Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Introducing the first Tele-Director

I had my first directing gig this past weekend. And I wasn't even there.

The doc/corporate video company that I've been recently writing scripts for was hired by a giant metal processing company based in Toronto, but with satellites all over Canada and the US, to make videos for several arms of the company for their annual meeting. Each video is supposed to show what each arm has accomplished in the past year, and this particular division was the Mid West, based out of Detroit. They told us all the major points they wanted included in the video, so I took that and wrote a comedic 5 minute script around it, that has the Detroit office start a Powerpoint presentation in their boardroom that slowly morphs into an episode of Star Trek (with a little Star Wars for good measure). Their presentation screen turns into the bridge monitor from the Enterprise, their cellphones are communicators, and they have to expand outward from the post-apocalyptic wastes of Detroit (their light speed travel displayed by the "star field" screen saver on most Windows computers of course).

And my producer, Bob, likes the script so much that he says I should go and direct it in Detroit! Fantastic!

Then we get to the border. Apparently we don't have the right working papers to get into the US. This confounded Bob as he's been doing videos in the US for twenty or so years and has never had a problem at the border before. We were hiring an American crew, and just coming in to oversee the production. We thought that since we weren't actually getting physically paid in the US to do the job that it was OK for us to go in and obviously that was wrong. So they kept us for 3 hours at the border while they "processed" us, taking our photos and our fingerprints (!), so now we are officially in the Homeland Security system. They claimed that this won't affect us getting back into the US, should we have a good reason or proper papers, but I get the feeling that I'm always going to have a hassle from now on. Sigh.

So we retreated to a hotel near the border in Sarnia, and tried but failed to reach anyone in Detroit, because by now it was midnight. The crew and the office staff were going to show up at 7:30am, so what would we do? We decided to go to sleep, of course.

At 6:30am we got a call back from our DP, Ed, and we asked him if we could try directing by phone from Sarnia, and surprisingly he was all for it. I fortunately had done a lot of prep, having done thorough storyboards and a shot list. I faxed everything to him and then he would call me before setting up a shot and I would tell him how I wanted it done, how it should be acted, ect. Then he'd do it and call me with the next one. And it went fast; he finished early. Of course, I have yet to see a single frame, so I have no idea what it actually looks like but the actual shooting day went extremely well, and it could have been a complete disaster.

I have to say, after the border ridiculousness, it was a very comfortable experience directing from my hotel room. I think I may be the only Director I know of that has not been present for the actual production. Well, physically anyway. Is this a new fad? Maybe Roman Polanski can follow my lead and start Tele-Directing in the US?