hen I set out to write my previous serial, Learning Curve, which was set in a child development center, I felt pretty confident that I knew my subject matter. After all, I’ve spent over a decade and a half working as a speech therapist, much of that time in clinics similar to the one that Aviva, Suri, and Yael ran — though without their legal troubles! (And for those of you who are counting, yes, I was extremely precocious and got my master’s degree at age 12.)
But when the editors suggested this new serial be centered around a film production, I didn’t feel quite as confident. Actually, I think my exact reaction was, “Um… but I know absolutely nothing about making a movie!” The closest I’d ever come to the entertainment industry was a handful of acting roles in school and camp plays.
(I can just see Gabriella rolling her eyes at me right now. “What in the world do school plays have to do with filmmaking??”)
I began to research, speaking to people in the industry and reading lots and lots of online material on the topic. (Starting with googling “how to make a film,” just like Rina did.) I learned a new vocabulary (DP, grip, gaffer) and gained a new appreciation for what goes into every minute on screen. I also discovered that a second cousin of mine used to work as a film editor in L.A. — how convenient! Information was definitely out there, but I had to figure out what was applicable to a frum, low-budget film. (Yes, even with Rina’s interior redecorating and yacht, by industry standards this was quite low-budget.)
For example, my cousin told me that a bare-bones postproduction team consists of a video editor plus at least one assistant, a color grader, a sound editor, and a sound mixer. This sounded like quite a large monetary outlay to me, but I knew that her work experience was in the lower-end Hollywood world. So I checked with Ronit (Polin) Tarshish, writer, director, and producer of two highly successful films for women, Ink and Diamonds in the Dust, who’d been very helpful in providing me with my initial information on the filmmaking process, to find out what was standard for the typical film of this genre. She told me that she considers a high-quality video editor and sound editor the absolute minimum, if the video editor will also do sound mixing, though hiring a sound mixer is ideal. Bingo.
It was fascinating for me to get this glimpse into the world of movie making. Part of the magic of fiction is the ability to transport the reader into a different world, and allow her to live out other people’s realities. I doubt I’ll ever make a film myself (though if I do, I definitely want a Gabriella on board!), but for over a year, I got to experience the thrill, the passion, and the myriad technicalities that go into a movie production. I learned together with Rina, and we both made our rookie mistakes.
Such as the screenplay-writing episode. No, it is not normal to ask a writer to give you a fully written, full-length screenplay in one week. But — gulp — I was pressed for time, between Rina’s post-Shavuos Tea epiphany that she wanted to make a movie and the summer camp filming, so Rina and I had no choice but to demand the nearly impossible. Conveniently, Rina found a writer who, for the right price, was willing to do it. And this writer learned that she had to do a better job with her plot timeline.
But ultimately, this was a story about people — their dreams, their insecurities, their personality quirks — and the sparks that erupt when different people rub up against each other. Because, glamour of the setting notwithstanding, the real drama in both stories and life takes place on the inside.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 650)