Three Thoughts: Missed Deadline Lessons


Nine years after winning Best Acting and Best Directing awards for our 48 Hour Film entry Doing TimeI was itching for another creative short film challenge. And I wanted to leverage burgeoning relationships in my newish town of Half Moon Bay, 30 miles south of San Franciso. So I collaborated with local resident and long-time corporate producer / director Chris Ekeberg to make movie magic. And we did ... but inexcusably missed the submission deadline by an hour. In the spirit of applying pre-production, production, and post-production lessons learned to future projects, here are three thoughts on why:

Number One -- Communication on Roles - In a stressful, time compressed weekend, the cast and crew need to know who's steering the ship. Despite knowing better, I entered the weekend assuming Chris and I would co-direct and that we'd actually maximize efficiency in production by having both of us calling the shots. 

Of course, the opposite happened. There was lack of clarity on our structure amongst the crew, and the cast either received direction in different ways or even worse, conflicting direction, from the two of us. In sum, had either Chris or I owned the production, we would've captured more shots and with less stress. 

Number Two -- Story. Story. STORY. The script must tell a compelling, engaging story with a strong protagonist, believable obstacle, and satisfying conclusion. Given that the running time of the finished film is capped at 7 minutes and that we have very specific 48 Hour Film requirements - assigned genre along with required line of dialogue, prop, and character - the script must be shaped delicately but quickly.

And while we created an excellent premise with House of Cups, the script needed another pass. Another round of review and refinement. Working backyard on the timeline, that means this review needed to happen between midnight and 3am early Saturday so that another script polish could happen before our 6:30am table read. 

Number Three -- The post-production process needs pre-production testing and workflow confirmation. Chris and I spent hours in pre-pro getting possible shooting locations on board, casting a talented group of actors, and lining up our production crew. But we didn't incorporate the post process into our pre-pro checks. And this was a killer. 

We had two Adobe Premiere CC editors working on the project along with an Adobe After Effects artist. All of whom are very talented and professional. But these three had never worked together before. Nor had we identified a clean workflow between them.

So we were hit with several technical issues. We had communication breakdowns. As producer and therefore post-production supervisor, I didn't provide clear enough direction to our post-team. As the afternoon wore on and as it become horrifically clear we may not make the deadline, I felt physically sick.

I'm tentatively scheduled to co-produce and direct another 48 Hour Film in my hometown of Atlanta later in June. If I can set aside my despair, disgust, and dismay from this past weekend, I'll dive back into the chaotic deep end. And this time, I'll have a better sense of the pool's shape and size.