Making My First Movie
By Jorge Solis
In my wallet, there are two things that I believe symbolize
who I am and what I hope to become in the future. These two
things can be found underneath all the receipts from Sam
Goody and Blockbuster. These two things are ticket stubs to
a horror film festival at Lincoln Center. On these two
ticket stubs are the names: Del Toro and Winston.
a little kid, hours were spent in front of television
watching horror movies. Growing up I wrote many horror
stories and it was only a matter of time before deciding to
make horror movies. There were two filmmakers at Lincoln
Center on October 20th, 2002: Guillermo Del Toro
and Stan Winston. They were passionate about what they
spoke, joking about their experiences, and having fun
was fortunate enough to talk to them and get their
autographs on that day. I realized that if they could make
horror movies, I could too. I told myself that I was going
to make my first movie at the College of Mount Saint Vincent
and it would be called, The Intruder.
Reading this essay isnít going to tell you how to direct
like David Mamet does in his book. This essay is not going
to tell you how to make a movie in 10 minutes like Robert
Rodriguez. Itís my story about The Intruder. This is
about the obstacles and triumphs I faced while making my
first movie. This is what I saw and how I remember it.
Even though this was such a bad idea, I unfortunately became
President of the Communications Club. Choosing the role
though meant it was my chance to make my horror movie. After
the Communications Club made its campus TV show, it was time
to make the budget proposal for the next semester. The club
members were in my favor to make this film which I would
write and direct.
When budget proposal was finally written, the club was
asking for $400. It never occurred to me that the College
would have problems with $400 but I was in charge of a small
club. The Communications Club was not a known club that did
a lot of activities or parties before. During my time as
President, it was the first time the Club used the equipment
in the Communications Building.
The college gave the club $200 for the movie. The reason the
budget proposal asked for $400 was because the Dean of
Communications told me there was not enough space in the
computer for the student films from the Video Production
class and my feature length student film. The $200 went to
pay for the external hard drive and I put $100 dollars of my
own money into the budget of my movie.
Looking back, Iím glad I produced my own movie. In my
opinion, it was better that way. The school didnít
understand why this college student
Iway. I learned rned that
tevision watchingwanted to make The Intruder.
Only I did. There were no worries about wasting other
peopleís money. Using my own money proved that this film
meant a lot to me. I learned where to save, what I really
needed, and who I could borrow things from.
The Intruder was a $100 budget movie. 10 digital tapes
were needed for the digital camera. Luckily the
Communications building was selling the DV tapes for $7. The
rest of the money was spent on fake blood. My older brother
had a fake musket and a switchblade comb. Even though she
didnít know she was contributing (actually it was stolen
from her room), my older sister helped with a toy heart with
eyes. A friend of mine in Video Production let me borrow the
digital camera the class was using.
Over the winter break, I asked some of my friends if they
wanted to help me make my movie. It didnít matter to me if
they couldnít act. I just wanted to make my movie. I asked
other people who werenít my friends or who I hadnít talked
to but were known to be in the Drama Club. As a director and
human being, you learn a lot about people in general.
There are a lot of books about filmmaking and directors in
my room. In my room, there is the ďEvil Dead CompanionĒ by
Bill Warren, ďHitchcockís NotebooksĒ by Dan Auiler, and
ďBurton on BurtonĒ edited by Mark Salisbury. You learn about
storyboarding, what makes a shot, and that 1 page equals a
minute from these books. What happened next no book would
have prepared me for. I wonder if Orson Welles and Alfred
Hitchcock ever faced this situation. I wonder if an actor
went up to them and said, ďFire this guy or I quit.Ē
During filming, this actor wanted me to fire my friend for
his own reasons. He tried to convince me that my friend was
using me and taking advantage of our friendship. Sure there
were problems with my friend like being late for example but
nothing that could not be handled. Keep the actor or lose
the friend? This actor and I go back since high school
because we were in the Drama Club. I thought about it and I
said I wouldnít fire my friend.
that actor quit and soon enough, the problems began to build
like a snowball rolling down a snowy hill. I knew I made the
right decision but no one wanted to believe me. Not even my
friend that the actor hated. Even though a new replacement
was found the next day, scheduling scenes would be tight and
difficult. Where I once had the advantage of filming one
scene one afternoon, I had to film two scenes an afternoon.
