The Care Of Time
By Allan EastmanGo back to Page 1
And Unforgiving Moments
“OK, let’s go! We’re 3 hours behind!”
I started every working day on the film set shouting out these words. What it meant was an admonishment to the crew to get moving and to get moving fast. An average shooting day on a TV series say, has 12 working hours and in general, you have 4 or 5 scenes or 7 or 8 pages of script to film. This ends up as 6 to 8 minutes of finished film. It doesn’t sound like a lot but believe me - you really have to work as hard as you can, as fast as you can to accomplish it on schedule while maintaining the necessary high quality.
Film production is one of the most Time intensive activities humans do. It is an extreme example of the “Time is Money” maxim. The vast cost of everything involved with film making - cast and crew salaries, extremely expensive equipment rental, a huge support structure, financing costs – means that most often you are spending $100,000 or even much more of other people’s money every day you’re shooting. So anxiety and stress levels are running at high speed all down the line to go along with everything else you have to deal with.
In order to control costs, an explicit efficiency has to be set up and enacted. Everything is planned down to the smallest detail – who and what has to be where when for the film to get made. An immensely tight schedule is prepared, estimating how long each scene should take to shoot and every second of every day for the entire production is planned out in advance.
But as in war, no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Murphy’s Law always rears its mocking head. On a film set, actors forget their lines, lighting set ups always seem to take twice as long as you think they should, the scene you are rehearsing just isn’t working out as you thought it would so you have to try to do something else with it - restage it, change its emotional focus, try a different visual approach. And any of these changes are rapidly using up the precious Time you have available to complete the daily assigned work. Those 12 hours just rocket by.
Any good filmmaker has to become a master of Time. Directors who regularly get behind schedule – and hence over budget - find themselves rapidly unemployable in the business. You need to be able to realistically estimate how long things are going to take and be able to adjust your work throughout the day to use every second available to you, without going overtime. In my film style, I always wanted more shots than the average - more camera setups making better scenes - so I constantly pushed the crew to work faster. In general, I could get 35 setups out of a day where most directors could get 30. This was part of my relative success in the film business and I could do it in part because I was obsessed with Time and thought hard about the uses of it.
One of the side effects of this style of working is that my time sense became acute. I can still accurately tell what Time it is to within a few minutes even if I haven’t looked at a clock all day and am still extremely accurate in estimating how long any activity may take.
The difference between my life then and my life now is that I wish I could forget about accurate Time and just enjoy the flow of existence, that is, get back to that slow timelessness I felt as a kid.
So, that’s part of anyone’s life journey – from the careless indifference to Time that characterizes our lives as children to the relentless obsession with Time that so much dominates our modern high tech economic lifestyles. How does Time become such a crucial element to our lives?
And aren’t there really two kinds of Time that we experience in our adult lives?
The first – let’s call it External or Objective Time – is what schedules our lives and defines the temporal patterns within society that we all adhere to. It is rigid and imposes a specifically defined standard that human civilization has, for the most part, agreed upon.
The second – Internal or Subjective Time – is the Time that occurs within our inner lives and it is much more fluid and flexible.