It’s been a while since I’ve put a blog up. Sorry about that. But I really needed to do a site redesign and summer was here and I was traveling a lot and, and…
It’s mostly widely known if you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google + that this summer’s been busy with pre-production for a new documentary I’m producing followed by 2.5 weeks in Bangladesh filming it. So I’m going to share a few thoughts, musings and such on the non-tech part of producing. I’ll do a tech blog later.
My role on this trip was different than every other production I’ve done. Yes, I walked around with a camera in hand and had the official role of Camera B, or 2nd Cam, or whatever during the actual interview process. But with Jon Mckee there as DP, I left the shot thoughts to him. My primary role was as producer. Officially. With all the managing, talking through, wrangling, logisticaling, budgeting, paying, praying, hounding, and making sure everyone had what they needed.
This was my first time doing this solo. Usually I’m doing that plus all the filming. This time, that’s all I had on my plate. It was tough. Namely, knowing that I finally had some wicked good talent on board, when do I inject myself into a discussion? Should I say something here? I have concerns, do I voice them? How do I voice them? Is everyone at least enjoying themselves on some level? Am I being an asshole right now? Am I thinking to hard about this? Should I be an asshole right now? And many other interpersonal related questions.
This doesn’t include dealing with people from another culture, like location managers, hotel clerks, drivers, interviewees and all the people everyone brings with them- we usually had three people with us we never intended. In fact, most times I was paying for 4-6 additional people per meal and 2 extra hotel rooms I hadn’t accounted for.
I’m not sure how I did. Nobody killed anyone and I think if I was doing another project, they’d join me. I opted to not say anything unless asked (and I still said more than I wanted to because I ignored that rule). I brought people on board because they know what I brought them on for. I’d be undermining them if I told them what to do. Although I still ended up pissing off my director more than once, having a couple light rows and one late night, very good balcony conversation with my DP.
I put out the usual array of fires and tried not to grind my teeth too hard when everything changed for the day first thing in the morning. And it did change. A couple of examples: We planned to stay in Dhaka most of the two weeks, only to have it decided it’d be best to travel south for 3 days then north for 3 days, then back to Dhaka. 3 days later, the north was bagged and we went back to Dhaka only to be told that the following day we’re confined to the hotel for the entire day because the country went on strike.
So in closing, I’m not sure what I learned so much as what I was able to practice. Those things were humility, flexibility, graciousness and forgiveness. When you’re with the same crew in trying conditions and circumstances, there are plenty of opportunities to hate each other, belittle each other, undermine each other and piss each other off. It’s going to happen and when it does your response is what makes it a learning and growing experience or a divisive and miserable experience.