play. The actors all got along well, and had some chemistry. It seemed like the perfect cast, and I moved forward with fundraising.
And then I second-guessed myself.
“Wouldn’t it be great if there was an actor in the main role who might be more of a personality, who might be able to represent the film to the gay audience more authentically?” Maybe the movie needed someone larger than life in the main role.
I re-cast the main role. I didn’t audition him with anyone, no screen test. I saw him do comedy live a few times, he had a great energy, he was funny and charismatic on stage, and self-effacing and sweet in person. But he had zero acting experience and had never been on a film set, or in front of a camera in a film setting.
I was so caught up in the making of the movie that I ignored the fact that I would not have time to coach him as an actor through the filming, I would be too busy being the crew and producer do go off and run a scene before we filmed. “But he has such great energy it will work out”, I told myself.
It was a selfish decision. It was the main role in the film. He would be on set nearly every day. He had more than half the lines in the script, was on screen in every scene. He was holding up the entire film, interacting with nearly every actor. He had never filmed a scene before, never had to memorize lines before, he didn’t have a sense of the repetitiveness and boredom on set. And I did a poor job of helping him prepare for it.
Early in the production, I had a dream. I was balancing on plates, spinning on the tops of long poles that disappeared far below me in a mist. As I jumped from one plate to another they would disappear below me, so I was jumping endlessly from one to the next to avoid the void below.
That is how the production went. We jumped from day to day, running around town and crossing off setups. I was in charge of the entire production from catering to camerawork. There was some help from the producer, but he’d never been on a set before and was at the bottom of his own learning curve. It was like a top who’s string was pulled, or a string of firecrackers. Once it was started, the only way it was going to end was either an orderly wind down, or total immolation.
When we wrapped, I had no idea what we had just filmed. I was able to review the day’s takes every evening, but only for exposure really. I knew there were tensions on set, but I hoped that we’d be able to edit around them. I knew there were audio issues, but “we can fix it in post”.
As I began the edit, it became clear that the film we had in the can was not going to be the bubbly silly romp I had intended. The baby was in the script as a counter the frivolity of the adults, but having a live baby on set ended up being too expensive at the last minute. There were scenes of Glen and the baby that were some of my favorite in the film, but they didn’t work because they had to be hastily re-written. Some other scenes couldn’t be used because of lighting, and suddenly half of Glen’s scenes were out of the film, which puts it off balance, but the footage was technically unusable. Glen and Pam were meant as the ideal that Jôrge was aspiring, but the scenes of he and his dates interacting with them got greatly curtailed for technical reasons all my own.
And then, there is the sound. The only days we had an actual person running sound was for the two days on the office set. Every other day, I would set levels on the lavaliers, and set up some microphones just out of frame. The office scenes were some of the last days of filming. The woman running sound kept calling out rustling on the lavs, or odd background noise. This I would find out, was going on the whole time but I hadn’t reviewed the audio well enough. Most scenes had multiple audio recorders, but in nearly every take there is at least at least one channel that was unusable. Audio was one of the plates that I dropped on this project.
Editing was very hard at first. In the first pass, I tried to mold the footage to the script. It was off kilter because of the missing Glen, Pam and baby scenes. And then, the entire edit disappeared into a memory bug on the edit computer. I would have to start from scratch.
I was exhausted, we had wrapped and gone straight into editing, and it wasn’t coming together. Did I even have the energy to start over from the raw footage? I did, I had come too far just to give up. So, I decided to let the footage tell it’s story. There were some conversations, that after they were edited seemed to have the opposite meaning they had on paper, something in the innuendo, stemming from the actors not getting what they’d needed on set. I just went with it.
The final film came together into a reasonable approximation of the story from he script. The music helps tremendously, smoothing the awkward pacing and covering the garbled audio – and I really like the look of the film, I think it is pretty and appropriate.
When I wrote this film, I was looking to make a kind of parody of a gay film, by following some conventions of a heterosexual romantic comedy with all male actors. In the end it turned into a movie about a guy who sleeps with a lot of guys, which is exactly the kind of film I didn’t want to make. Sigh.
I am proud of the film, but not for any of the reasons that I thought I would be. I am proud of it because I think there are some very funny and touching performances in the film, and I think that there are glimmers of what I set out to do, and I finished it. It was an amazing learning experience, not just in filmmaking, but in communicating with people, and organizing a project from start to finish, in trusting my instincts, and in humility.
Thank you to everyone who worked on this film, who donated your time or money to help make it happen. I hope you can enjoy this tiny film as it is, flaws and all.