It was in the spring of 2010, just after Cole was born when I had the idea to make a documentary. I had just written an ebook about how to work online (I’ve since removed it from my shop because it’s out of date) and Drew was complaining that his job was boring, or at least not creatively satisfying. I thought — we should make a documentary! It was so harmless this thought, casual really, like I had just decided to take a Thai cooking course or to learn how to salsa.
“We’ll make the film together. I can arrange all the interviews, I’ll write the narration, I can do the photography, and you Drew, you can be the director and edit the film and use all your nearly forgotten art school talents.”
Drew said sure.
It’s funny because at that point we had been together for 10 years, but I really think he underestimated my ability to become hyper focused and obsessed. We were going to make this film. I didn’t just leap into it, I ran at full tilt and launched myself off the cliff without a moment’s hesitation.
Drew says that’s the best and worst part of me, and I have no doubt that being married to me is difficult, someone who is so utterly convinced of her ability to figure anything out, who is willing to just weeks later announce to the world “We are making a film!” and to set an ambitious goal of raising $10,000 in donations and pre-orders for the film without a single second of edited film under her belt — without any consideration to how it would be possible to travel with an infant, still working full-time, and film a documentary.
He said sure, I know now, because he didn’t really think I would do it.
That June, I was in NYC at B&H Photo, with Cole in a sling, picking out audio equipment… I was getting their advice on boom mics and lav mics, on connecting it all with a sound mixer like the Zoom. If you are ever going to make a documentary film, buy your equipment, in person, from B&H in NYC. They get so many student filmmakers from NYU and they really know their stuff. It would be years later that I’d fully appreciate the gift of their knowledge, as we listened to the sound we recorded, thankful, so very thankful, that we didn’t dare to leave it to the built-in mic, that we spent thousands of dollars on audio equipment that we weren’t sure we needed, but trusted the experts who said over and over again: video is easy, SOUND is hard. When I left, the salesperson I had been talking to said, “This is a really solid set of gear, you have done really well for your budget.”
Sometimes, I wonder about old-Christine, that version of me who was so optimistic. After three years I am different. Three years of filming, editing, sound mixing, color correction, raising an additional $37,000 on Kickstarter, making the difficult decision to wait a year to release it so we could cut our 100 minute film down to a more appropriate 70 minutes, cutting three whole interviews with people I loved, the late nights rendering, the pressure, the glitches, the Final Cut crashes, the Red Giant software that is both amazing and frustratingly full of bugs — and last but not least, the fights, the horrible days where I yelled at Drew because he didn’t record audio for an entire hour worth of interviews or when he hovered over me when I did color correction, the two of us exhausted, with two kids now, trying to figure out how to work, raise children at home with no childcare, and create a feature-length film.
We are in the final week. The film, whatever it happens to be, will be done and burned to DVD on Nov 11th, just in time to make the late deadline for SXSW (we dropped Sundance and Berlin from our wish list, it was just too much of a long shot and we wanted the extra time).
Drew goes to bed at 9 PM, then at midnight I wake him so he can take his ADHD meds, which have the side effect of waking him up about two hours later. Between 9 PM and 2 AM, I babysit renders, and get Cole to bed. Drew gets up and works from 2 AM until 8 AM then the rest of the day is spent with the kids, alternating between his sound editing and my color correction, rendering and exporting to make sure everything looks right.
Over the past year, we have said, “never again” so many times, you would think we were protesting too much. I watched the film the other day, and I love it. I am shocked, amazed, and humbled that we have an actual film. I said to Drew, “you know when we go to the festivals and talk to industry types, the first question will be: what is your next project?”
Drew nodded. He’s exhausted these days, this last month has been intense.
“I have an idea for a film we could make from Barcelona,” I said.
Within an hour I had convinced him. That is my talent. I’m not the best writer, photographer, filmmaker, marketer, teacher, blogger or even mother. But I am quite skilled at convincing my husband to keep attempting these adventures with me.
The thing is, we know how to make a film now. I was going to write a post about all the things I’ve learned about filmmaking, but the truth is, I have read those posts. I read hundreds of posts about the filmmaking process but the only way you can really learn is to just do it. To seriously, honestly put the best effort you can into making it good. To work for months and years with no hope, no approval, no pat on the back. To screw things up and figure out how to fix them. To go deeply and utterly in over your head and battle your way out.
After this experience, doing a second film, well, it actually seems easy. We actually know what we’re doing. Well, sort of, at least in the realm of micro-budget independent filmmaking. We spent three years to finally get to this point, in part because we insist on raising our kids ourselves, that I had a second baby during the last year, that we will only work on it when the kids are asleep — but now I feel like I just earned my Masters in Independent Documentary Filmmaking. We love the film, but somehow I think we love just finishing even more.
Next year we go to film festivals, I hope, if they will let us in. Or if we find out that our film sucks, we’re still making people watch it, maybe we’ll just have rent our own venues then ply everyone with alcohol. We can’t control the outcome, so I’m not worrying about it (mostly). We did our part, we showed up, we did our best, we kept going and worked our asses off. The rest is out of our hands.
There’s always the next film to think about.
PS: The film website doesn’t launch until Jan 1st, but if you want to get updates on the film you can sign up here: The Wireless Generation.