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Local Film Production Highlights The Unpredictability Of Small-Budget Moviemaking

July 10, 2011

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As a veteran movie-maker and professor at Baylor, Chris Hansen knows well that no matter how thoroughly you plan to make your film, there's always going to be unexpected problems that arise. That goes double for a movie with a small budget working with a crew comprised predominantly of students. But even to his seasoned eye, the production of his current project, "Where We Started," was crazy. When it wasn't just plan bad luck, like a branch crashing through a member of the production team's windshield, it was the one rainstorm we've had in the past few months knocking out power. Sometimes it was a big obstacle, like a motel owner backing out of a signed agreement. Other times it was a smaller obstacle, but a difficult one nonetheless. Like wind. And lots of it.

It's a hazy Monday night in downtown Waco. The city has allowed them to block off an intersection to shoot in a vacant lot in the shadows of the ALICO building. They only have that night to shoot, so the clock is ticking.

The sun is starting to set on this particular evening, and Hansen has to get this shot before it slips beyond the horizon. That wouldn't be a problem if the wind wasn't howling or if they had another night. But the crew doesn't have those luxuries. They've tried several shots with different sound equipment, with no luck.

So the adaptable film crew comes up with the best solution they can. They pull their vehicles in a tight circle around the set. A quick test of the sound reveals good news. It's much better. In the meantime, the sun has not waited patiently for them to fix this. To a casual observer, the sun may seem to set lazily over the horizon, taking it's time as it heads west. To a filmmaker needing to get a shot, the sunset seems to be racing away from them. And just as they're about to get the shot they need, a train arrives. Luckily, the train passes in time for them to try one more shot, which they get. And even better, the cars surrounding the set are helping.

The unpredictability of weather makes it a fairly predictable issue. But there's always more. And as we'll hear tomorrow, this movie had more than its share, giving the student filmmakers a crash course in improvising that can't be taught in the classroom on the Baylor campus. Producer Brian Elliott stresses pre-production and flexibility to his students.

Tomorrow, we'll hear about a motel owner with dollar signs in his eyes, broken contracts, all-night shoots, and police lights, all battle scars that viewers of "Where We Started" won't see, but stories that are inseparable from the experience for the crew. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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