That’s a Wrap!
That’s a wrap for Apocalypse Theory.
…Or, that’s what I said on July 3rd, when we finished filming. Once we were done shooting, the parts of my brain capable of working or focusing on anything lost function abruptly, and it’s taken about eight days to recover and finally write the promised blog post.
It took us 32 days, with very few days off and many sleepless, work-filled nights, to shoot Apocalypse Theory. The movie will likely end up being between 90 and 120 minutes long. It’s been almost three years in the making, and it’s difficult to wrap my head around the fact that the hardest part is over.
Our last scene couldn’t have been more poignant if we’d planned it that way. Our final shot, which occurs fairly early in the film, depicts two primary characters looking at a beautiful mural beneath a bridge on MSU’s campus. The end of their exchange is as follows:
“Shame it can’t be preserved.”
“I don’t think the artist minds. Nothing lasts down here.”
“It’s still sad.”
This reflection on impermanence could have just as easily been about the experience of shooting Apocalypse Theory: something that was never meant to last forever, but is still strange and bittersweet to bid adieu.
I’ll miss the feeling of constant creative expression that came with directing actors and helping to set up shots. When I chose to watch the camera monitor instead of the actors directly, it really felt like sitting in a movie theater, but with the power to change everything on the screen. It was a surreal and glorious experience. When things were going well, directing something of this size was enough to induce brief but enjoyable phases of power-madness and giddiness, and I finished most shoots with a greater sense of fulfillment than I had ever known before.
Perhaps most of all, I’ll miss working with the most talented, hardworking cast and crew I could’ve hoped for. I’ve undertaken most of my creative endeavors alone, so until now I never really understood the joys of working with an enthusiastic and capable team committed to the same artistic vision. Some have been with the project from its early stages, and some were brought on much later. Everyone demonstrated either an incredible, long-lasting faith in the project, or an amazing ability to catch up and perform admirably with the rest of the team on short notice. Thank you, cast and crew, for embarking on this quest with me and Brandon. It’s been real.
There were aspects of the process that I won’t miss. Directing a feature film is easily the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and the first time I’ve had to devote such constant attention to a project just to keep it moving. On the most stressful days, it took every ounce of willpower to keep from collapsing into a pathetic pile of vomit and tears. The stress took an immense toll on my psyche; every night I was plagued by nightmares of missed shots, mounting pressure, cameras watching me sleep and other film-related anxieties. Those dreams are only now beginning to fade; I’m still waking up in the morning, moving my sheets around frantically for “continuity reasons.” There were times when my relationship with Brandon was strained as well, either from being on different creative wavelengths or simply from the effects of previously unknown levels of stress.
Yet I can’t regret even the least pleasant aspects of shooting, because I often learned the most from them. Brandon and I made an effort to learn from every challenge that came before us, and to come into each shoot as better filmmakers. When things didn’t go according to plan—and the unexpected challenges, such as several necessary last-minute rewrites, nearly drove us into Panic Mode—we found strength we never knew we had, and always doubled down to heal the production’s wounds. Through these challenges, I overcame a lot of self-doubt and learned to trust myself. By delegating certain responsibilities to the rest of the crew, and seeing them excel so thoroughly, I learned to trust others as well. And even the tensest moments with Brandon revealed the flaws in our relationship, and helped us to understand ourselves and each other better. As a result, we’re better brothers and a better filmmaking team. We’ve learned so much from production—about art, life, ourselves, everything—that it feels like five years have passed in a month.
I mean that in a good, spiritual-growth sort of way, not a creepy Twilight Zone sort of way.
I would say this whole experience has been an emotional roller coaster, but they don’t build roller coasters that tall. A part of me feels that Apocalypse Theory is already finished. True, there’s still plenty of post-production ahead (which Brandon will blog about in the near future), but it’s work that we know we can do, has comparatively miniscule chances of falling apart, and can be scheduled whenever we have time. I see it as akin to the journey home after the completion of a long, perilous quest.
It’s difficult to sum up this experience as a single blog post. I’m considering writing a book on the production, which would offer a more complete making-of story, along with my own personal journey and tips for other beginning filmmakers. At the moment, however, I’m enjoying what is, in some ways, my first true period of relaxation in almost three years. I’ve been cleaning up Bleu Haus, catching up on video games, books and movies, and making up for lost time with my wonderful girlfriend Mari. I’m remembering why I got so excited about summer vacation as a child. And when vacation’s over, I’ll be rested and ready for the next adventure.
And now, I’d like to offer some thanks. First off, thanks to our wonderful cast and crew for bringing their all to this production. Brandon and I lucked out finding you all, and appreciate everything you’ve done for the production.
I also want to thank our parents, friends, girlfriends (love you Mari!) and loved ones for supporting us throughout production.
There are a lot of people inside and outside the cast and crew who enabled this production by either financing it or trusting us with their property (e.g. equipment, clothes, horses, businesses, and homes). You’re too many to thank here, but you know who you are, and we’ll make sure you get credit when this thing hits screens.
I’d like to thank everyone who Liked our Page, read our blog, kept up with our story and helped get the word out about Apocalypse Theory.
And of course, I’d like to thank Brandon for being the best filmmaking partner and brother in the whole wide world.
And thank you for reading. If y’all have any questions about production, write a comment and I’ll answer. And keep an eye on the blog; we’ll still write new posts on occasion to offer updates on post-production.