“Have To” or “Get To”?

Elena is the winner of the Wednesday Night Shorts Film Festival. You can see her submission here.

by Elena Campbell-Martinez

In the Inner Circle Theatre we’re all familiar with the concept of “have to” vs “get to”.  The recent Wednesday Shorts Film Fest really helped drive home this lesson, as well as so many others!

Anyone who’s been a part of the Inner Circle for any length of time isn’t fazed by an unusual assignment, but after writing a three-person scene, the follow-up challenge was as simple as it was shocking:  Shoot it.  What?!?  We’re actors!  We all tried to ask questions about rules, parameters, requirements, restrictions, technical issues – but the only answer was “shoot it”.

My initial gut (and panicky) reactions were admittedly in the “have to” realm … I can’t shoot something!I don’t have to do this if I don’t want to.  But in a matter of hours I had moved on to a world of “get to” … a stage of complete excitement that would last through the month, informing every decision and task ahead.  After briefly considering shooting in miniature (could my husband Dennis build a tiny dry cleaning office? Could I get my niece’s old Barbie dolls here from Texas in time?) and that first sleepless night with ideas tumbling in my head, I knew what I had to do.  Scratch that – I knew what I would get to do.  Instead of shooting the scene I’d written, I’d make the trailer for the film that scene would have come from.  And I would shoot it in black and white, going for a film noir feel.  Why not aim high, right?

Was I making this molehill assignment into a mountain?  Yes!  But from that moment forward, I never had any doubts that I was doing exactly what was right for me.  I was giving myself extra work, yes, but I was also giving myself soooo many gifts!  I was getting to imagine a much bigger story.  I was getting to name my imaginary film and my fictitious film studio (each of which needed its own special font, of course) and even design the studio logo!  But the single most important gift I bestowed on myself was that I got to collaborate with more of my fellow artists.  Instead of three actors, I had a cast of eight, most of whom were ICT members (or their adorable babies).

As a first-time film maker, I thought about lessons I’d learned from working on other films (both the great and the not-so-great experiences) and reached out for valuable advice.  I also thought about what I had learned from the closest experience I’d ever had to making a film — planning my own wedding five years ago.  That may sound crazy, but the parallels between a wedding and making a film are very clear to me; the planning for each needs to be detailed and thorough (budgeting, script writing, casting, scheduling, detailing the set decoration, wardrobe and catering).  In each case, the better the advance planning, the more likely that the actual day of the shoot (i.e., wedding day) would be fun and relaxed, a wonderful memory for myself as well as for all of my guests (i.e., cast and crew).  My goals were to make a piece of art that we could all be proud of, but equally important was to have a shared enjoyable experience.

The result of this month-long process was that I had a blast and learned a ton about producing, directing, editing and even acting.  I’m proud of the art we created, as well as of the way we did it, showcasing the talents of all of my collaborators – a cast and crew of a dozen friends and fellow artists, plus one very patient, supportive, flexible, hard-working and enthusiastic husband.

The bottom line is that by taking any challenge, whether it’s homework or a two-line audition, and turning my mental lens from the “have to” setting to the “get to” setting, I can do more and learn more from that opportunity.  I’ll make sure to incorporate this lesson learned, as well as so many others from this film project, into my work from this point forward.  And both my art and my heart will be the better for it.

Share your lessons learned from the Wednesday Shorts Film Fest in the ICT Forum.