Always stick to what you believe in even though no one
shares in your beliefs. Why make The Intruder? For
fun. It was my practice movie. Donít you want to send your
work to a film festival? No. Arenít you serious about what
you do? Yeah but I know Iím not Spielberg. This first-timer
still had to learn his craft. I just wanted to make a home
movie with friends. This movie would be something we could
look at and laugh at. Plus film festivals want money and
this college student who was also paying tuition didnít have
that much money to pay to a film festival. I only had 100
bucks to make my movie.
You have your own beliefs and so do other people. Patience
and being a good listener are some qualities you develop
during filming. Everyone had something to say whether good
or bad. It did take time to film a scene, mostly because I
wanted to film from different angles. Yeah some people did
get hurt even though I tried my best not to let that happen.
Communicating with people is difficult for me, especially
for one who is quiet most of the time. I tried my best to
speak but these were mostly friends who didnít know how to
act. Simple directions worked for the ones who could not act
but the ones from the Drama Club wanted more.
In this scene, why does she talk to herself while sheís
driving? Because Robert De Niro was talking to himself in
Taxi Driver. And if any sort of directions failed, I
made the actor or actress imitate something from my favorite
movie. It was also important to make sure they didnít know.
One of the main actors, the anti-hero of the movie, wanted
to know why his character was always yelling and always
being a jerk. My answer was that he was imitating Kurt
Russell from John Carpenterís The Thing. I didnít
care if he wanted to do the scene his way. It was fun for me
to watch him imitate Kurt Russell in some way.
This thought was constantly in my mind: Keep what you like
and change anything in the script that makes you think
twice. If someone in the cast has an idea, use it. I didnít
want the cast members to memorize but to improvise most of
time because I heard thatís how Robert Altman does it. There
were changes made like switching the exterior locations to
interior locations because of weather. I kept telling
myself: Do whatever you think is necessary to make a scene
Storyboarding is like drawing the panels for a comic book.
In that square panel, you put in what you think should be
there. You are your own artist. For some scenes, I followed
the storyboards I drew. In other scenes, the photography was
done on the spot. Both were fun but I prefer making up the
scenes the way I drew them.
Sometimes the best footage would be when the actors did not
know the camera was rolling. The camera was kept rolling
because you would never know what you might find. When I
said, ďAction!,Ē I had to stop the camera right away because
the actors started right away. Because I learned from them
during filming, it meant they were rushing and soon a lot of
mistakes and retakes would keep occurring. People would be
talking too fast if I didnít tell them to slow down. What I
intended to be a detailed scene becomes a very short, flat
Probably the most difficult scene I ever filmed was the most
exciting day in my life. My friend told me he could roll
over the top of a car while itís moving. He told me heís
done it before. He told me to write it in the script. So I
wrote in a scene where a guy gets hit by a car. I found a
friend with a car who, thank God, did not realize how
dangerous the stunt was. On this day, more friends were
brought in to help me out, another friend to hold the
camera, and I drew the storyboards. The people in charge of
security at the College of Mount Saint Vincent knew what we
were doing. There was no need to worry about them. I made
sure I spoke to everyone involved for an hour and a half
before filming. There was no need for surprises like a dead
friend lying on the pavement. When filming began, I was
yelling directions, praying to God a thousand times, and
hoping I didnít pee in my pants if something went wrong.
When it was all done, you could hear me yelling, ďThat was
great!Ē and hugging my friend who could have lost his life.
My friend did not realize what he had given me. How many
student filmmakers can say they have a hit and run in their
movie? With the hit and run, The Intruder is not your
typical student film. Students are learning how to make film
look like art at UCLA or at NYU. I was learning how to make
a guy getting hit by a car work.
Itís difficult to explain to others that you know something
that is too hard to explain in words. While I was enjoying a
sense of pride, others were losing patience. I, on the
other hand, couldnít wait after class to film a scene. This
kid who dreamt about making movies was learning something
about filmmaking. My body was at a point of exhaustion
because I did travel back and forth. The long distance from
the college and my home would wear out anyone. Even though
my body was worn out, my spirit had enough energy to study,
write essays, and film after class because I truly loved
what I did.
was my love for movies that kept me going while some of my
classmates were losing patience and energy. While they were
losing patience and energy, my father was in the hospital.
