Have you ever thought, “I’m going make a film and it’s going to be great!”? I’m sure you have. Right as you started making it, after the first few bumps in the road did you think, “Wait a second, there’s no way I can do this.”? I’m sure you did – I know I have. Filmmaking isn’t only about getting a film made, it’s about solving every problem and jumping over every obstacle that comes your way, because no matter how much you plan, something’s always going to go wrong.
My name’s Marina Bruno and I’m an independent filmmaker. I founded my production company, Wondering Pictures, when I was 16 years old, and since then I’ve completed over nine official short films and recently finished writing, directing, producing and editing my first feature film at 20. With a filmmaker father, I was born into the art and learned everything I know from him. I live, eat, sleep and breathe film, and I live by one motto: “Just do it.” Yeah that’s right, I’m quoting Nike. Also, “go big or go home.”
Throughout my life I realized I came across so many repeating instances of people talking about their ambitious goals and how they’re going to do this and accomplish that, and to later find out that they literally never end up doing those things (aside from plenty of other inspirational people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing). But to quote another cliche, “it’s easier said than done.”
The reason for this talking and not walking that so many people seem to be good at is because when you tell the world about what you’re going to achieve, you’re basically pre-celebrating this imaginary accomplishment and rewarding yourself with a feeling of achievement without having to have actually gone through all the hard work. But when it comes to starting the first step, you realize the reality of how far away your goal really is and how much time, sacrifice, patience, compromise and ineffable hard work you need to put into it. So you give up.
I realized this at a pretty young age, and so did everything in my power to counter this reality. I started living with a “do or die” attitude when I began making my short films, and pushed it to the limit with my first feature film, “Cotton String.”
Convincing yourself to work hard isn’t easy though. After some positive feedback with my short films, I riskily decided I was super ready to venture onto a feature film – and I had to force this thought into my mind. A few people told me I wasn’t ready to make a feature, and although I knew this was true and had an idea of what I was getting myself into – with the support of my parents – I decided to nonetheless stick with my ignorant confidence and go all the way. Especially in the beginning of production, I was so doubtful and unwilling to work that I literally had to mentally force myself through it and ignored any negative thoughts! Instead of letting every problem that had arisen discourage me, I used it as a lesson and saw it as a benefit for the film. For instance, when I was location scouting, I was so keen on having a dirt road (basically a desert). I of course couldn’t find anything like that (living in Canada) but instead found a beautiful soy farmer’s land that had a long grass road through the fields. This location was absolutely perfect in that there was no traffic or people around (it was nice and quiet) and the owner was so hospitable and helpful, making it that much easier to be comfortable on set! Also, I do believe the grass field had a much more aesthetically appealing look than a dirt road would have had.
I wrote the script from April-May of 2014. Then I did the story board, which took me another two months. After that I started pre-production in June-July. I went through the script, and made a list of all the props, costumes, locations and actors I needed. I then went out to search for each element one by one! I did auditions for each of the actors. Several local actors sent me an audition tape, and I picked the ones that suited the characters most. After the film was cast, I took their clothing measurements and went out to buy the costumes for each character (which I had already designed beforehand). Once that was completed, I set out to find, buy and make all the props. Amongst other things, I had to make fake marijuana, a fake head, a foam baseball bat, dozens of hand made bracelets, fake bank checks, a cigarette box and beer bottle labels. It look me a long time and it was hard work, but the trick is to pay close attention to every little detail, and to take your time with each.
After that, I then got all my equipment and hired the crew. We rented a truck to bring everything to and from set. I then met with all the cast and crew and planned out a clear and organized calendar with the shooting days, day-by-day. It needed to fit in everyone’s schedule so it was hard to have the specific actors on specific days. It was tricky, but we managed to find a schedule that worked out! After that we finally started filming in August. It took us a total of two weeks to shoot. Another problem that we ran into so many times was the weather. One time, after all the cast and crew got to set, we all got the gear ready, all the actors in costume, and it began to rain! We sat in the rain for a good three hours waiting for the sky to clear up, but no luck. We decided to wrap it up and push this filming day for the next. We spent another hour wrapping up all the costumes and equipment. But get this, on our drive home, the sky opened up and the sun was shining brighter than ever! Oh well. When we finally finished filming we all yelled, “That’s a wrap!” That was a pretty awesome feeling. We were able to say our goal, but knowing that it was actually achieved made it that much better.
Making a feature film was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m SO glad that I pushed myself to do it, and now I know that I can do it again. Filmmaking is such a tough endeavor, which is hard to realize if you’ve never actually done it. And that goes for any worthwhile pursuit. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before you do anything, to carefully plan your steps before any action is taken, and to not tell the world about your future achievements; be willing to work your ass off instead. Don’t find excuses to not do something. Instead, find solutions. All in all, the trick to getting shit done is to keep all that excitement inside and to use that intense urge to tell the world about your goals as fuel for actually working on them. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to celebrate when your done, and the victory is going to be so much sweeter.
“Cotton String” is a feature film about two lower class men who decide to invest in an eccentric hippie drug-dealer’s classic car inanition. The whole film takes place in one day. Rent the film on YouTube – -Releases on December, 28th @ 5pm. Watch the Cotton String Trailer and follow Wondering Pictures on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.