I was in love with a woman, and she had hairy legs. I wrote in the script that her character had hairy legs. She saw this and got offended. She thought I was making fun of her. She came over to my house with her boyfriend and sulked throughout the day of shooting and at the end of the day summarily collected the 150 dollars I had saved up to pay her and make a real movie with a budget for once and I remember staring out the front door at her summarily dropping her outfits into the trunk of her car with an “I don’t give a fuck” shrug and I felt so gross about the whole thing I never finished the film.
Note: I fall in love with many, many people, and never act on it. The worst I do is write them into films where I piss them off. But this one stands out, because I should have finished the film. I should have understood not to offend her. I was in the wrong, and I was a jerk. This is a repeated theme. But I still should have finished the film. I could have had it all: a finished film, a scene about the hair, and no one offended or angry. But I had no experience in writing about the personal and putting it in films and having a crush and not being a jerk to the one I had it on through film. (My apology was not finishing.)
Actors are on my level donating their time. What they want back for that is often to continue the same delusion I have: fulfillment through art, just around the corner, as a result of this fine product. It will never happen. If it’s happening, it’s happening now. So my first bit of advice, make a movie about someone/something you love, but learn to understand when you cross a line and make someone feel bad. People are going to get offended, their house will be messed up, their time will be gone. But it makes a difference if you apologize. Or try to communicate that you did not wish to harm.
Ben Siler is a filmmaker living in Memphis, TN. He kicks off a new feature, the NB Column, where we hear some on the ground stories and philosophies from the world of modern no-budget filmmaking. If you would like to write a NB Column, info is here.