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Thoughts of a Filmmaker on Set

Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times – Blog 2

Everything feels different. Colours become vivid. You are more sensitive to noise and sound. You enter a a new time reality. The hours zip by. The day flies away. You are up at dawn and before you know it you’re crashing on your bed at dusk - high from the adrenaline, going over the shots in your head, reliving those scenes that were brought to life by actors you could only imagine previously in fragments, brought to life by images and pictures that you couldn’t see until you saw them, brought to life by emotions that never existed before.

You’re high, you’re tired. You want to go to bed early but you still want to go out and celebrate life till the small hours. You set your alarm for 5.30am but you are fully awake by 3 and raring to go again. The crash can come later. You are part of a filmmaking process that is giving birth to its own tone, pace and spirit. You are part of a collective. You are creating a new world that was created from raw elements: a screenplay, actors, crew, planning, light, action. Directing a movie on set is like nothing else. It’s total emersion. It is madness and luck. It is concentrated and funny. It is serious and hilarious. It is laughter and tedium. It is technical and childlike. It is thoughtful and throw away. It is gloriously accidental and perfectly executed.

My guess is that this activity releases oxytocin. It’s the same hormone released when you have sex. It can explain why some people get addicted to filmmaking. It’s why the set can feel so charged – when things are clicking, when actors are set free, when crew are in motion, when nothing can be a problem. Oxytocin has also been described as the “collaboration chemical”. I wonder whether the intense collaborative process of filmmaking doesn’t release that hormone in a way our ancestors may have experienced – in tribes and communities; working together, hunting together, surviving together.

We live in such a lonely, often tribeless world. We are self-sufficient, independent from each other; islands. Filmmaking requires submission to a unit. It requires bonds. It requires trust. It requires dependency. It requires unconditional love – and often with relative strangers, on the day. It requires every constituent part to be in flow – from the extra walking across the back of the shot to the boom operator, to the actor delivering the right pause, to the weather – all at once. In the moment. It’s very exciting to call cut on such synchronicity. We captured it. We got it. The performances, the light, the sound, the something we cannot describe. It feels right.

The shoot went as well as I could have hoped for and even as we were shooting Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times I felt we were getting everything we needed and more. The team were fabulous. Everyone was friendly. We finished early on both days. Everyone seemed happy.

I took this quick bit of film at lunchtime on my phone – it is the cast and crew having lunch. Most of these people don’t know each other. Most people have only met for the first time. This is only day two, of a two day shoot, and the collective chatter seems to capture the community spirit we achieved in such a short space of time. This is why I love the set. It is a community.

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