There was something wrong with his heart and he heeded an
operation. I became conflicted between staying with my
father at the hospital and finishing the movie.
You realize how people truly are when your life turns to the
worst. I didnít tell anyone in the cast my father was in the
hospital. It would lead them to convince me to postpone the
movie. Postponing the movie was what some of them wanted and
I always spoke back angrily that postponing was out of the
was praying for my father to return home while I was
filming. I thought about my father during class and on the
trip to the hospital. I made some bad decisions in my class
work and during filming. Once an actress became annoyed with
me because I mixed up the afternoons she was free after
class. While she was complaining to me, all I wanted to do
was yell at her, ďMy father is in the hospital with tubes up
There were complications with the operation my father had.
The hospital had to keep my father for more time. As a
little kid, I thought of my father as Superman. Watching him
being at the most horrible condition gave me nightmares. I
thought I was a bad son because I couldnít be with him more
in the hospital. I prayed and prayed to God asking him to
bring my father home. I just wanted to see my father
watching TV in the living room again.
asked myself: Why should I continue the movie? Why donít I
just give up? Why donít I just postpone the movie like those
jerks want? I asked these questions as I cried in front of
my mother one night. The answer to the first question came
to me: Because my father wouldíve wanted me to.
father wouldíve wanted to know I was finishing the job
rather than staying with him in the hospital. My father
always told me never to leave any work unfinished. It
doesnít matter if some works are good or bad. There are a
lot of people who leave things unfinished and it does make
you feel less of a man. It takes a man to finish the job. I
told myself I was going to finish the job. I was going to
finish the movie. I will finish the job because it is what
my father wants.
father came back from the hospital during my Spring Break at
the school. The movie was being edited while my father was
recovering from the operation. I think that editing is the
most important aspect of filmmaking. It was great to see the
footage taking shape. I remember cutting a scene from a
medium shot to a tighter shot. This scene was cut like that
because that was how it was cut when George Clooney said,
ďEverybody be cool. You, be cool.Ē in the movie, From
Dusk Till Dawn. An actorís 5 minute monologue to 2
minutes because I felt in that scene there should be more
visuals than hearing someone talk. The scenes were cut
first, and then music was added. I cut the music to the
scenes because I heard that the editor to The Crow
movie did that. Anyone who was passing or who was a friend
of mine, I asked to get their opinion on a scene. Questions
like these were asked: Was the cut too quick or was the
scene taking too long? The rough cut of The Intruder
was 82 minutes. The movie was cut down to 75 minutes for
pacing and for taking in other peopleís suggestions.
The movie was finished edited on the day of the premiere.
Like I said I would, I had the movie finished near the end
of the Spring Semester. My closest friends came to the
premiere and I watched the movie with the rest of the cast.
A horror movie works if the audience has something to react
to. The Intruder worked at the premiere because my
closest friends and my cast members were reacting to the
scenes. In my mind I told myself I was cutting the scenes to
make the audience react somehow. Watching the audienceís
reaction was enjoyable because I was hoping they would.
Remember when you were little and you showed a family member
your drawing? The drawing wasnít a masterpiece but it was a
labor of love. Thatís The Intruder. I just want
people to recognize The Intruder as a labor of love.
Even though times were tough, I enjoyed making the movie
with my friends. Even though some did act like idiots for
wanting me to postpone, there are bloopers of them at the
end of the movie having fun. I enjoy hearing comments,
whether good or bad, from people about the film. My favorite
comment was from a friend who said she would not want to
live in the dorm building I filmed in because it looked
scary. I smile when I watch the movie by myself or with
someone else. I learned what Iím good at and what I can
improve on. I enjoy hearing my fatherís comments about what
he liked about the film. I love movies and I poured all that
love into The Intruder. That love will be poured into
the next movie I do.
believe that anyone can make a movie but you need more than
a camera and a script. Do you have the patience to make a
movie? Do you have the energy to film a scene? Are you
willing to put all your effort into something knowing it
might turn out bad in the end? No one expected much from me
which is why I am always glad to hear a comment about The
Intruder. Even though there were too many obstacles that
would have made another person just quit, I still made my
first movie with love, passion, and heart and thatís what
Copyright March 2004 Jorge Solis all