Author: Shawn Ewert, Digital Requirements Architect
I’ve always been the guy who knew how to get the right answers from people, even when everyone couldn’t really agree on the questions. Using that, I found a way to parlay my attention to the most granular detail into a career, and began my life as a Requirements Architect. My brain constantly picks things apart, even when I don’t want it to. I tend to analyze – truthfully, overanalyze – things until I have figured out each of the possible paths and their outcomes ad nauseam. I found out that it’s also a pretty wonderful skill set to have honed when you are working on film production.
I’ve always loved to tell stories. I started writing short stories and poetry in high school. The older I got, the more I thought putting these ideas in front of people – to get them to see the stuff inside my head – would be the ultimate goal. I started making films back in 2009. They may not have been great, but people seemed to like them. Then I wrote and directed my first feature film, “Sacrament,” in 2013, and I realized just how much they coincide with what I do every day for work.
Overall, a film is like any other project. It has all of its moving parts that have to be managed. From beginning to end, the director and producer have to treat the film like any other project. Projects have due dates, and so do films. Often, they are just as unrealistic and inflexible.
The script is essentially your set of requirements for the film. While they can change as the project moves from beginning to end, they are the road map to get the production from the opening credits to the copyright notice on the last frame. The script, like requirements, is rarely completed in a linear fashion. There are pieces of a project that can be worked on without all members of the team present, and films are no different. When you only need a few actors for a pickup shot, you may not include the whole team. That being said, to make sure things are running smoothly later down the line, you make sure everyone on the team knows what’s going on.
Each scene can be treated as an individual task on the project. Scenes, like tasks, have intricacies and details to which attention must be paid. The dialogue in one scene sets up the action and reaction in the next. If one piece of a task is incomplete, it can have disastrous effects on the scenes that follow. If the wardrobe is not consistent from scene to scene, the film loses its continuity and structure. Just as a project/product that does not have a consistent framework from feature to feature loses its continuity and structure.
One of the most tedious and time-consuming parts of a project can be the quality control (QC). It is the same for film. The editing process is a very long and arduous one. As the writer and director on a film, I can say that at least twice as many hours went into the editing of my film as went into the filming on set. The color correction alone took well over a month to get everything just right. Time-intensive though it might be, it is the thing that saves many projects from crashing and burning.
Our film came in at about two and a half hours in its original form. That includes the removal of scenes we cut for time, completely unfilmed scenes, and the bits and pieces that landed on the proverbial cutting room floor. We knew that a two-and-a-half-hour indie film was never going to see the light of a distributor’s office, and we knew we needed to cut more. A clever editor – or QC tester – can bring out the problems on a project and help get things back on the right track. Ultimately, we came in at just over an hour-and-a-half running time.
Finally, it gets down to the launch date, or premiere. When we started filming, we knew we wanted to release the film over the Halloween weekend. We cut and edited, and recut and reedited night and day to get it ready for the big screen. The theater was ready, the cast and crew were ready, but the film was nowhere near ready. Just like any project, there are many moving pieces that have to fall into place just right to make sure you launch on time. After months of preparation, we blew our original date and had to go with one of our backup dates. Thankfully, we were not only the production team but also the client. We were able to retool our final deliverables and release a product we were ultimately happier with.
While many of us fit into the category of business personnel rather than creative, a reasonable amount of the same behaviors and thought processes transfer back and forth across the treacherous bridge between the two. Quite often, “business” types and “creative” types live squarely in the same person. Acknowledging the creative input and attention to detail from all members of the team only stands to benefit any project, whether it be film, a website, a mobile app or a seven-course meal.