I may be stationary as I sit in front of my ancient laptop to watch the rough cut of my first big short film, but the past year has taught me that I’m always moving forward — even when I feel stuck.
Watching “Uncovering Eden” as it slowly comes to life marks a new beginning for me as an independent filmmaker. I can look back at all of the mistakes I’ve made along the way and cringe, but I know they were a big part of the learning process. In the end, they’ll make me better at what I do.
The Part Where I Freaked Out
When I graduated from college, I was determined to hit the ground running by embarking on a film that was bigger and better than anything else I’d completed before. Sure, I didn’t know what it would be about, but I’d get to that.
But it didn’t happen right away, and I couldn’t help but feel that I’d done something wrong — especially when I fell into the trap of comparing myself to my old classmates. I admit I forgot why I wanted to make movies in the first place.
The summer came and went, and by October, I was calling my sister to vent that I was a failure. She disagreed, so I told the dog. He tends not to argue.
Fortunately, I realized I was being nuts, stopped trying to force creativity and just savored the journey. It wasn’t so bad.
The Part Where I Didn’t Win, But Didn’t Care
My buddy, Tim, and I decided to motivate each other to write scripts and enter a screenwriting competition. With a deadline looming, I had a goal. I was suddenly able to focus and enjoy filmmaking again.
I came up with the idea for a short script based loosely on some of the bullying I endured in high school. At first, I was afraid to write it. Then, I realized the fear probably was a sign that I needed to write it. By the deadline, I was proud of my work and thought maybe I’d have a shot at making my film with the prize money.
Neither of us won.
It didn’t matter.
Truth be told, I don’t think my script was ready yet, but I didn’t abandon it and kept reworking.
The Part Where I Realized I Needed Money
By March, I felt like my script was finally “film ready.” The problem? How the hell I was supposed to make it?
Freelancing in New York City helped me meet people who would show me the ropes of making a film without free access to a college equipment room. Unfortunately, they said I needed $15,000 to do it.
I didn’t believe them. If you get the right talent and a few pieces of great equipment, you don’t need a lot of funding to complete your film. If anything, you just have to be more creative. I was ready for that.
But I needed the money. Not quite $15,000, but more than I had in my bank account. I needed to rent gear and pay for production. I eventually came to the conclusion that Kickstarter was the way to go.
And it was the scariest, most stressful thing I have ever experienced.
But I’ll get to that later.
The Part Where I Went Back to Highschool For a Cast
When it came time to cast my characters, I realized it would be wonderful to cast actual high school students in some of the roles, so I headed to my old school to crash an after school play rehearsal. Fortunately, I was neither kicked out nor arrested — both of which probably could have happened since I don’t think I can pass for 16 anymore.
Not only was my old drama teacher, Mrs. Everette, surprised to see me, but she was excited about what I was doing and gave me the floor to talk to the group of teenage thespians.
I stared down at them as they slouched into the ancient metal chairs while they gaped up at me with their mouths open in what I assumed was boredom. When I finished my spiel, I was met with silence. Trying to keep from blushing like the uncool kid I was in high school, I tentatively asked if any of them would like to audition.
Suddenly, their mouths closed and their hands shot up into the air. They all started talking at once, and I pretty much felt like the coolest alum ever. Mrs. Everette helped me get control over the room again, like a leader of an army, and I proceeded to post a sign-up sheet outside of the auditorium.
A few weeks later, I conducted auditions.
Some of the students mimed as if they were on stage, while others were complete naturals on camera. There were a few students I thought might cry, but everything went pretty smoothly — minus the funny echo, the show-off drummer off to the side and a couple of breakdancers in the hallway.
But, we found great teen actors to join the others that I’d cast from New York and Philadelphia.
It couldn’t have turned out better.
The Part Where I Kicked Kickstarter’s Butt
Kickstarter projects get a set amount of time to collect funds from backers — usually 30 days. But because of scheduling conflicts, I had to set Uncovering Eden’s kickstarter page for three weeks. If we didn’t meet our funding goal of $8,000, Kickstarter wouldn’t allow us to collect any of the money backers had promised.
I worked on my Kickstarter campaign for two months before its launch. For the three weeks that it was tallying dollars, I couldn’t go a full hour without checking it and trying to find ways to promote it. I was handing out fliers, updating Facebook and Twitter, calling local establishments, and contacting community centers and organizations.
Two weeks in, I was convinced I wasn’t going to reach my goal, and that Uncovering Eden would leave the experience empty-handed.
Miraculously, we made more than $9,200.
The Part Where We Made a Mothereffing Movie
With my dream team cast and crew by my side, I directed the first film that I felt represented me.
My team is still in post-production. We missed our original completion date, but I can’t dwell on that. I will expect more hiccups along the way, and I’m OK with that.
But I know without a doubt, that in 2014, I will have made a film that will start my journey as the filmmaker I want to be.