It’s that time of the month again, when I’m supposed to casually try and wrangle the term “Melbourne-based Writer/Director Carl J. Sorheim” into every sentence to make sure the algorithm remembers me, but frankly my mind is elsewhere… Because we’re about 24 hours away from being upgraded from a family of 3 to a family of 4.
And this might seem like an odd segue, but to me, one of the more memorable moments from Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer series is Amy Poehler’s character Susie, who insists on the old trope that ‘making a film is like having a baby’. “You have it and then everyone else in the world gets to pass it around. It’s very much like having a baby”, she repeats. And it must be one of the most common metaphors in the arts. Now, on the one hand I agree, while on the other I think; what are you, fucking mental?
Let’s dissect the baby/film-making metaphor.
You’re a Director/Producer company who love working together, but who have so far only dealt with advertising, music videos, shorts - or maybe a web series (i.e. babysitting nieces and nephews): All projects that are financially viable – sometimes even lucrative. You take your little creations out for a short, intense period, show them around, and hope they’re exhausted. Everyone agrees your content is lovely, and your distant mate Tristan uses the word “interesting” and you know never to invite him again, because what does fucking Tristan know anyway, he’s a bastard, and he won’t shut up about Studio Ghibli. WE GET IT DUDE, IT’S SUPERIOR.
And then one day, 50% of the company looks at the other 50% and whispers; “I think I want to make a feature.” And you talk about the time aspect and whether you can afford it, and if you can find the right backers, and that it’ll be hard, what with all the Executive Producers living interstate and overseas. And in the back of your mind you almost don’t want to give those four Executives the satisfaction of a feature, because they’ve been banging on about it for years now, and it’s easy for them to want a feature, because they’ll only jump on for a frame.io thread now and then and will practically never have to deal with post-production or distribution, and you’re so sick of listening to them saying “your demo is dwindling and you’ll be irrelevant soon” and- oh no, what happened…
You accidentally wrote a bloody script, didn’t you.
And before you know it, you’re in production, with one of you taking on the role of Producer/Director (which everyone knows is a dangerous combo) with final cut, while the other slips into more of a Runner-position, driving the remaining cast to and from set and picking up goddamn activated almond de-caff lattes at all hours, because after all, ThE CrEw MuSt ReMAiN HApPy aNd HeAlThY AT ALL COSTS!
And so the next 8 or so months pass, before opening night. You send out the media release; You roll out the red carpet; You have a Working Title (that no one likes); Your home is stacked with flowers, chocolates and fan letters from friends and family; Your last movie is also there, by your side, curious about what you’ve come up with this time, while reminding you that “your new stuff is cool and all, but remember that your old stuff has received a cult following after 3.5 years and IT STILL VERY MUCH EXISTS”. And then, the lights go down… with the crunch of popcorn… the whirr of the projector… the calm before the storm. And there it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for. It rears its head and opens its eyes.
…And after 6 months of no sleep, you wonder what fucking idiot thought making a film is like having a baby. Films don’t wake you up at 4am for absolutely no reason; films don’t give you raw nipples; films don’t hang around expecting you to pay for random dubious industry fees for another 20 years; films don’t need you to boil bottles; and crucially, films rarely throw up on you and cover you in poo! HEY! You can even leave a film in the car! No one’s gonna call the cops! The only likeness between making films and babies is the period between scripting and opening weekend. Everyone is in love with the idea, and everyone tells you they wanna watch it. (Although you’ll find most of your friends will ‘get around to it, but that it’s been really busy with the pandemic and everything’.) No reviews are in - or bills, for that matter. It’s just wide-open eyes and dark rooms filled with expectation, anticipation and love. All is well.
Making films is not like having a baby. Making films is like getting a ton of people together, and saying “I dreamed about an animal last night and I now have the money for us to sit down for 9 months and draw it.” And as you describe a wonderful rainbow flamingo, you know and fear chances are it’ll end up looking like a shitty warthog with five arseholes that somehow draws noise complaints from council and ends up in a Twitter pile-on because they think it’s inbred.
In short: Movies are great. And babies are great. But they’re not the same, not by a long shot. So where am I going with all this? Is there value in this ‘dissection’? Not really. Any advice to prospective producer/directors, at least? Yeah! Sure: Find a better metaphor! And buy a cat.
Me? I’m allergic to cats. And I’m on an activated almond decaf latte run right now. I’ll catch you after opening night.
Melbourne-based Writer/Director Carl J. Sorheim
(*What I looked like a day or two before the new baby arrived, AKA ‘Carl before the storm’. )