Before You Get Home
Peter Stickles was my first guinea pig. He just didn’t know it. I’d never directed before. I mean, not on an actual set. And the shorts I had done before were really just me dragging my husband around with a camera and telling him to act this and act that. This time was different. I had a budget, a crew, a cast, craft services and everything. So when I hit up Peter first about doing this short I was working on for school, I was surprised when he said yes.
A gay thriller. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I was in my second semester at USC and we had been split up into groups of three. Alternating between producing, shooting, and directing. It was now my turn to direct. I’d been working on this story about a guy looking for his lover’s killer. It was a very simple story, took place in essentially two locations, and gave me a chance to see how this whole directing-on-a-set thing worked.
There were three roles in the movie. Chase (the escort), Daniel, and Daniel’s partner/husband Larry. Peter played Chase. David Pevsner, another incredibly talented actor and good friend of mine, played the role of Daniel. And Dean Howell, a very talented director and actor that my husband had worked with, played the role of Larry.
We didn’t really have rehearsals. It wasn’t the kind of movie where rehearsals made sense at the time. But looking back, I probably would have rehearsed specific blocking with the actors, particularly with the physical stuff. I hadn’t really thought that out. I was too busy thinking about my shots. But thankfully I had really great actors. I was able to just let them do their thing and I could focus on more technical things like eating Red Vines.
We shot in a loft in downtown LA. This was probably a mistake considering our limited time and resources. But it had the look I wanted. Sound became an issue. We were directly above a busy street and had constant traffic noise to deal with. I had scouted the location but hadn’t really scouted the sound. It should have been one of the first things I checked for. Also, shooting in downtown Los Angeles is just a pain the ass in general. It’s crowded, not great for parking, and smells like the gutter is spilling onto the street. It’s a real gem.
I remember that we shot for two days maybe. Something like that. Two or three. It wasn’t a lot of time. I’d come rather prepared otherwise. I did storyboarding and the whole bit. Stick figures and everything if I had to. I’d shot listed the entire script. I’d broken everything down line by line. I knew exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t. And then…I got on set.
There’s this old Oscar Wilde saying to expect the unexpected. Or maybe it was Julie Chen from Big Brother on CBS. Either way, the point is that I quickly learned that if I was going to get through this, then I needed to embrace the unpredictability of it all. This was hard for me. I prefer to know what I’m dealing with. Instead, I had to make drastic decisions at the spur of the moment that would ultimately affect the cut of the movie because we didn’t have time to shoot this or that shot or angle. It was taking every bit of strength for me to not lose my mind from the stress of everything. I found myself tossing all the prep work I’d done out the window - except for when I needed it suddenly. I went from being frustrated to being grateful I’d done the work in the first place. I just had to adapt.
Before You Get Home is a very flawed short film. There are lots of things that I would have done differently, shot differently, written differently, etc. But then I probably wouldn’t have learned everything that I did in the process. Over the past few years since making this movie I’ve learned to embrace the flaws and be grateful for what I learned.
First of all, for the love of god, don’t overshoot. It’s such a waste of precious time. Figure out what you really need in terms of shots and prioritize. Think like an editor. Don’t be an idiot like I was. I had it in my head that I was going to get through multiple dolly shots and still have time to move the camera to the other room and shoot some more. I had absolutely no sense of time. Be conservative is all I can say. Second, you’re really gonna wanna lose your shit at some point. Don’t. Just don’t. I didn’t but I do remember getting close at one point. And it usually will have nothing to do with anything other than the fact that you’re running out of damn time. Always. Running. Out. Of. Time. So do yourself a favor, and just start off assuming you’re running behind. And finally, try and take in that you’re MAKING A MOVIE! It’s supposed to be fun (theoretically) so try and make it fun. I had a blast making this little movie. I may have made a lot of mistakes along the way, but if I hadn’t made this movie, I probably would’ve never made my next one.