There are those shows where no matter what you do, how much planning you have, and how simplistic the shots are, you’re still not getting enough. Not enough shots. Not enough coverage. Not enough takes. Not enough anything.
I’m currently working a production that really needed an extra 15 days added to the schedule to really capture everything the script implies. It’s an awful feeling knowing that you’re doing everything within your power to get the shots going and all elements in place and it’s STILL NOT ENOUGH.
And it takes everything within me to know that it’s not my fault.
OK, sometimes it is. Sometimes we get lost and don’t see the forest for the trees. We’ll get hung up on a close up and end up having to truncate another scene on the day as a result. There are times when I balk at setting up another shot from the one I’ve announced because it seems like it’s entirely too much work to grind the machine to a halt and set it on a new course in the name of just getting the damned shots done. But these things only happen in those rare moments of losing grip on reality.
The reality is that we simply don’t have enough time to justify the script. And it sucks.
The movie doesn’t suck. We’re getting real nice stuff and lots of coverage for the most part. But there’s been way too much compromising along the way simply because there’s just too much to convey in such a short period of time. When you have complicated blocking for a scene, it means a lot of angles to cover and sometimes you just don’t have that time anywhere in the schedule. You either simplify the blocking (which can water a scene down or make it less dynamic) or you cover less and play more on the master (which can work really well if your DP is good with wides and interesting masters, but that’s not always the case, especially in the indie world). And there are inserts and specials and oh god, inserts and specials always take way too fucking long (WHY?!)
It’s your job as AD to get the day done. But at what compromise? Does simply getting the day made mean it’s been a successful day? We can often forget that the other part of our job is to make sure the integrity of the film is there in what you’re stressing over shooting. What’s the point of shooting shitty shots just because they’re on the shotlist or just because they pick up an action? How important is making the day when the day consists of too many compromises for the director & DP to feel good about what they’ve shot?
At some point, you, as an AD, need to make a concession on your end to make what you’re pushing to shoot worth shooting. Sometimes, it’s ok to throw in an unplanned special or interesting angle if the director and DP are pushing enough as long as they understand the consequences that could happen later in the day.
There’s such a great feeling in seeing high fives and smiles at video village. It makes everything you’ve been losing sleep over worth it. Sometimes, getting the big shot that gives everyone a good feeling is better than getting a million shitty shots. It’s important to develop a filmmaker’s mindset and understand those moments when that big shot is worth the set up time. It makes all the difference between a mechanical AD and one that is truly a director at heart.