I often believe that filmmaking is an addiction. Most people that you talk to, after they have poured their heart and soul into a single short (or feature) film, will tell you of the exhaustion they feel afterwards. Exhaustion from the shoot. Exhaustion from the post production process. Exhaustion from the festival circuit. So why keep doing it? Because it’s an addiction. I for one, frequently walk away from films and say “Never again”… and then I sit down to do something different, and there’s a little tiny thought in your brain that begins to grow. You start forgetting about all the difficult and harsh aspects of getting the film made, and start to only see the good in it. Then you begin to realise what made the experience so great. It’s that feeling of being able to watch something that you crafted and made. You got to tinker with every single aspect of what’s on screen. Every little thing is a decision. Hair. Make up. The way the window looks in the background. The way the character reacts to their environment. It’s an endless list of decisions that you come to be very proud of, and have no one ever to blame but yourself for its flaws.
However, for me, there’s an even greater element that draws me back into filmmaking time and time again. The people. Anyone that ever says that a film was singlehandedly made by them is either not seeing the full picture, or missing out on what I consider to be the greatest part of the whole process. I love meeting people, and filmmaking is an opportunity to meet a vast group of people and band your singular skills together to make something fantastic.
I’m going to use my latest short film “The Rite of Rosemary” as an example. The film was originally started when I met the author of the short story in Dorset. Years later, I asked her permission to use her story to adapt into a film. That’s just the start of a process. We worked together remotely to sort the script out, and when it was ready – I needed to find a producer. The wonderful thing about London is the networking opportunities, and the diversity here. Sara soon came on as my producer. We’d never met each other prior to this film, and weren’t even originally from the same country – but we saw the opportunity given to us with this film and therefore banded together. From there, we began to put a cast together, meeting endless amounts of fantastic actors before we settled on those that we felt most brought the characters to life off the page. After we had cast Guy Barnes as Jack, it was only then that he spoke to us about a location he knew of that we may be interested in. The cabin in the woods that he presented to us was moody and perfect for the film - already the short was beginning to evolve beyond the page into something new simply by the people putting themselves into the process.
Then the crew began to come together too. Only 10% of us knew each other before – but as people started coming onboard, our team began getting more diverse than ever. No two people were from the same place, whether it was a different part of England or even a different continent. People pooled in from different methods, some applying via film websites, some from word of mouth, some even via social media – it’s a process than can never be seen as predictable, and that’s what is so exciting about it.
After our successful Kickstarter campaign, and a great pre-production run, we were ready to start shooting. Two days before the shoot, we had a final meeting. For the first time, all these different people that I had met in the three months before shooting were finally together in one room. Most of us had never met each other, everyone was very shy and excited to get started. So, two days after, we went down to the location – ready to shoot. There is a certain element of trust and jumping into the unknown with any film you make. Here I was, telling a bunch of strangers that I’d never really met, to please meet me at a creepy cabin in the woods and stay there for four days with me. I thank them often for taking that chance on me.
Though everyone seemed ready and their experience was what we needed, no one truly knows how someone is going to be at their job until they get to the location and actually get started. They put their trust in me as their leader, and I put my trust in them as my team. It quickly became apparent that we all seemed to gel and work strongly together. The footage we were getting was fantastic, and we were blitzing our way through the schedule with no major problems at all. After a long days shoot, we faced a few hours break and then a four hour night shoot too. It was a brutal schedule to have, but everyone faced it with open arms and embraced the sheer fun of filmmaking.
I find that often if the mood is getting down on a film set, you sometimes have to pinch yourself and merely look close by at what’s around you. You are surrounded by enthusiastic people, and you are making a film - I love realising that. We are making a film. It’s what a lot of people dream of, so never forget that you are living a dream that many of us have had since childhood. After our first day shoot and our night shoot, it was time to bunk down for the night. Here we were, having only really known each other for one day, sleeping together in a cabin in the middle of nowhere at 3am in the morning. That’s filmmaking, and that’s what makes it so unique.
The next day went smoothly too, but before the night shoot came, we received the bad news. Our main actor, Guy, came over to talk to myself and Jo, my assistant director. His Mother (who the location belonged to, and whom had so generously shown us all around and taken us under her wing) had suddenly been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was the most terrible of news for Guy, and an awful blow for the whole team. In that moment – the strength of the people that surround you is shown for the first time. What Guy needed was space and time – none of which are ever easy to get on a film set, but it was imperative that it happened. I’m so proud of my team for staying strong to help Guy stay strong in that situation and immediately brainstorming a solution to keep the film rolling and yet stay supportive. The next day went well too, and to everyone’s surprise, not only had we made a film that we’re all very proud of – but we’d finished the whole schedule a day early. I’ve never had such a fantastic experience before than making this film. We aptly had named ourselves Team Rosemary, and it’s a name that still sticks to this day.
After filming was over, and we’d all returned home – you feel a depression wash over you. The experience that seemed so stressful and hard at the time suddenly feels like a gaping hole that you desperately miss. You miss the people, most of all. And so – even through the post production process – we all stayed very close. We frequently meet even to this day, not just for filmmaking, but for social events. We are no longer strangers. We are no longer colleagues. We are friends. That’s what making a film does – it gives you an environment to get to know each other very intimately, very quickly – think of it as a crash course in friendship – and that’s what makes your bond so strong coming out of it.
So here’s to you Team Rosemary: Amy, Bill, Carmen, Charlotte, Guido, Guy, Hannah, Hannah, Henri, Jamie, Jamie, Jo, Joe, Mike, Nigel, Nina, Sara and Tanya – I can safely say that I could not have made this film without you, and I can’t wait until our next one. I hope your experience was as good as mine.
Rest in peace, Mrs Barnes.
Written by Dan Webb – Director of Rite of Rosemary
Watch the official trailer: