How to make a film has its structure. If you’ve attended any kind of film school, or watched a behind the scenes documentary, you will be aware of the pre-production, production, post production workflow. Starting the project with a script, finding the crew and cast, rehearsals, shoot days, schedules, rushes, edits etc.
But what happens when someone comes along and turns that whole process on its head?
Well this weeks featured female director, Julia Camara, found out exactly what happens, when making her experimental feature film In Transit.
The film’s website boasts that the film is “unlike anything else seen on screens big or small.” I asked Julia just what was it about In Transit that made it so unique?
“In Transit is unique for a few reasons; we shot most of the film in one day, with no script, only improvised dialogue and the two lead actors never met before filming. They had no idea what to expect the day of shooting. They both told me it was so odd to show up on set without a memorised script.” Julia said.
The film’s story follows two people, who have never met before, getting stuck in an airport overnight. But the film had no script. Only character breakdowns and a story outline. Significantly less than most feature films go into production with. “I had reached a point where I wasn’t very excited about any of my scripts or other projects. I knew I wanted to try something new”, Julia explained, “It’s an experimental film. They [the actors] only knew what their characters knew. So, when you see them react to something, it’s a real human reaction.”
The film only had 1 day of Principal shooting and 2 days of pick ups. With a fully improvised script and a skeleton crew it seems almost too much of a risk to even try. But getting a non-experimental feature green lit, especially for a woman in this industry, already comes with its own issues. The idea that women have to prove themselves worthy of a leading a feature is not uncommon and Camara had already experienced these kinds of reactions.
“I was…tired of hearing: ‘You’ve never directed a feature, nobody is going to greenlight a first-time director.’ So, I decided I was going to greenlight my own first feature and it was going to be something that I could make with my limited budget and something that excited me again about filmmaking,” she says, “I wanted to be completely present with actors in their performances and also shoot a feature film in one day. The answer was no script, improv only. It forced us all to be in the moment and not get distracted by the words on the page. The more I thought about it, the more it scared me and excited me.”
Of course turning the film-making process on its head didn’t come without challenges. How do you schedule for a film with no script? Plan for coverage? Begin to edit? But these are the kinds of challanges that it sounded like Camara was looking for to reignite her excitement for making films.
“We ended up breaking down by minutes of screen time and minutes of footage shot. Since I always envisioned breaking up the main portion of this film with flashbacks, we shot those first and that gave me time to make adjustments and test out this no script idea. I quickly learned we had to shoot multiple cameras at once if we were going to have any resemblance of continuity,” Julia said.
“Post-production definitely was a bigger undertaking than I expected,” she continued, “Editing was still quite an adventure and a lot of the story was shaped in the editing room. We had friends pitch in and donate their time. But post is another animal all together and as much as we were able to get services at discounted rates, it still took a while to complete it all.”
But whilst it may have been a challenging experience, as to be expected with not only the experimental format but the first time feature, the finished film has resulted in positive reactions. “We’ve been fortunate to have had two screenings in the LA area and each time people have walked out talking about traveling, about long-term relationships, about strange people they’ve met while traveling. It has sparked interesting debates and that’s all we hope for when we make a film.” Julia said.
This experience seems to have worked in reigniting Camara’s filmmaking spark as she is currently prepping a proof of concept short for her next potential feature film about a female office in the L.A.P.D. Plus she is writing something personal which she told me is both scaring and exciting her.
“The best way to learn filmmaking is by doing it. As much as I’m thankful for all the teachers I’ve had, being on a set is the best film school out there. So, find a tribe of link-minded people and start making films with people you trust. Nowadays your phone is almost all you need to make a film; go do it! Practice, experiment, make mistakes. It’s all part of the process.”
In Transit is available to rent or buy on Amazon video.
FOLLOW JULIA & IN TRANSIT
Twitter – @juliamca Facebook – In Transit