“How the hell did I get here?”
That sentence comes into every film director’s mind when they are in the middle of a shoot. For my last project, it had a much more literal sense. Nuzzled in a pocket of desert that somehow bordered California, Arizona, and freakin’ Mexico, we shot the film Chasing The Star.
Chasing The Star is the second feature film I’ve directed in my relatively young career. A group of friends and myself came together after we graduated from college and made my first film, Some Are Born. That was an experience unlike any other, and it gave me the confidence to dive into another project. I thought I was more than qualified. I mean, I made one film already. So the second one should be a breeze, right? Sure, dude.
Screen grab from Some Are Born:
I realized the difference in scope the second I shook the producers hand and agreed to jump on board. For one, I was actually hired to direct a film. First time for me, so I was pretty pumped. But that led to having to please a ton of people. Not just cast and crew, but distribution companies and dozens of financiers. If I mess this up, Best Buy is going to be super pissed off at me.
We had some money to work with. Not a ton by Hollywood standards, but way more than I’d ever had before. I am extremely grateful that we had financiers and producers to get the funds together, but Biggie was right; mo’ money, mo’ problems. More money means more people, more gear, and more pressure. Sometimes it is easier to make a ten thousand dollar film than a ten million dollar one.
Oh, and a major difference between shooting the two films goes back to what I said before; we shot in the desert. Like, the real desert. I knew it would be a challenge, but I didn’t realize how large that challenge would end up being. Stupid stuff continued to cost us time every day. Base camp was always too far away, which led to an annoying transport of talent and crew. We were constantly asking ourselves “was this the place we checked out during the location scout, or was it over there past that big rock?” Oh, and the desert has scorpions. A bunch of them. Thank God for Matt Rumer’s steel-toed boots.
Screen grab from Chasing The Star:
But, the number one difference between my first two films is the most obvious; subject matter. Chasing The Star is my first period piece, which is a far cry from a drug-dealing, baseball bat-murdering thriller that somehow became my directorial debut. My team and I had to look over every detail to make sure the scene lined up with the period (gathering the props ended up being a tad easier than I expected, thanks to our proximity to Los Angeles). Much more difficult than asking cast members to raid their own closets, clearly.
BTS from the Desert:
But there was one thing I will always remember shooting Chasing The Star; the indescribable high when everything worked perfectly. The actors were perfectly suited for their roles, and the crew brought 110% effort every day. Whenever there was some sort of difficulty, the team was confident and composed enough to attack the problem quickly and efficiently.
Written by: Bret Miller, Director