The following is a compiled excerpt of a short speech I gave to the cast and crew of THE NEIGHBORHOOD at a recent production meeting. - Kyle
There’s this term I use when I’m making a film. I call it going down the rabbit hole. I don’t really say that aloud to anyone but it’s what I’ve always said to myself in my head.
"Is this really going to happen again? Are you ready? I think so. Ok, I’m ready. Down the rabbit hole.”
Now I know that sounds weird or crazy, or at least stupid. But it’s sort of the pep talk I give myself when I need to get up the morning of a shooting day and get to work. It helps me in some way to think, “Here we go. Down the rabbit hole.” And then start working.
The process for THE NEIGHBORHOOD started in March. Over spring break I was trying to figure out what my thesis needed to be. I didn’t have it planned out since I started grad school or anything like that. I guess for me I don’t force myself to come up with some idea I just kind of wait until the idea finds me. And then I try to harness it, fight with it, get it down on paper, and figure it out. I did, however, know that I was not going to go bigger for my thesis. I wanted to go small, intimate…easy. Though we all know it is never that. And somehow it not only became bigger, it became huge. 23 cast members. Over a dozen locations. 40 extras. A crew of 50+.
So much for smaller.
But here we are and I’m already farther down the rabbit hole then I’ve ever been. It starts with pre-production of course, with looking at a bunch of words on a page, and figuring out how in the world you’re going to take this thing that only exists on a piece of paper and come out on the other side with a movie. And that’s really scary. It’s the part of the journey that is completely unknown. Because no one can do it alone and dozens of hands have to touch this thing to get it from script to screen.
That’s the part that always baffles me. All the moving pieces and that a movie ever even exists at all. It’s so bizarre. But so exciting.
So in April, Dwayne (cinematographer), Steve (producer), and I decided we were going to do this. We were going to make THE NEIGHBORHOOD happen. And we weren’t going to sacrifice the scope of the script and the largeness of it to make it easier to do. We wanted to tell this story the best way we could, the only way we could. We wanted to make it worth it. And so Steve and Dwayne joined me in the rabbit hole.
May. June. July. August.
And here we are. September 25. 8 days away from our first day of principle photography. And things are so crazy. But so totally exhilarating.
I don’t say all this to be self-important or pretentious or anything like that. I just think it’s important for you to know where I’m at so that I can know where you are.
Let me describe the rabbit hole a little bit.
The rabbit hole is dark. Sometimes pitch black. It echoes and it’s slippery and there are ugly monsters hiding around the corner waiting for you. These monsters are things like self-doubt, second guessing, people dropping out, people being mean, people telling you that you can’t do this thing you’re trying to do, that it’s too much. That it is impossible.
But the only reason they think it can’t be done is because it never has.
But sometimes in the rabbit hole you find warm light seeping through a crack in the wall or a drink of cool water in a small pool on the ground. In other words, sometimes, if you work hard and act right and are kind and respectful and honest, you find relief.
And that’s where you come in. You are that light. That water. You are the relief. Because for all of the crappy people we’ve dealt with, all of the questioning and fighting and failure, for whatever reason you are here and you are very, very important.
This is a very special film. Not because of me or anything I am doing but because of you and the massive amount of talent I know you bring with you.
Perfection is not expected. We’re all still trying to figure it out. I know I am. Hard work, however, is expected. And I know for sure that all of you can and will work hard. Last time I checked we were all in film school because we wanted to make films. So let’s do that. Laziness isn’t cool with me. If there is an issue you have just let us know. I promise we’ll be nice to you and understanding and work with you to make your situation as best as it can be. If you do not let us know what’s going on and you become unreliable however, that won’t be fun or cool. I know you’ve worked on a lot of crappy sets that were poorly run, unprepared, nasty places to spend two weekends of your life. This will not be one of those sets.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. This is collaboration, not a hierarchy. We are all collaborators here. I don’t care what your job is. This is your film. This is our film. So let’s make it the best thing we can. Let’s be a team. Let’s get our hands dirty. Let’s help each other out, be nice to each other, work hard, learn as much as we can as artists and get this thing done.
So now the question is, of course, will you go down the rabbit hole with me? I promise I won’t steer you wrong if you’ll promise me you won’t give up.
Let’s make a great movie.