My experience working on a short film
From a young age, I have always been a victim to stubbornness, of not admitting that the “goals” I laid out in my mind were not really my own. And because I held onto those goals for so long, I never really saw fault in them. Not to be a drama queen, but for years I tried to convince myself that my dream job was to be an art director. That I knew what being an art director meant when I literally had no clue. You’d think that on the first day of studying design for art direction you’d know the concept right? I’m in my third year and I’m only just connecting the dots now. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’ve recently discovered a change in my direction, in art direction…
Let’s go back a little so I can explain myself. From late September last year, I took part as art director in the short film ‘Depth of Field’, a war film about a photojournalist who strives for recognition. Over the course of the next 6 months of making this film, I would uncover so many truths about myself that I didn’t know existed. I had a shaky start in my first two months of production, having an internship at .Cent at the time, I hadn’t really involved myself as fully as I should have done. But being new to this field, I struggled to manage my time efficiently, and therefore prioritised my internship over this film.
As my internship at .Cent came to an end in December, I started to take on the task of art director more seriously. I planned timetables for the art department, initiated meetings, made connections and created documents upon documents of prop/costume charts. I became a ball of energy, spinning round obstacles and jumping over hurdles, all was going great until one day I got slammed down really hard. The director of the film came up to me and said I was leading the art department too much. I was at first puzzled by this statement, wasn’t it my job to do just that? That day I learnt that it wasn’t me who was HOD (Head of Department) but the PD (Production Designer) who was.
Looking back at that now, I was a complete newbie to this so called ‘film world’ that I had never fully understood. Obviously being a design student, the role of art director was different in the media. Needless to say, I was completed beaten down by this fact, I felt as though I had been demoted to servant girl (once again, me being dramatic). I almost always took on the role of project manager in group projects without hesitation. To some people that may sound boring, but I love being in control of any work I involve myself in. That’s why people always think I’m a perfectionist because I truly am.
Nevertheless, I swallowed my pride and let the PD take over. I assisted her with booking appointments at prop houses, continued writing up documents and basically did everything necessary for her to create the vision of the film. Some part of me loved managing the art department, but a small side of me knew I wanted her job. But I kept saying to myself, no, you want to be an art director, this is what you’ve always wanted to do. I had some kind’ve devil angel situation going on and I don’t think it was quite good for my mental health in all honesty.
February began and shooting was going to commence from the 7th. We were all feeling the tension now and were organising our last bits of preparation ready for the day. It had become apparent at this time that the PD wasn’t providing her full attention to the film. And as her distance started to grow, I noticed myself taking on more of the her roles, like going to the costume houses by myself and making the majority of props needed. I couldn’t blame her however, as she was a third year too undertaking her graduate project. But I also couldn’t help but feel that maybe she shouldn’t have taken on the role if she knew she wouldn’t put in more of her time.
And then one day, the producer and director both sat me down and discussed with me that I was going to be the PD now, because I was doing both the job of art director and production designer. I wasn’t necessarily shocked by this statement, because deep down I knew that I had been doing this work. I was just surprised that they recognised it. I had no intention of stealing somebody else’s position, but when a job had to be done and wasn’t being dealt with, I stepped forward. So I did just that. Through 6 days of shooting through the February month, I dealt with dressing, costume attire and organising the look of the set (with the wonderful help of my art department and makeup team). On one shooting day, we even had to work with over 30 extras for a war camp scene, which was such a huge task but we managed it.
The film’s pre production came to an end on the 1st March, and I couldn’t be happier about the end result. This is the first time I have fully involved myself in a short film, and through exploration and experimentation, I am finally finding my new wave. I started this DPS year wanted to enhance my visual identity, and I believe I’m starting to really find just that. Not only is this pushing my professional outlook of networking with other creative people, but also my creativity as a person. I now feel a drive to teach myself more and be conceptual in my thinking. And I can’t wait to see what the rest of this year holds for me. And perhaps a few years from now, I may opt for a different career path once again. But I welcome it. Because I know for a fact that with every hurdle I face, I will no longer be afraid of change. Because change doesn’t represent failure, it opens us to stronger beginnings.