When it all goes wrong
The classroom can only teach you so much. Real life throws too many curve balls for any textbook, teacher or school to cover everything, and filmmaking is no exception. For the first time, we didn’t “make our day” as they say in the biz, meaning the sun went down and our time was up before we were able to complete all our necessary shots. But oh what valuable lessons we all learned.
Stating on time is a no-brainer for keeping on schedule, so when cameras don’t roll until past 9:00am with a 6:30am start, you’re destined for trouble. Cutting corners therefore became the theme of the day since playing the waiting game was more like a sport. That said, our writer/director for the day had well drawn storyboards for most of his scenes, and a shooting schedule with far more detail than anyone else to date. The budget was also incredibly thorough, listing things as small as a single Coke that would be opened during a scene. Go figure we managed to give him a team couldn’t work together for the life of them.
A well-known and professional actor from around here was recruited to play the antagonist role of the abusive uncle in the film. The first scene we shot with him was also the climax of the film, and I insisted we do it justice despite our tight schedule. Everything went fine and we were all quite satisfied with the result, but then us Canadians had to leave to deal with some immigration issues (our visas had expired and we needed to renew before the weekend). I’m amazed at the hoops we have to jump to stay in this country, but I digress.
Raymond stayed behind to supervise and help with the technical issues, but behind the scenes tempers were mounting and everyone was fighting to assert themselves. The owner of house was also putting increasing pressure for things to wrap up as everything was taking longer than expected. Food or drinks weren’t available for some reason and expenses were mysteriously being uncounted for. On top of it all, our main actor was becoming furious at the impasse which was amplified by about a million because his wife was in labour giving birth to their first child. I got back to set seeing the turmoil and was questioning whether I should have even renewed that visa at all.
Without knowing the details of any of the drama, the director pleaded I take some control and help him wrap things up. As I set up the next shot, our actor tripped into an open sewer which was enough to push him over the top and send him storming off set. People were yelling in Kirundi at each other pleading (possibly demanding) he stay, which he was having none of. I pulled him aside to talk, told him he was free to leave, but that we had a nice little film so far and that these were students learning for the first time, some of which had never held a camera until the week before. I shamelessly asked him to remember when he was starting out and to give them one last shot before leaving. Thankfully I didn’t know about his pending child, or I might have just sympathized with him and let him leave. He stayed, we got something filmed, and avoided people coming to blows. Watch it turn out to be probably be our best film - isn’t that the way it usually goes?