Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes

27 Feb

Kevin Garcia SA21 – U

Films. You wonder just how complex the whole process is. It reminds me of the inside of a clock; each part of it has to be working right, or the whole mechanism becomes ineffective. I got a text one day from a good friend of mine, saying he needed a “production assistant” to help out for a video shoot he was doing for a contest, specifically someone to handle sound. I agreed, despite not having much interest and totally zero experience in filmmaking. However, my friend reassured me that someone would teach me what I had to do on the day of the shoot. The shooting day I attended was one of several, and my friend said it was going to last from 4:00 p.m. until around 3:00 a.m. This was something very new to me, and I was pretty excited to be able to observe and experience some of the actual processes involved in filmmaking.

On the day of the shoot, I was taught how to handle the microphone and the sound recorder, which was a struggle to get right at first. I constantly had to keep an eye on the quality of the sound input, the angle of the microphone, which audio file was for what scene, and more. What especially tired me out was all the squatting and awkward angles I had to stay still in while I was holding the microphone up, taking care not to be seen on the camera.

Being a guy behind the scenes, I took note of how peculiar it was to watch simultaneously as two “scenes” were being played out to me. One was the actual actors themselves. The other was the bustling going on behind the scenes: the cameras, all the lights, and the other crewmembers. The franticness of it all was quite new to me, and it seemed pretty exciting. With my idle time, I watched as the actors rehearsed their lines, the cameraman positioning himself, and the director yelling out instructions. Most of the crewmembers were smokers, so it smelled like cigarettes half the time, and I remember how sore my palms and body were starting to feel as the day drew to a close.

The crew and actors were all nice and friendly to me. No one seemed to mind the quiet new guy struggling with the sound recorder, and I was able to talk and get to know most of them. Although, I couldn’t help but feel out of place a number of times. They all seemed to know each other, and a lot of times I felt left out. I was tired most of the time, but in a way the work was fulfilling. After the shoot, my friend thanked me, saying I really did help out and that the recordings were okay. He says shoots really are as hectic as what I witnessed. After sharing with him all my observations, the feverish activity and all, his remarks reflected mostly his being used to that kind of scenario, and how normal it is to him already, after having gone through so many shoots already.


            Experience, for me, has always brought about more learning than other things. Compared to just hearing a story, when you’re actually in that story, the events in that story end up eliciting certain feelings. And having feelings from within a certain context do help people understand things better. When people watch movies, they don’t normally think about how it’s made, and the amount of work people go through just to produce a single film. The shoot I attended was only for an amateur film, yet so much work was already involved. Even a few seconds worth of footage can take a lot of time to get right. What more for Hollywood films? And, I’m sure a significant amount of effort was put into even those really bad Hollywood films. Participating in that shoot made me realize and actually think about what goes on behind the scenes of a movie.

Besides the experience itself, having my friend, a seasoned filmmaker, around was useful as well. He guided me with my job, explained things to me, answered my questions, and was a valuable source of information. Also, I felt secure having a friend to turn to if I had problems. Having that kind of comfort in an alien situation eased me, and I guess that helped me adapt to my role there and to the people quicker.

If I had interviewed my friend instead of actually going to the shoot, yes, I’d get some information, but I would have really lacked exposure. With exposure to the shoot comes feeling how it is to be in a shoot, interaction, and being able to observe a shoot in its natural form. You can imagine a shoot by asking someone about it, but of course, nothing beats being there watching and participating in it. You can imagine how it is to have to squat for five straight minutes if somebody tells you about it, but you won’t be able to feel how it’s like. And if you can go through the effort people who handle sound have to experience, that gives way to more empathy, a quality important for better understanding people or a situation.

Yet, you won’t always get to participate in certain experiences. In certain cases, you might not have any other choice except for an interview. If you want information about a natural disaster, you can’t simply “join in” again or simulate it totally. Similarly, significant past events that might not again happen in the future, like being a soldier during World War II or being part of the hippie movement in the 60’s, would leave no other choice than an interview in order to acquire firsthand information. Certain people who are only allowed to perform certain practices, like priests, require interviews for more information, since a normal person can’t exactly give a mass whenever he or she wants to.

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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


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