I had a really cool experience this past July.
I got to direct a television pilot!
To be more specific, it was a web television pilot (meaning the intention is for it to go to web series). So it was really low-budget, with a small crew and minimal locations.
The project, called “It’s Complicated”, is a sitcom that has been at least five years in the making. Back in 2012, Emily and I were hired to write some episodes of the show, which was still in early stages of development. Within a year, she and I more or less took on all writing responsibilities (when it was originally intended for a team), and early last year we were made co-creators and producers of the project.
As I’m sure you can imagine, it was rather surreal to be standing there on Friday evening, July 14th – day one of the shoot – with everything organized and moving, talent and crew working together to make this idea come to life. Everyone was supportive, and despite being completely intimidated by the caliber of talent we had at our disposal, I was overwhelmed at how wonderfully the actors treated me. It was a truly humbling experience.
The funny thing about this is that I had no intention of being a director. I was more or less drafted into this position by default. Since Emily and I were essentially putting up our own money, organizing the production and bringing in talent we knew, it made the most sense for someone we trusted down here in Nashville to take the chair. In the end, Emily had to convince me to do it. She couldn’t direct because she was both acting in the show and handling production management duties (which meant SAG paperwork) which she loves to do. There really wasn’t anyone else who knew the material.
So I got the gig.
I’m not going to say that I flat-out didn’t want it. I was intrigued by the challenge. I’d done some assistant directing and had dipped my hands into nearly every pre-, on-set, and post-production job in existence. So I knew what to expect from each position. I’d also spent many hours working with my wife reading lines and helping her with her acting skills. So I had a general knowledge of how to work with actors.
Nonetheless, I put a lot of time in during pre-production, ensuring we had locations, that they were scheduled properly and that actors were used properly during those shoots. I wanted both talent and crew to know the moment they walked on set that I wasn’t a hobbyist – not only were Emily and I serious but we respected their time and their talents, not just the material.
Truthfully, I think that went a long way to making this work. Emily and I don’t half-ass anything. Even in instances where we don’t truly know a lot about what we are doing, we go full-tilt. We put every effort in to make it the best effort. At least then we know what is and isn’t working. And we can either change accordingly or take note of it for next time.
All that said, I was very nervous on Day 1. And I really don’t feel as though I was doing that good a job. By Day 2, I was a lot more confident. At the end of Day 3 (which was a long, full day of work) I wasn’t just confident but comfortable. I felt a lot more in the zone and capable. At the end of Day 4, I was genuinely surprised by the positive notes, gratitude, and general kudos I received from both talent and crew. Some even said they would not have thought that was my first time directing. That felt great, mind you, but I’m not letting that get to my head. If this is something I want to do more of, I have a lot to learn.
And I will. Because this is something I want to do more of! But if it never comes again, I’ll always feel blessed that I got to take on role, to face this new challenge, and to see what I could make of it. I’m not ignorant of the fact that I did as well as I did because of the people I had around me to help me do it. I’ll be forever grateful for that.
That’s not to say that the production was without its hiccups. On Day 1 we realized after spending time getting a bathroom full of shower steam that the camera wasn’t going to be able to film in it. We came up with an alternative (spraying water on the mirror to suggest condensation) but we lost a lot of time doing so. On Day 3 we tried to make sure all of our cats were in one room (as we were filming in our house). But when Addie (our daughter) came home from across the street (where she was being babysat) she nonchalantly opened the door to the room and the cats got out, slowing things down for a bit while we attempted to wrangle them up. On Day 4, an entire lighting rig almost fell over, which would have created a catastrophic domino effect across the whole set.
Okay, so it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
But it’s amazing how far Emily and I have come since 2009, when we first started doing filming tests on a little Canon FS220 Standard Def camcorder. Or when we filmed my first music video in Fall of that year. Somehow, barely eight years later, we have incredible people surrounding us who consider us worthy of their time and talents.
I can’t think of a more beautiful way to look at it.