Brian Thomas,

Brian Thomas,

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 12 1998 3:30 AM

Brian Thomas,

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       I dropped the film off at the lab this morning. I forgot they'd ask for a down payment on the processing before they'd even touch it. I pulled out my credit cards and stared at them for at least a full minute while the cashier waited. After I left, I realized I'd made the wrong decision, using my debit card instead of a credit card. Now I don't have enough cash to pay people I owe for costumes, art, etc. I get paid in a week--perhaps I can make excuses until then. Such a cliché for low-budget filmmakers.
       I took the day off from work at my temp job and returned all our equipment, including a fog machine we rented for the price of a six-pack of Bud.
       By noon, as I was on a ladder pulling nails and staples out of the walls at our filming location, I realized this was the most fun I've ever had making a film. I've worked on about 50 films at NYU over the years, but I've never felt as euphoric and centered as on this film. Most filmmaking experiences in New York were agony for me, but shooting The Incredible Vibrating Man here in Seattle was actually fun.
       I think the most important thing I got out of film school was confidence. I spent my time making films with other people who loved movies. The classes didn't say much. Very few teachers inspired me or taught me anything beyond how to plug in a light or focus a lens. Many of my fellow students used to curse the program regularly, saying it should be scholarly and insightful rather than what it is: a hands-on technical education. And too much school can be a bad thing. After a year or two, my films started becoming intellectual and show-offy and I, a snob and a cynic. I had to escape out West with my diploma.
       Vibrating Man had a production budget of $2,049. Everyone worked at no charge, and much of the rental equipment was received through special programs or special begging techniques. We went over budget by about $300. Not bad at all, I think. It will cost at least another $2,000 to finish the film. (That's one-tenth the cost of a single year's tuition and housing at NYU.)
       I can't wait to start editing. Short films are very different from feature-length films--they have to immediately create a certain mood in the viewer. When the mood is at its peak and almost fully realized, you stop and roll credits. There is no time for a release of tension.
       I scheduled the first screening of all the film footage for tomorrow night. I haven't seen one frame. Everyone's asking me if they can come, but I usually like to see it alone with the cinematographer first. I should let them come since they all worked for free, but the first screening feels like walking out into a spotlight and dancing naked: No matter what their reaction is, I'll feel uncertain and embarrassed afterward.
       Ah, who am I kidding, I feel that way already.

Brian Thomas is an independent filmmaker who lives in Seattle.