A little more than a week before the shoot, my incredibly kind and supportive acting teacher offered us her space for a rehearsal, the first time we all got together. Or at least the cast and the director. We started with scene 1, since it is the first chronologically, and the only one that involves all 4 cast members. After reading it, we put it up on its feet, doing it a bunch of times so Phil, our director, could see each individual performance, the ensemble, and tweak it to get what he wanted. Luckily, most people seemed to get their characters and knew how to play it, but there were some adjustments based on his vision or blocking. After an hour, Steph and Stan, who play Monica and the bartender, headed out to the sun while the three of us who remained worked on all of the remaining scenes so that once we got to set, we would just have to iron out the technical and blocking aspects, because the acting would be on point.
Once we were happy with the acting, we got some pictures to use as props throughout the film. Then Phil went to meet Josh and JP, so the three of them could figure out a shot list.
Once the shot list was done, it was sent to me and to the AD, who would be in charge of making the schedule. We spoke on Sunday and he was planning on a two day shoot. Me and some others weren’t convinced or available, so I worked on a new schedule, trying to fit it all into one day, which probably wasn’t the best idea, but I was convinced it would work, and needed a better answer than “you can’t” to deter me.
As you can expect, the idea that our filming day was so far away quickly disappeared so I started panicking. Just a little. About the schedule that still wasn’t down, about props and costumes and makeup and food and getting the cast and crew to set.
You see, when I first reached out for the short, I had nothing going on. That had quickly changed, so these past two weeks were spent not only organizing the shoot, but also doing play readings at Concordia, so many days at McGill, being a reader for a casting director, and filming at least 3 other projects. Which I loved, so much, but it also made me pretty stressed, trying to find the time to fit everything in.
I loved finally being busy, because it meant I was working and my career was going somewhere. That didn’t make the stress or fear any less. In other circumstances, the moment my Assistant Director decided to leave the project, I would have broken into tears and probably needed my mom or someone to convince me that I could get through this and achieve what I set out to do. It would have been the culmination of a multitude of stressors I had going on lately. But these weren’t any other circumstances.
Most people didn’t know that in the last week of preproduction for my short, one of my grandmothers had a stroke and was soon transferred to palliative care at the hospital. So after a week stressing about schedules and props and filmmaking, I was now stressing about the life of someone I loved. This put everything else into perspective. Losing the AD was a setback, but it was the least of my worries when it happened. Except that I wasn’t so excited about being busy anymore, because I now had to fit hospital visits in. I was determined not to play that card, to not use it as an excuse, but at the same time, my first response to so many messages was that it really doesn’t matter. Everything that had seemed of the utmost importance days earlier really didn’t matter anymore. Which was terrible on a lot of levels, but removed a lot of stress related to filming. On Saturday, I spent the day filming other projects and had a mountain of preproduction stuff to get through, but it took multiple messages for me to respond, hours later. I was ‘saved’ from panicking because it was infinitely more important to be by my grandmothers side and hold her hand. To let her know I loved her. And that even with a million other things going on in my life, she was still the most important.
My grandmother died in the early hours of Sunday morning. The world kept going, unaware, but I will never regret checking out of my life and responsibilities for her final hours. It meant I had a whole lot of stuff to get through on Sunday, but it’s nice to have something to keep you and your mind busy when there is something you don’t want to be thinking about. I found the missing props, bought all the food, typed up the filming schedule and organized all the lifts and pickups. I confirmed my people. I got what needed to be, done.
I could have written about all the things I did that week and left my grandmother out. And I would obviously rather have had a bunch of panic attacks and crying episodes in order for my grandmother to still be here. But as it is, going through both at the same time showed me that no matter how important things are to us (and this short is my labor of love, that I have wanted to do for years, that I wrote and act in and produced and is a part of me…) it will always be the people that matter the most. What seemed overwhelming and impossible got handled because it had to be, because other things were more important. If something is stressing you out, ask “what is the worst that could happen?” Unless the answer is someone dying, then it isn’t worth making yourself sick over. You’ve got this. And if you don’t, that’s okay too.