I haven't been at this completely creating my own content thing for that long compared to many. As you would imagine it was a bit of a bumpy start. More about that and my first feature "Echo" in just a moment. I'll provide a brief history and hopefully it'll help this post make at least a little sense.
We will fast forward past all my movie and tv watching formative years and get right to the part where I started to create. I had no theatre program in high school. 1st year of college was computer science, terrible idea. 2nd year was returning home and searching for my path at community college. Found my path and returned to MSU for theatre my 3rd year. Got a degree, yada, yada, yada, and then lived life. I had no time to be in theatre so I started writing. I wrote so many bad things. No real writing classes I just wrote and wrote and wrote on my own. One of those was a film entitled, "Echo".
Fast forward a little more and I've acted some in the community and done a small amount of fight choreography for local film and theatre productions. That and the connection to a good friend kept me slightly alive in the local scene. It is through these connections that, with the strong encouraging capabilities of my wife, I was able to dust off old scripts and find my first big project.
I should briefly add that I shot a very short film for a Ron Howard/Canon competition. It didn't win anything but I'm still very proud of it since I had no real directing and editing experience.
So on to Echo, big disclaimer that most people involved with the project probably knew the entire time, I was biting off way more than I could chew. Through the giving heart and belief of an amazing relative we had a very good size budget for a film shot in southwest Missouri. I tried to gear the script toward something we could make for cheap. Being from the theatre world and working with several others from that area we were able to stretch the budget. We also had amazing locations to film at for extremely little money if any at all.
The crew was comprised of friends and friends of friends that later became our friends. They worked tirelessly on this vision in my head and we got soooo much great footage. So much good story to tell. Talented people, many of which were just finishing their degrees at MSU, that were very hungry to create.
Here comes the 'biting off more that I can chew' part. Even though I was surrounded by many capable people I still chose to wear too many hats. I was writer/director/producer/actor/craft service and any other role that I needed to fill on any given day. I don't believe that I was stubborn about anything. I just wanted to do it all and so I did, knowing it would be difficult but pressing forward anyway.
Here's some of what happened in a nutshell;
Not enough preproduction-- There can never be enough planning and preproduction. I've learned that over and over on each new project and I've gotten better at it with each project as well. I needed the film to be planned to the tee with every puzzle piece designed so that when editing time came those pieces would lock together nicely. This is never ever the case but I know that I needed to be much better at it than I was.
Not enough of me-- This is not me saying that the world needed more of me, what I'm saying is that I needed more of me. I've said over and over since this project that had I not been acting then I would've been a better director and if I wasn't directing then I would've been a better actor. I didn't have the skillset to do both. Hindsight is 20/20.
Not enough options-- Lastly, and this ties to the preplanning, I didn't give myself wiggle room. No wiggle room for editing or for reshoots that are almost always a must. So what I discovered as I poured over the footage to cut and cut again, (editing had been done extremely well by 3 others before I started playing with it myself) I didn't have what I needed to make the story solid. There were too many holes that just couldn't be overlooked. Sound was going to be a bear to fix and all the ADR that would be needed would not be affordable in the least.
So she floundered. Lots of great footage and lots of great performances (not talking about myself), great makeup and beautiful and creepy locations. It's not the first film to struggle like this and it won't be the last but it was my first (and hopefully my last) to fail in this way. I am bound to fail again in other ways but as one of my favorite lines to quote from the Matrix goes "not like this, not like this".
It is true that in this business you have to fail and fail again. What determines your character is how you choose to respond to that failure. Do you let it defeat you and call it a day on your dream or do you get back up and fail better next time? I've chosen to fail better.
With each new project that I tackle I have learned from it and the work I do now would be absolutely nothing without the 28 days of filming in 2014 and the countless hours I have spent with the characters of Echo since then. I learned so very much from this first real foray into filmmaking and I've learned so so very much since then and I could not be more thankful for all of these experiences. The good and the bad. The stress that this film has given me has been immeasurable but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
As the title says 'The Echo that wouldn't die' means that I'm not done with it. I have the hard drives with every moment of footage (except one exploding light bulb. No idea where that went). My plan is to turn what I have into either a really solid short film or potentially a sizzle real to see if anyone would be interested in the story to tell. I still believe in the story completely. It's creepy and creative and could be a lot of fun to watch if in the right hands.
Would I ever want to make it again if someone was interested in it? I don't think so. I took my shot at this story and learned a lot but I have so many other stories to tell. I think Echo should move on to a talented director with a talented cast and neither of which include me. That doesn't upset me at all. It's the evolution.
I have several other projects that I will update people on and give a little breakdown on soon. If you made it this far, wow. :) Thanks.
Lastly to the cast and crew of Echo, thank you. It didn't quite turn out how I planned it but I hope you can look back on your time on set and say you enjoyed it. It was the absolute best for me and it solidified the fact even more that this is what I want to do. Be on set with amazing and creative people creating something together. I look back on it with pride and great memories and know that I am so very thankful for getting so spend time with you all doing what we love to do.
Whatever it may be, keep doing what you love to do and keep your ears tuned because this Echo will be bouncing back again.