GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Monday, February 3, 2014

Film like water (inspired by Bruce Lee)

I have been making independent films and TV shows since my arrival in Paris a lifetime ago and all these projects have had something in common. Without realizing it, I was following a fundamental dictate of the legendary Bruce Lee. Though I was never a fan or follower of Bruce, his films or his martial arts career, I've always appreciated the extraordinary charisma and grace of this unique man who was talented in so many ways. It was only recently that I came to know and understand the films Bruce made and the philosophy that was his guide in all of his pursuits thanks to the efforts of Kevin Courtright who has written a screenplay inspired by these same things. Readers will remember that Kevin was a member of my repertory company for 15 years and authored the book Back to Schoolin': What Led Zeppelin Taught Me About Music.

A fundamental tenet of Bruce's outlook was that one should be 'like water', adaptable to circumstance in the way that water literally becomes the shape of whatever tries to contain it. To some this may sound a bit too ethereal for practical application in life or, in this instance filmmaking, but upon reflection I can see that has been exactly my approach to making films since the beginning. Allow me to explain.

Most of my films were shot on location away from Los Angeles in the California desert, Palm Springs, Las Vegas and Ensenada, Mexico (to say nothing of my shoots in Paris, Cannes, Milan, Venice and Monaco). I would chose a cast from members of my repertory company and off we'd go to whatever location felt appropriate. There was no script--which is not to say that I didn't know the story I wanted to shoot--and we were not going out with any fixed idea of what the film would become except for tone and message. Once on location, we would travel to what looked like an interesting location from a visual standpoint and begin filming. If the location was a business establishment, we would ask for permission which was almost always granted.

One could argue that I was going out unprepared to shoot a movie and most reasonable minds would accept that as true. However, I think Bruce Lee would have understood that my crew and I were exceptionally prepared to meet whatever circumstances confronted us and to adapt them to our needs in order to complete the film we had in mind. With this approach, I would end up in Las Vegas asking to shoot inside The Mint Casino and receiving permission to do so. A poker palace in Adelanto not only allowed us access to their card room but supplied poker players as 'day players' for the film and in Ensenada we received permission to board a cruise ship to film scenes amongst its passengers. It isn't much of a stretch to think of us as water becoming the vessels that we found along the way on our journey to a finished film.

If one is interested in seeing a video about a particular film in which this standard operating procedure was applied, click on the following link to sit in on How to Shoot a Feature Film in 15 Days and Survive to See Profits. You do not need to be a Stage 32 member to watch the video.

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