My opening line: “I don’t know what I’m doing, but that’s never stopped me before.” That’s what I said to a famous filmmaker I was meeting with to get some advice.
I’m making a feature film. No, I have never taken a film class. I’ve learned a little from making three documentaries, but this is a whole new thing. Oh, and we landed on Mars. That (landing on Mars) was a fully collaborative effort. So is film. So it doesn’t really matter that I don’t know what I’m doing. Others do, and I am a relentless picker of brains. (I can feel a zombie joke coming from some reader.)
I had a long conversation with a musician this morning, the musician I hope will score the film. He and I have the same vision: that the music will invite the audience into the cultural distinctions and beauty of Africa–the Congo in particular. After that conversation, I had another with a young man I wrote to when he was a missionary. He’s in Zambia now, his homeland, and we talked directly about filming there and what sorts of challenges we’d face. Last Saturday, I had a phone conversation with a Congolese man. He sang me the songs he had sung as a revolutionary, and I recorded them. He had already sent me the lyrics and the translation. They will be a part of the musical score.
The screenplay? Done. The way anything I write is done. Done until I look at it again. I had a wonderful writer read it over. He critiqued it to the bone, which was exactly what I wanted. I made drastic revisions and announced that it was probably five drafts away. Well, make that twenty. And everytime I pull it up on my computer, I’ll tweak it some more.
Then I’ll turn it over to someone else. This won’t be just mine. A director will frame it with a new vision which I hope enhances and magnifies mine. All of the other experts–sound techs and lighting people and whatever- you- call- them will make their contributions.
This is how I approach just about everything. I learn languages by leaping into jungles or adobe huts and making a fool of myself until someone teaches me how to say what I want to say. The trick is never fear looking foolish. The other trick is to love the adventure, and to simply chill when the many reminders slap you with the words, “You really don’t know what you’re doing, do you.”
The film is called Heart of Africa. Look for it in 2014. Or follow our progress online. I made a facebook page and a blog for it. I don’t know how to do either of those things well, either. But a couple of friends pitched in and helped.
Care to join me in a leap of faith?