Directing my short film with Commonwealth Writers was an awesome experience filled with learning, support and growth. Just a little background about myself, I have made a few short films before that were all no-budget projects. They all had a total of three people involved in the film or less, with one or two actors and myself handling all the production. The short films I made ranged in duration from two – six minutes. The projects worked and I made some short films that I love, but I lacked the confidence and planning skills to make anything that required more actors or lasted longer in duration.
Working with the guys at Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions was a great experience. The script I wrote required more people than I’ve ever worked with as a director. There were about twenty people including extras, with the film needing to be shot in two days. We decided to shoot the film out of sequence, which was a first for me, but I was allowed to do this because I had a completed script to work from. This meant we shot scenes that appeared towards the end of the film before scenes that happened before it. The benefit of this was that scenes which required only the main actress alone, or with only one additional actress, could all be shot in one block of time. This was in stark contrast with my past films where I had an idea and outline and then discovered the film as I shot it on the day.
On the first day of shooting I there were only a few of us, which is what I’m accustomed to and everything went smoothly. The next day all the extras and co-stars came. We hired a women’s netball team and a young men’s group to act as extras by donating to their organisations. As they shuffled off the bus and walked along the driveway to the house where we were shooting, I started to feel anxious. Where should I start? What shots do I need for each scene? Which extras should be in which scenes? Where should everyone stand in all the scenes? What actions should I have the extras doing? These were some of the questions threatening to overwhelm me.
I don’t know if Keil from BSAG saw my panic, but he offered a suggestion that was just the nudge I needed to get going. “Maybe we can start from the first missing scene and get a wide shot of the side of the house from the driveway?” he said. And with that we were off, getting me to take that first step was crucial in getting me out of that head-space of self-doubt and uncertainty. The rest of the shoot went off without a hitch. I appreciated all the great suggestions from the crew. I discovered that directing a lot of extras wasn’t as daunting as I imagined. I loved directing. I loved being able to shoot my film.
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Malani is a filmmaker dedicated to providing professional video productions for the Kingdom of Tonga. He has a passion for making narrative cultural films and documentaries which spotlight the Tongan community. He is the owner of Pinkgator Productions.