A few months ago, a group of us decided to produce a film called, “Two Tears in a Bucket.” The script was written by a new friend of mine, Dave Garcia. He asked me to take one of the roles and line produce the picture. I was not terribly busy, so I agreed.
I’ve never had anything whatsoever to do with film in my life before this. Nothing. Not one tiny thing.
It was going to be a lark. Sure, I’ve produced many theatrical stage productions before, but this was a new adventure and I’m always up for a new adventure.
We cast the film, worked out the logistics and began rehearsals, which I think are important. I did the acting coaching, some of the directing, location management, scheduling, budgeting, and many of the other activities a line producer does. The more I got into the process, the more enjoyable it became. I realized that I was actually pretty good at this. Although I had no formal training, after thirty years involved in theatre, I understood the concepts.
Our cinematographer/editor came along and we were ready.
In the middle of this process, we were fortunate to do a tiny little six minute film, “Out of the Frying Pan,” which, incidentally, can be seen on YouTube.
This film was a great training ground for us. We learned what we could do and what we couldn’t do given our limited resources, limited time, and limited experience. We were fortunate to have amazing people around us to get it done at all.
Once we were ready to begin filming, “Two Tears…” we felt as though we had a head start.
Tonight, a few of us gathered to see the first cut of our film. I was prepared for the worst. We’d done our best, but with few exceptions, we were neophytes.
What I saw tonight was a surprise and a pleasure. The first cut of our film was a testament to all the dedication, love, and effort everyone had pulled together for this project.
The film is now going to the composer for the score. Rick Dean Sumners has the responsibility to reflect the heartbeat of the piece. Yet, another joyful connection in my life because I’ve know Rick a long, long time and know that he’s going to do a superlative job.
We have a real film developing here, ladies and gentlemen; a film of which I am so deeply proud. I can hardly wait for you to see it.
This is what comes from true collaboration and focus. At this point in my life, I suppose an old dog can learn some new tricks.
The process, quite honestly, has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me, but worth every moment. I suppose that’s what comes from being willing to take the risk to make yet another dream come true.
Every time an audience member comes up to me after a show to say how much they enjoyed our production or that the drums were too loud, I always wonder if they truly know what a music director does?
There is no way to fully describe everything we do; however, in a more esoteric way, I can say that we breathe for the production. From the first rehearsal, we train the singers and instrumentalists how we want them to create the aural portraits of the characters and scenes they are portraying. Every attack is a message. Every dynamic change draws us into or sweeps us up to a landmark moment.
If we, as music directors are very good at what we do, we become invisible. It is only the character and feel of the moment that you see and hear. The stage director creates the pictures and overarching structure of the piece; however, once the piece is in production, the music director has to make sure it stays on track like a train conductor.
The smart music directors trust their performers to, first, bring their expertise in musical theatre performance to the table, adding their own takes on phrasing, dynamic and storytelling. Then, they ensure that the performers have a consistent and stable foundation on which to build their nightly creations. The more readily the music director does this, the more invisible he becomes, so that on opening night, he truly is simply a back and a stick to the audience.
I’ve been so very lucky in my years as a music director to be surrounded by outstanding musicians, both in the pit and on the stage. They are creative and joyful in the preparation for their performances. They are intelligent, sensitive and vibrant in their artistry.
I often describe myself more as a jeweler who simply sets the beautiful stones in a creative setting. The gems themselves are perfect the way they are. The jeweler just polishes them a little bit.
When one gazes upon an exquisite ring, one doesn’t think of the designer who made it; one simply sees the beauty of the piece. That’s as it should be. That will continue to be my goal for each production I music direct.
Yesterday, we shot the first four scenes of our movie, “Two Tears and a Bucket.” Good fortune rained down upon us, not unlike the rain today rained out our second day of shooting… torrentially.
Our locations were perfect. Our cast was on the money. Our Director of Photography was better than one could have ever imagined.
Everything fell into place and, quite honestly, I’m both surprised and satisfied with the consistency of our process. It seems, as my mother would always say, like a cat, I always land on my feet. Day after day, year after year, no matter what the challenges, things routinely work out well. I haven’t any explanation for this; however, I am grateful. Perhaps it is my faith. Perhaps I was born under a lucky star. Whatever the reason, I sit in humble gratitude for my good fortune and the beneficent stars that surround this project.
As artistic endeavors are undertaken, no matter who is involved, there seems to be an unheard engine of motivation and inspiration to action by those involved. Artists are compelled by our desire to communicate, no matter through which medium.
There are times when it seems as though we are screaming silently from within our cages, just in case one person might hear us. At other times, we are raising our jubilant tones in celebration and thanksgiving on the top of a mountain in the resounding dings and bongs of our joy.
Each of us, however, is calling to at least one other person to hear us.
It is in that primal urge toward being heard that we find our intentions manifested, I suppose.
And, so it was yesterday. Our scenes are now digitally embedded into a computer chip, and more importantly, our voices are preparing to be heard by others as we begin the editing and release process.
Release. A great word, really, for what happens to our picture when it is completed. A great word, too, for what happens to our message within the film.
Our life scenes are once again reflected in our artistic processes – imagined, manifested, created and released. Suddenly, we no longer own our small civilization. We must offer it to others so that they, too, will understand what is within us and maybe, in some small way, be more fully connected to their own message and inspired to share it with others, as well.