A-List Actor, Meet Unknown Director (Nobody Panic)
One of the things I love about Film Courage is actually, well... its name. Filmmaking is not always an undertaking free of dread. Murphy's Law seems to like hanging out around film sets. It can be terrifying. It can be difficult, exhausting, maybe even unrewarding. Sometimes, you need to be brave to make movies. All too fittingly, FC recently shared a post in which a young, relatively unknown director was honored with (or condemned to) the unthinkable: "Directing an A-List Actor When You're Not Even on a List." Needless to say, excitements -- and anxieties -- ensued, but courage saw her through to the end.
According to her post over at Film Courage, Hanneke Schutte was hardly expecting a Skype call from some producer guy named Kevin Spacey -- who told her she was the South African winner of the Jameson First Shot competition -- and that she would be directing Willem Dafoe a week later:
The preproduction week flew by and before I knew it it was the eve of our first shoot day. I felt sick to my stomach. How am I going to direct an A-list Hollywood actor? An actor who has worked with Oliver Stone, Lars von Trier, Wes Anderson, Sam Raimi, Anthony Minghella, Martin Scorsese to name a few.
I woke up at 3am and yes, I'm not ashamed to say, I contemplated taking my passport, tiptoeing through the lobby and catching the first flight back to South Africa. It was either that or fake a dramatic case of Sudden Blindness or Alien Hand Syndrome (yes there is such a thing). But in the end I did it. I got up, I brushed my teeth (I had a nightmare the previous night where I'd forgotten to brush my teeth and I had to direct Willem holding my hand over my mouth) and I went to set.
And, as it always is, as soon as I get to set a huge sense of calm came over me. I can do this. I just have to trust myself and hope nothing gets stuck in my teeth after lunch.
The result is a short film called Saving Norman, written and directed by Hanneke Schutte.
At the same time it can be very challenging -- with or without having to, you know, direct Willem Dafoe (surprise!) -- filmmaking is a job that has to get done. As it is with any job, even the high pressure ones: commitment, attitude, and work ethic are great cures for panic. I can't speak for air traffic controllers but I'd assume the same is true. And, as much as they are stars, folks like Spacey and Dafoe are stars because they're talented, hard-working professionals. So, no sweat, right? (I say that from safely over here.)
Speaking of jobs and jobs well done, I'm glad Hanneke didn't jump ship, as the piece is terrific. According to her bio on the original post, "Hanneke Schutte is an award winning writer/director living and working in Johannesburg, South Africa. She recently directed her first feature film called Jimmy in Pink, which will be released in South Africa in August." I also had no idea Willem Dafoe was so beastly at Ping-pong.
For those who are interested in hearing a bit more about the competition that grants such opportunities, here's some material straight from Jameson First Shot:
How would you guys react to such news -- cause for excitement, or just another day at the office? What's the highest-tension moment you've ever experienced in filmmaking? What are your techniques for reaching your 'zen on set'?