Lesson # 1: If it can go wrong, it will!

Lesson # 1: If it can go wrong, it will!

Nowhere does Murphy’s Law apply more aptly than in film.

I mean, I’ve had my fair share of Murphy’s Law situations – like having a porter run off with our bags during a trek in the Himalayas, finding out that my ATM and credit cards don’t work in Cambodia, hitchhiking out of the Sahara because a tour guide went psychotic – but really, that’s all a breeze compared to filmmaking.

All you filmmakers, I’m sure, are nodding vigorously and thinking about the time when your camera inexplicably stopped working before that dramatic scene. Or the time you actually recorded that dramatic scene, but later realized that the microphone had been off.

And, for all you non-filmmakers: do you have any idea how many objects can malfunction, even in the simplest camera-audio setup? Off the top of my head: camera, tapes, wires, cables, audio monitors, video monitors, batteries, boom poles, wireless mics, shotgun mics, wireless receivers, pre-amps, lighting kits, tripod, shoulder mount, battery chargers… the list goes on. And those are the ones that are easy to remember.

Then there are the small, annoying pieces that will knock your setup to the ground if you forget them: like the tripod head or the dime-sized windscreen for the lavalier microphone. These annoying little things will screw you: they’re outrageously expensive, easy to lose, and cannot be found at your local Radio Shack.

And the technical issues only scratch the surface of Murphy’s Law: things start to go wrong in pre-production (your oh-so-fragile hard drive crashes just as you’re burning a DVD for a grant that must be postmarked in an hour, the printer’s out of ink, you’ve used your last envelope, the car’s out of gas, no time to fill up, you run like hell halfway across town through a snowstorm to get to the only post office that doesn’t close at five), continue through production (try getting through Israeli airport security with black suitcases full of suspicious-looking wires and electronics), and just when you think it’s all over – you’ve shot the movie, what else could go wrong? – you find yourself negotiating the confusing world of post-production, which, as far as I can tell, is an unmarked minefield: one wrong step, and your film’s kaput.

Making a movie takes the collective effort of at least a hundred people: which is why, on a major motion pictures, the credits roll and roll and roll… but on low-budget small-crew independent films like Unorthodox, each person takes on the equivalent of fifty jobs. It’s enough to drive anyone insane.

So, all you aspiring independent filmmakers out there: be prepared to fight Murphy’s Law. Sure, it’s a hefty price to pay: but no one ever said creative control came cheap.

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2 Responses to Lesson # 1: If it can go wrong, it will!

  1. Brian Retchless says:

    Well said! I can’t say that I’ve ever had a porter steal my bags, but I’ve had my fair share of screw-ups on set. The real trick to filmmaking is being able to keep a cool head when everything around you is going to crap.

  2. I am happily living in south-western Germany, while my parents – esp. my grandfather – have british forefathers. So I consider myself to be German with a little bit Anglo-Saxon impact. This interesting words about Germany seem to be very pessimistic for my ears; I’d think, American people could learn a lot from the way german politics is handling its crisis in the moment.

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