Ex Animo

I started the Twitter feed for this movie the day Pedro and I shook hands over hamburgers and vowed to make a movie. I registered the account that evening and dutifully began memorializing the process of making “Clocking The T” with this tweet:

    CTT First Tweet 600px
So, why this blog?

I’ve read my share of indie feature and short film Twitter feeds and blogs, and I gotta tell you, most of them are full of shit. Lots of posts about how great things are and how fabulous people are and how much fun and aren’t unicorns great and… well, that last one is from my daughter. (What is it with twelve year old girls and unicorns? The only reason you’d have a horn on your head is to stab people. That’s not cute. Now get daddy another beer, okay honey?). All these posts about the making of their films seem insincere and afraid of their periphery in The Business. As if admitting that making any movie wasn’t a gargantuan, bloody, painful process full of work, work, and more work in between a rising ocean of politics, setbacks, and betrayals would forever doom them to the slushpile of wannabe poseurs. That somehow having these scars doesn’t make them professional. Of all the BTS sites we visited only one seemed on the up and up and was actually illuminating. For all the interesting how to's and golden tips coming out of the blogging and podcast culture, there seemed a drought for the honest acknowledgement of the emotional toll required to Make A Movie. Looking back, when the movie was numbers in a Google Docs top sheet, I had no idea how much the Real Costs were truly going to be.

But at the time I thought
why not tell the truth? Make the CTT Twitter account a real Making Of. So I did. And somewhere along the line they started allowing photos in tweets and that was great. And when I finally got the movie’s website up and running during a particularly painful downtime last year (Fuck Avid), I started posting blogs. Those entries elucidated the endless setbacks and heartaches that are baked into the cellular structure of making a micro-budget feature. Maybe it’s different on a million dollar show. Or a two hundred million dollar show. But on a $42,000 movie this is what it was like.

"If I could stick my pen in my heart Spill it all over the stage Would it satisfy you? Would it slide on by you? Would you think the boy is strange?"
~ “It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It) ” by Keith Richards, Mick Jagger

But that’s how it started, with the Twitter account. Nobody knew it existed until
one of the actors saw me posting on the set on day five. Next thing I knew they were all slightly demoralized from what they’d read. It wasn’t until post-production that I finally took it offline so it wouldn’t cause me further problems during looping and pick ups. But I kept tweeting dutifully in private.

As of today, the
CTT Twitter feed is back online. It’s an interesting read, even to myself. We’ve been through a couple of ups and a lot of downs and more than our fair share of downs that looked like ups. There was this fantastic Robert Zemeckis quote in a Deadline Hollywood interview that sums it up better than me:

“Being on the set, that is endless compromise. You are just always compromising your vision because that’s just the way it works. You wake up in the morning. You get in the car, and you’ve got this vision for the scene, and you got your shot list. But then you get on the set, and it’s 11 o’clock and you haven’t got your first setup yet. By five o’clock, you’re just trying to get what you can so that you can cut the scene together. And yet, ultimately it always works. Once somebody asked me what it is really like, to shoot a movie. It’s just a process of compromising artistic vision, all day long. I’m not complaining about it. It just is what it is. ”

That is the truest thing
I’ve ever read about making movies. I wish that filmmakers had been that honest in interviews when I was a teenager, devouring every cinema related article I could get my hands on at the library. It would’ve have saved me a metric ton of misery and pretension that reading that damned “Hitchcock/Truffaut” book caused. But thanks to podcasts and their ability to *spend the time* with these filmmakers you realize *they struggled too. * When you read Edward Burns’ book you don’t feel so alone. The ones before you bled as well. And survived.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. ” ~ Ernest Hemingway, “A Farewell To Arms”

And, I guess, that’s why these posts seem so brutal and unsentimental. These things happened. It just was what it was. Of course, when I started, I had no idea the lows we’d endure or the disappointments or the humiliations and betrayals ahead. But there’s only so much I can tell you. Because, sadly,
you can’t tell The Truth. You can approach it. You can stand right next to it. But that’s as close as you can get. Because Saying The Thing will get you sued. And so the people who fuck you over, the people who behave poorly on set, the people who literally jeopardize your entire investment, get a pass. Because calling them out on their bullshit is tantamount to giving them the keys to your house. In the end we had to go through the Twitter feed and bleach a few tweets (not that many) that named people no longer associated with the show. So down the Memory Hole they went. Honestly, I probably don’t come off very well myself. I could see the stream being used to prove my incompetence in the Dayton, Tennessee Courthouse. And maybe I am a boob. I was certainly far more naive than I credited myself at the beginning. But maybe that innocence made a lot of obstacles we faced possible to accomplish too.

The Fear Of Failure is
paralyzing. I know so many people who can’t finish a draft. Or cast an actor. Or pull the trigger on production, even on a short film. Not because they’re incapable, but because the shame of failing is bigger than their desire to win. Bigger than their ambitions. Bigger than their dreams. And it’s easy to not push your chips All In when everybody else around you seems to have tucked their own high dollar hopes in their back pocket. So they settle down with the rest, just to watch the action. There’s a lot of communal acceptance around the smoldering campfire of surrendered aspirations. There’s also a lot of hostility from the relinquished toward anyone actually trying.

I don’t think it’s embarrassing to admit how difficult it is. What’s important isn’t the setback but the perseverance. I know that many who will read this blog will only shake their head and dismiss me as
unprofessional. It won’t make sense to you. But then, you don’t have The Scars. Wounds that were cauterized by experience. Stigmata that reminds you that you succeeded, because dead people don’t heal. That the Sisyphean task we put before us was accomplished. That making a movie is so much more than technical proficiency. And though the emotional and spiritual toll required will stagger you, with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, you won’t fall. Only then will you know.

That it is the scars that make you professional.


© Michael Thibault 2017, All Rights Reserved. May Not Be Printed, Published, Posted, Transferred, Or Duplicated Without Permission.