Ben’s Blog: Rethink Your Reshoots.

Posted July 4th, 2017 by Ben

Reshoots are failure. Worse they are waste. A good director doesn’t need reshoots, a good director just gets it right. On time and on budget. Right?

Our reshoots for Nina Forever left me in thoughtful mood. The downbeat tone of my post about those extra days is partly because the film was still unfinished, an unknown thing looming on the periphery of my vision. Inspired by a pair of deaths the film was ending with another. Time and failure hung heavy on my shoulders. But this is the essential mood of the reshoot.

I know no director who doesn’t speak of theirs without shame. Reports of reshoots are never framed as anything other than a portent of doom. If the vast money eating monster of production has had to be reassembled then it can only mean the edit has revealed vast problems with the original material. Reshoots can only mean that someone, somewhere, has blundered.

When first planning Nina Forever our intention had been to mount it more along the lines of Christopher Nolan’s debut “Following” which was shot over a series of weekends. This was partly because our story spans the seasons so filming an extended period for the weather was appealing. There was a deeper reason though. Both my brother and I have become suspicious of scripts.

This is heretical, especially in Britain where theatrical tradition means writers and the written word are still held in the same regard as Doctors (as in, we ignore them, but actively feel shame for doing so). However the cold truth is that films are actually written in the edit suite using the real material that’s been shot. Knowing that our film would live or die by the strength of the performances, we deliberately wrote in a hurry. We wanted a script that gave the actors a springboard not a straightjacket. Flowing from this, our ideal way of working was to shoot some, edit it, live with it, see where that material was pointing us and shoot some more. A fluid, organic process that would make the most of the one strength a micro-budget film has – the actors.

From this perspective reshoots become far less sinful. They become a chance to respond to what the material is telling you, to act upon the discoveries of the edit, the revelations no amount of redrafting or rehearsal can give you. We were not able to make our film in quite the way we hoped, however our reshoots bore out the truth of this idea. In coming back not only were we responding to what the film was becoming but so was everyone else. From performance to photography everyone returned with a deeper understanding of what the film had actually become.

I can hear producers tearing out their hair (including our own miraculous one who gave us such space and freedom). Endlessly unpicking is an expensive luxury, an indulgence that micro-budget filmmakers don’t get. That’s the accepted wisdom, a truth borne out of working in the existing model. But perhaps that model also needs a reshoot…

  1. Zahra

    I think it’s time we took the shame out of the whole process to be honest. A crew is a team and they should all be working together to support the director’s vision, but too often there are snobby cliques who’d rather bitch about the process rather than just getting the damn thing made. Apocalypse Now was a horrendous shoot, but the film stands the test of time. Reshoots are a tiny part of the overall process, but also very necessary. When you think about it, each film is a prototype – and every prototype goes through several iterations. Why should film be any different?

  2. Ben

    “each film is a prototype – and every prototype goes through several iterations. Why should film be any different?”


  3. Alève Mine

    Reshoots? Which reshoots? 🙂

    Why should film be any different: one can argue that prototypes have costs just like reshoots do. That’ll depend on the specific prototype and shoot in question. But rescheduling the crew and cast, and that the set and cast look and sound like it was the same day as the conceptually adjascent shots are not things you need to worry about with object- or app prototypes.

    That said, it might be a good idea to plan reshoot days and communicate that ahead of the first shoot. If you have enough shoot time.

  4. Shooting People » Ben's Blog » Ben’s Blog: New Rules.

    […] their first film with the existing rules and procedures burnt into their soul as their only guide. I wrote last week of the lingering shame that attaches to reshoots. But this is just one expression of the sense of failure we feel when deviating from the process […]

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