A Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie is a new weekly written series by Erin Bagwell. To view the whole series click here.
Part Eleven: The City
Once interviews were completed I sent Mary Perrino, our Director of Photography all around New York City with her AC, Francesca Kustra. I wanted to get a full picture of where these women were living and running their businesses so I sent these gals all around the island: Upper West side to get picturesque shots of Central Park, Times Square to get the obnoxious midtown bustle, the Lower West Side to get effortlessly cool cobblestone streets- I wanted the film to feel like it was embedded in the history and hustle of the city. For fear of sounding like cliche film student, I won’t say I wanted New York to be another character in the film, but I just did so there you go.
In addition to filming the intimate and grungy moments of Manhattan, Mary and I also trailed a few of the entrepreneurs. This was something I probably should have checked with each entrepreneur about before investing in their initial interview- how much access would they give us? Would we be able to film at their home? Their office? With their family? How often could we film them? Where there any big events or happenings that we should absolutely be at?
My OG Executive Producers Linda and Bous would tell me all the time it usually takes three years to shoot a documentary. We shot vertie for Dream, Girl on and off for about eight months. However you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs were open to doing a glossy interview on set, but how many of them didn’t want us to film them in their more private moments.
I totally get it, we all have our boundaries- but it’s my job to make sure I know that information before I make the investment. Make sure you are open with your talent, or better yet- prefilm them. How much access will they give you before being on set? Will they let you hang out in the corner of their office/living room and film them? Do they (and their employees/families) feel comfortable with you creeping on their life? The great thing about this is the smaller the crew, the better. Most of the time it would just be me and Mary filming these moments.
In thinking about the power of verite, I also wish we would have cast a smaller net of entrepreneurs to film. In the beginning, my intention for Dream, Girl was to have the film be a collective of information and education about the entrepreneur experience. I love the film Helvetica, which is a documentary about the font Helvetica (I’m sorry, I’m a graphic design nerd)- they filmed a bunch of different subjects and wove together the film based on the topic.
Miss Representation is a similar structure, and while researching how many people to include in Dream, Girl I would watch these films and literally write down the time code for how long everyone was on screen. I had no idea how many people to interview or how long to film them, so I mirrored films I admired to see how I should to structure Dream, Girl. This all worked out fine until I threw out my first rough cut and started over, but we aren’t there yet!
We need to get into the editing room and by editing room I mean bedroom, because that’s where I worked for the first six months of making this movie.
Next time on a Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie. Part 12: The Office, learn how I upgraded my work space and dove into the editing process.
Join us next Wednesday to hear the next part of Erin’s story. Or sign up for Feminist Wednesday’s newsletter to get it right to your inbox.