Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Action!: Internship

Finally... a chance to write about interning with a director. (See post: Action!: Director's Intern).

First, some backstory...

I am on the Board of Directors (Treasurer) for Utah Women in Film, a non-profit organization. Last year UWIF sponsored a screenwriting contest for a short. The winner received $50 and the promise that UWIF would produce the script. Dandelions was the winner of that contest and this summer we set out to get it filmed. It's now in post-production, and when it's complete, we will submit it to various film festivals.

A big part of our mission for Utah Women in Film is education, so with the production of Dandelions we placed professional filmmakers (who volunteered their time and waived their wages) in the key positions (producer, director, cinematographer, etc) and then offered internships for members of the organization to work with the professionals.

Initially, I didn't think I could help much on the day of the shoot since I had previous commitments. When my calendar unexpectedly cleared up, I eagerly asked if I could intern with the director, Taunya Gren.

Taunya had amazing insights on how to make the story--two young sisters being bullied at a schoolyard--even better, giving it depth and subtext. I was in awe of her ideas, and happy to have a chance to work with her.

It was a blast to participate in casting. As each child auditioned, I made mental notes as to which ones I would choose. I was spot on with the actors Taunya selected for the roles.

An Assistant Producer was assigned to find a location, a school, with a specific look. She searched diligently, and enlisted the help of others, and came up with three options. One evening I needed to get my husband from work, and I realized the school across the street was perfect. I cannot describe the feeling when I saw it, but I just knew it was what Taunya wanted. I quickly took a bunch of pictures with my cell phone and sent them to the Assistant Producer who forwarded them to Taunya, and she agreed... she wanted that location. It had numerous elements that played right into her vision of the story.

A couple days later, I drove with her and the cinematographer to the location, where we walked around the area and came up with the shot list. I learned how the director worked with the cameraperson, discussing where certain scenes would be shot, at what angle, and so forth. As we sat at a table, working on the storyboard, she told me how much she loved the location and said, "You know why you were drawn to this school? It was your director's eye." A heady feeling accompanied that compliment.

But alas, as often happens in filmmaking, not all things work out as planned. We could not get permission to film at that location. BUMMER. So Taunya went with her second choice. Still, I'm glad I had the experience of location scouting and recognizing architectural elements that give clues to a story. And when the second-choice school learned the film was about bullying, they asked if they could use it for their anti-bullying campaign, and they want to get a TV spot for it too. So sometimes second choice is the right choice. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out!

On the day of shooting, I helped set up a brief scene, but for the most part I hovered nearby and observed the director working with the cast and crew. With only one day to film, I limited my questions and tried to stay out of the way.

I enjoyed my time as a director's intern. I've worked as a Production Assistant on two short films, but this experience helped me realize that I enjoy the creative aspects of directing, rather than the business details of producing.

As a screenwriter though, I kicked myself numerous times throughout the day because I didn't submit a short script for the contest last year. I was not on the Board of Directors at that time, so was qualified to submit. But alas, it was one of those opportunities that escaped me because I was overwhelmed with busyness. (See post: Missed Opportunities)

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