Thoughts from series writer/creator James Rodehaver
Imagine filming like making a massive, elaborate domino chain that, when activated, will tumble into an intricate weave of beauty. You painstakingly sketch out where every piece will go and then block off an entire room of your house. You get down on your hands and knees, and oh so carefully you place them, one by one, hardly daring to breathe. You find your miscalculations, replace the offending parts, redesign for new ideas as they occur to you. You spend more money than you make in a year buying the highest quality dominoes you can find, then you take out a loan to buy the elusive crimson pack because the dragon mosaic has to have exactly the right shade of red for the section of flame that will set off the switchback mountain climb over your stack of hardback Stephen King novels. Soon you find out that half of your dominoes are 3/7 of a millimeter too thick which causes them to fall wrong so you shave off a tiny fraction of every goddamn one by hand. But, it’s all okay, because once you’ve fully committed to the domino metaphor and really sunk your teeth into it you have this colossal work of art and motion ready to become your dream made real at the slightest touch.
This moment is not followed by satisfied bliss as they all clickety-clack in neat lines and rows. Not in filming. In filming your cat bursts into the room and runs through your dominoes, then the dog wanders in and eats about 40 of them while you’re still screaming in horror. A sink hole opens up underneath the scale replica of Barad-dûr and straight up swallows it. That’s really the end of your elaborate domino comparison because there are just too many moving parts. Variable upon variable stack themselves against you right down to the bloody flight patterns of amateur pilots on a lark.
“What do we do now?” Becomes a constant question, and everyone is looking to see if we’ve reached The Line yet. That point where you have to pack it in. Is it when the location is flooded out? Is it when a principle actor quits? Is it when a guest star’s costume was just completed hours before filming and you’re not sure you can get to it in time?
The problem is that everything has such a cost, especially for those of us doing independent projects. Getting to "shoot day" takes so much planning, prepping, coordinating, and purchasing that to call it off at the last second can be an incredibly difficult pill to swallow. From that angle you have to be very cautious if you’re the one making the call. You might be ready to push on at all costs, but are your actors? Is your crew? And if they are willing, should you push them? Eric Radic (Krag) saved Walking In Circles again and again by being willing to do whatever was asked, which was absolutely amazing, and often critical. However, there were a few times we got to the point where we had to be very careful what we asked because we weren’t sure if he would tell us where his limits were. (spoiler alert: he has none)
In a way, we as indie filmmakers have more power than big budget projects. When things get too crazy, dangerous, or cumbersome a studio will just shut down production, pull support, and move on. Those of us making our own projects don’t have anyone to pull the plug for us, so it becomes a game of how far will you go, and how far will you make everyone else go? For WIC it turned out all right in the end. We had to pack it in a few times and lose the day, and on plenty of other days we forged ahead and nothing bad came of it. Occasionally you’ll hear about some poor project that didn’t end up so well and someone got hurt, or died, or went completely insane. Then everyone sits around going, "Tsk, tsk they should have had insurance/a permit/a certified safety instructor," or whatever, without any real acknowledgment to how unattainable those things can be for most small-fry filmmakers.
At the end of the day filming boils down to Yoda’s wisdom: Do or do not. You can’t afford a fire inspector on set; do you just not do your project? You can’t afford to insure your production, do you just give up? I’m not saying it’s right to buck the system and do whatever the hell you want all the time, but if you ever pick up a camera you’ll have to ask yourself some hard questions at some point. You will be faced with a choice, let the project die, or take the risk and hit ‘record’. The consequences that come, good or bad, won’t care about your intentions or your dream.
But then again, no one will care about that time you were going to make a movie but things got hairy.