Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How I became an award-winning film director: A me moment

The world is a strange place. There is an increase of opportunities and this floating ideal that everyone is a star. However, accessing these opportunities are near impossible if you don't have the money or contacts to help you.

On Sunday, one of my screenwriting workshop friends
described me as an award-winning film director
and screenwriter. It was strange since I never thought
of myself as anything other than just another struggling
artist.... but then, every artist is a mess of insecurities.

Accelerating globalisation and new-found equalities have resulted in more competition as everyone is now breaking out into what they truly want to do or what seems like more fun than their current day job.

Self helps books are indoctrinating us with their generalised platitudes: "Anything is possble", "Be who you have always wanted to be", "Just do it" (oh wait, that's Nike).

Today, that conservative view holding back the artistic types due to fear of monetary failure still exists but is less binding. People rather opt for the meagre income they get from doing what they love. There is an increase in qualified lawyers who are now radio DJs and rockstars; doctors and accountants who are comedians, and matric-less entrepreneurs. Everybody believes that they can be and do everything, be it writing a novel or self-medicating when they have the flu.

It all sounds glamourous and inspiring, but it's hard. 
It's very easy to say "just go for it... jump!", but there's a lot at stake and EVERYBODY has something holding them back. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success and just fear of financial difficulties are all valid reasons to not quit your current day job that you hate, to not finish that novel or to not emigrate in search for better opportunities in order to become the proverbial 'someone'. 

My philosophy is "baby steps!" Work that shit job and pull yourself through the kak while slowly moving towards what you truly want.

When I was in high school, I wanted to become a film director (or an advert designer person but more a director). A fellow pupil even told me before assembly one morning that I had the stride of one and it just elevated my dream. However, my guidance teacher believed otherwise and said, "You can have your dreams but they must be sensible." 

My parents, as any caring parents would, favoured the more sensible and stable option and I took the road well-trodden on.

After I had dragged myself through four years of university to get a BA Hons and be met with 6 months of unemployment, my dreams had become jaded. The logical option of completing an LLB and living in courts fighting for an 'anti-justice' seemed rosier than a pauper but I was unwilling to prove everybody right by completing my LLB.

I saw a message on Facebook about a short film challenge for the Durban International Film Festival. I wanted to do it but I had R2000 in my account and almost nothing to make it work. The challenge involved making a five minute film in three weeks.

On the first day of the challenge, I got that phonecall I had been waiting for: I had a job as a features writer for a newspaper. Knowing that I would have some income soon, I spent R1500 on editing software and started writing a script and gathering friends who would be interested in helping. Most of them dropped out and a week and a half later, I had one friend, Heloise (I would never have been able to complete the movie without her), helping me out and no cast.

I thought "FK it!". I didn't care about how kak my father's 2005 mini DVD handy-cam and editing software was. I just had to do it.

What resulted is a mad filming shoot over one weekend. It was never easy. The place that we had planned to film the office scene turned out to be empty with only one scratched on table and two broken chairs (one which was bright purple). We used curtains as a table cloth and as a way to transform the empty space into some kind of upmarket office. Due to the rigid time constraints, we were also unable to do second takes for certain scenes.... hence the scene where the main guy is looking the wrong way. My remaining R500 was used on food for the cast, petrol and a few props so there was no way to combat the setting sun to steal more time (though we did try flashlights). 
Heloise and I show off our DIFF
director passes

On top of all that, I had never studied film. I borrowed a book from the library on camera work and just clicked away until I worked out how to use the editting programme.

It was a crazy mess and I never believed it would even make it through the judges to the screening at the Durban International Film Festival. But it did.

How I won was a mix of popularity and luck. The vote, originally meant to be on the DIFF website, was on Facebook. My friend however still thinks that our movie was the best. I think its a load of krap, but that's only because I know that we can do something much better.
Oh well, that is how it won Best Film for the DIFF Short Film Challenge.

The point: Just go for it. Even though they may be 100 other people doing the same. You never know where your luck lies.


@fearofwriting said...

Congrats on your win!!

The great thing about just going for it is that you don't have time to sweat the small stuff. This is often when we're the most creative. You totally proved that with your all-or-nothing approach. That kind of creative risk-taking eventually leads to stronger self-belief. (But I do hope your bank account recovered. It was gutsy to finance yourself to the hilt!)

Tharuna said...

Wow thanks. I only emptied my bank account cos i knew I had a job in line:). Calculated risk-taking