MARK RASO’S MICROBUDGET PRODUCTION DIARY: WRAP REFLECTIONS
Director Mark Raso, whose short film Under won a Student Academy Award earlier this year, is writing a series of blog entries about making his feature debut with a microbudget movie shot in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is his second dispatch.
After starting principal photography on July 18th, I sat down every Sunday — our one off day per week — with the intention of writing an entry for this blog. It was not my plan to agree to do this and come up lame, but it seemed that despite my best efforts I just couldn’t finish one. Perhaps I was too involved in the production to immediately reflect on it. I know one Sunday I felt what was happening was too personal to share, and the overall feeling was that any minute not spent focused on making the best possible film was doing a disservice to all the people working around the clock to make it happen. Whatever the case, I felt that it was not what I should have been doing at that time.
However, now that we have wrapped, I am more than happy to share my reflections on the experience. The satisfaction of completing my first feature film is wonderful. This has been a dream I’ve had for most of my life and I still can’t believe I did it. On the other hand, there is an incredible sadness of it being over. I will miss not spending every day with a special group of people who became my family for one month. This sudden disconnect is much harder than I ever thought it would be. The only thing that makes it easier is the knowledge that we will have this film forever. It is ours and every one of us knows that it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of all the filmmakers involved.
Looking back to the beginning of it all, I can only smile at how naïve we were to come to a foreign country without any contacts and with very little money and believe we could pull this off. Our original mantra was “One good thing a day,” be it a location, a crew member, or cast member. We carried that attitude into the film and “One good thing a day” quickly became “One day at a time.” We all worked to get through the day as smooth as possible, and to be honest I found the shooting days wonderful and well run. Things did get hairy at times, a few times we would finalize a location hours before arriving at it. Oftentimes our crewmembers would have to double as background performers. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t always smooth, but we did it. In 25 shooting days, we shot 110 pages in over 50 locations and had 25 speaking roles. On top of all this, I believe we accomplished our original goal of not having the film’s budget be an excuse for any of the film’s shortcomings. We did it with hard work, determination and will. And, most importantly, we did it with a smile.
Over the coming months, we will finish the film and then it will be sent out into the world. I’m sure that some people will enjoy it while others may not. It will be rejected by some festivals, and accepted by others. Ultimately, others will deem it a “success” or a “failure” and whatever conclusions they reach are something that we are going to have to live with. That is the life of a filmmaker and I understand and accept that. I make films for an audience, so I hope audiences will enjoy this film. But no matter how it is deemed by others, right now I know that this film is already a huge success. Everyone on this film worked as hard as they possibly could to deliver the best result. As a director, there is nothing more I could ask for. I have never been prouder of a group of people pulling together to reach a common goal than I was on this film. These last three months in Copenhagen is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
In addition to the amazing time, it was also an incredible learning experience. Some of the learning is of course at the expense of making mistakes, but I believe I can live with all of the mistakes I made on this film. There were many limitations that I wished weren’t there, but in the end these limitations only made it more challenging. And of course with challenges, you grow. I believe I am a better filmmaker today than I was before this started and really that is all I can hope for.
As I prepare to leave Copenhagen and return to New York, we will begin the editing process very soon. I will miss the actors dearly, although it will help to be staring at them on my monitor every day in the edit room. I will miss the crew but I look forward to the day we can work together again. I will miss my bike and my “clearing my head” rides to and from set every day, but that’s something that will stay in Copenhagen as I don’t dare try to replicate those rides in the streets of Manhattan. While there is so much I will miss and so much instant nostalgia, all of this also comes with a wave of excitement about the future. This experience reiterated that a film set is where I’m at home; it is where I want to be. Making a film is a privilege and I hope there are many more films in my future. I look forward to them with eagerness and an appreciation for what it takes and, for the first time in my life, being able to face the next challenge while calling myself a feature film director.