I do not have all the answers. Or should I say, I do not have all the right answers. Maybe there’s no one with the right answers? Ahh, yes. That’s it. Nobody has all the right answers.
I am days away from beginning principal photography on Half Life, my first go at directing a narrative. And just in case I forgot that I was making an independent film, the universe was able to drum up two significant and totally unrelated events in the past 48 hours just to remind me. First, one of our crew members was arrested. Second, we were sold down the river when our equipment rental house completely backed out on the production. While getting arrested is no barrel of laughs, being three days from getting the first shot off and suddenly having no equipment lined up has been the real catastrophe. Just to put any producer who might be reading this at ease, the tough got going and in less than eight hours we were able to set up accounts with three new vendors, adjust our insurance, secure all the equipment we needed, and lay out a new travel plan.
We find Gary, the lead character in Half Life, in a similar position–pursuing a path toward something he can’t quite get a grip on and along the way he is thrown up and down and then straight into living his way through all the questions. This is an experience commonly referred to as “being tested.” At the beginning of the film, Gary seems content; everything in his life is pretty peachy. Little by little, he starts to see fractures from his past, new ones creeping in, each one unto itself not so damaging, but all together, they break his world wide open. Now, Gary is standing in the middle of a wide open pile of broken pieces, staring at it saying, “What the hell? Where was the wrong turn? How do I put it all back together and make it work again? Is there a different way to do this? A better way? A truer way?” Well, my advice to Gary—Go climb a tree.
Some of you might be saying, “Girl, get real. Clearly you’re up in a tree right now and too far off the ground to see what is really happening.” Okay sure… you might be right. But I’ll say this, the tree I’m climbing is an ancient oak and its roots are deeper in the ground than any of us probably ever will be. The tree will let you know what you need to know; you’ll feel it every time the wind blows. Yes, the climb is dangerous and scary—at times you’ll feel lost and unsure of your next move, your feet will slip, your hands will lose grip, you’ll get a few cuts and take a few knocks. But, if you keep your head up and remember what you’re there for, listening for signals each step of the way, you’ll find what you need and you’ll make your way to peer out over the tippy, uneasy top. What that looks like? Well, I don’t know; I imagine it looks different for everybody. I’ll let you know when I get there. And if I do, you’ll see it in Half Life.
Erika McGrath is currently developing her first feature length picture and is in production for her short film Half Life, which was successfully crowd funded on Seed&Spark this summer. When not making movies, she is also an active dog lover, motorcycle rider and pie enthusiast. Born and raised in Ohio, McGrath now resides in New York City.