A writer makes a decision with each word they put on the page; those decisions turn into gray hairs, three-ring binders, and even more decisions for the producer. My problem: I’m a writer/producer.
With my co-writers, Stephen Hale and Mike Mohan, we made the decision to write a scene where a fist fight occurs. Halfway thru the movie, one of the characters gets punched in the face, and for the rest of the movie has a black eye. As a writer, creatively, it made sense. As a producer of a very low budget movie, not so much. That means we’d need a make up person for 50% of the movie. But we were writing, this was the creative part of the process, so I told the producer side of me to shut the hell up. While writing, we tried to stay open to every idea for the sake of the story. The producing part will happen when the script is ready.
Werner Herzog famously dragged a steam ship over mountain in Fitzcarraldo; our black eye morphed into a 300 ton ship in the way of us telling our story. We needed it, but had zero money to pay someone. Mike suggested we talk to his friend who would teach me how to apply my own black eye (Oh, by the way, I also acted in the film, and played the character that gets hit in the face). She did a great job, teaching me the right technique. She was super patient with me. I gave it a shot. The first one wasn’t good. I got a do over. The second one didn’t look that bad (but it still wasn’t great).
The cool part of the black eye was the highlight area. You didn’t put make-up on this area to mimic the swelling. Well, I thought I had gotten the hang of it: I practiced every day the week leading up to our first day of shooting. I was confident I could pull it off. So on our day 1 of production I got to set an hour early and applied my own black eye. We had begun shooting our first feature film. It was an amazing feeling. Nothing could stop us. And after the adrenaline faded three weeks later, we realized my black eye was awful. It looked like the letter “L” on my left eye. It was weird and distracting. Evidence below.
We had to be honest with ourselves. We couldn’t jeopardize the movie with me doing my own make-up, while simultaneously producing and acting. It was dumb, but we used the tools we had and fell short. I had to make the hardest decision of the movie. With no money and fifteen pages in the can, I had to stop the momentum. We started over. We found a young makeup artist just out of school that helped us out. And the two years of shooting One Too Many Mornings, the fiasco with our black eye faded away to new challenges.
By far, deciding to reshoot the black eye was the hardest decision we had to make while making the movie. It was the first big choice on set. We went with our gut, our gut was wrong, and we couldn’t be afraid to make the hard decision to fix the mistake. It took so much effort to get us to the point of actually starting to shoot this thing, and to start over was devastating. You just hope those hard decisions will make your movie better.