BEING ON SET IS LIKE PLAYING JAZZ
I have this theory about film projects that I’ve sort of developed over the years, and it’s helped my approach to the pressure and insanity while on set. So I want to try and break that down and help you prepare for what’s coming when you say yes to your next project, and the client is staring at the monitor over your shoulder as you decide what the heck your’e doing.
WHAT MAKES GOOD JAZZ GOOD?
This is definitely a loaded question and I don’t want to come out sounding like an expert on jazz because I’m not, however I think we can draw some observations: jazz is technically robust while also flexible and unpredictable. That’s why it’s so interesting and fun to listen to because it’s driven by feel and vibe, but structured with precision and technique. When you listen to Miles Davis, you can recognize how the guys sit in the pocket flush, but they have so much room to wiggle when needed and create little tasty fills that enhance the vibe of the track.
WHY A FILM SET IS LIKE A JAZZ SESSION
Creating a film - whether it be a simple documentary on a small business, a commercial for a large brand, or a narrative short - has a lot of the same pillars as a session in the practice room. Everyone in the “band” should have a solid understanding of their role and an expertise of their instrument - they need to know how to play the right notes, and when to play them. You’ve heard the saying “rules are meant to be broken?” This is exactly right, but the key we miss is there are actual RULES that are being broken - you gotta know the rules before you can break them.
So, what I’ve noticed as a filmmaker is the need to really dive into the technique of my role to understand when and where to improvise during a project.