5 Problems a filmmaker faces when making their first feature film by bizhan tong – film courage

Finally I formed a production company (Phoenix Waters Productions) in 2015 in order to bring my stories to life tell of different genres amassed over a decade of all high-concepts dealing with personal and social themes and the first feature I wanted to make was THE ESCORT. Olivia Moyles and Kevin Leslie – Image courtesy of THE ESCORT movie – © Phoenix Waters Productions

It was important to me that their views be echoed in the particular character’s words rather than my assumptions, wrote the screenplay with budget constraints in mind, two characters, one location and spoke with an accomplished female director about helming the project, but exploring the escort industry wasn’t of interest to her. And so I made the decision that this would be my feature directorial debut as well.


The actors continued to rehearse themselves in even the studio or on Skype and I went for the script listing every shot I wanted. Please note I could only afford one camera. So for a lot of retakes it was important not to keep the action static. That way I could keep production efficient and ensure them we were moving at pace. Doing the shoot the camera op, DP and I would hold a meeting every morning on the train to discuss the shots we needed while in the evening the actors would rehearse while I would sleep at 2:00 a.m. the next night and wake up at 3:30 for the following day’s shoot.

A war zone next store. If I could make any change to THE ESCORT is would be shoot at another location not because of the location itself which I am grateful to have been offered but because of the property next door which sounded like a Michael Bay blockbuster. Prior to the shoot I had been advised that building works would be completed prior to when principal photography began. Alas when we arrived on set, we found this wasn’t the case and had to battle our way through the sound of power drills, saws and heavy machinery for the duration of the shoot.

Now not everything was sorted this way. The bathroom scene which was shot perfectly had to sound butchered. But thanks to ADR work by Phil Clemens and a positive relationship with the builders next door, we were able to get through it and the final tract is a testament to this and it doesn’t look or sound like we faced these problems. Kevin Leslie and Olivia Moyles – Image courtesy of THE ESCORT movie – © Phoenix Waters Productions 3. A change of DP

When the original DP needed to leave early for personal reasons, this threatened to derail the plan we had in place. I was conscious that this would distract the cast and crew as I needed them focused and giving their all, particularly the actors who had some challenging scenes to perform. So we agreed to keep this news from them after the replacement was found with the DP continuing until the end of the week.

The other problem was style as their visual angles would be different than each other. Fortunately my intent had always been that every scene would be shot in a subtly different way to effect the story and those characters in that moment. So how can that style be different from what I was trying to do in the context of what I was trying to do as long as it wasn’t radically and Beau worked tirelessly along with other camera operators often putting in extra days to get the look and shot.

We had set one morning to set all the outdoor scenes based on the schedule we had in place and the weather forecast. But unfortunately one of the freakiest moments on the shoot, that morning was met with high winds and light rain. That mean Kevin’s clothes were flapping about in the wind and they had to almost shout their lines to be heard. The equipment had all been moved outside of the shoot so prepping a different scene and moving inside would have taken at least an hour. And I knew based on the schedule shooting in on a different day would have sacrificed time on more technical and more technical and emotionally challenging scenes.

If there is one piece of advice that I would give anyone is to have a good day director. It was the biggest shock during production that we lost the climax of Act 1. Not just the original but the back up leading to subsequently forming multiple backups for the rest of production. One take remained in tact, but it only showed one of the actors and we knew we had no choice but to reshoot say for a brief flirtation of having it done anime style but it was something we avoided.

Now this poses it’s own challenges because it’s clear we’re shooting at a different location. And considering that we have the escort’s apartment, this would be a problem. Now we looked at various options, maybe we’d have a blow-out in the background and shoot it there. But what we ultimately decided to do was to have the props on the set and most importantly the sofa since that is where the climax moment takes place, bring that over to the set and film in a very tight manner that would focus on the characters’ faces. This actually worked ideally for us because looking at the scene and what was occurring there was an argument and we were looking to break them apart. Olivia Moyles – Image courtesy of THE ESCORT movie – © Phoenix Waters Productions

So from a visual standpoint we thought why not just have them not share the scene? So two days before we were about to shoot the film, I had a personal issue and my Mom was diagnosed with Cancer. But this was important that we keep it quiet from the cast and crew again because I need them to focus and give it their all. It was an emotional scene. It was an important scene to do. And so I worked with them, I kept these personal things private and we were able to shoot the scene.