I have been hearing this phrase since I was a little boy - “The Show Must Go On”. As I grew up, I understood its meaning but didn’t really agree to it. Over the years I watched many different “shows” some of which earned my admiration and others my disdain, I wondered why must the show always go on.
What is the need for a show to go on if it’s really bad? What if the team behind the project has run into real difficulties, why should they make a superhuman effort just so the show can go on? These and other such questions came to my mind and for some time I decided the age-old maxim was not correct - the show must go on but only if it deserves it.
And then, I stepped into the filmmaking arena myself. In a very small way, I started doing the same things that all these filmmakers and TV producers and stage directors had been doing for years and years. And...I started to learn!
In the short time I have been doing this I have learnt many new things. Lots of technical things, of course, but along with them some deep, philosophical things as well without which I doubt if anyone can become successful in the film industry.
One such thing is the real meaning of the expression - The Show Must Go On!
A film project, even a short film with no budget to speak of, involves many people. While the motivation and skill of these people varies greatly they do have one important thing in common - the project. They work together and give it their best to finish the project successfully.
Regardless of the worthiness of the project itself a lot of hard work goes into the project. There are undoubtedly difficulties on the way but they must be surmounted because giving up means letting down so many people. That’s one reason. There are others.
No matter how bad a show might be, if it gives rise to one cameraman, one director, or one writer, who in his/her turn goes on to make great works of art in the future, the show deserves to go on. And this is usually the case. I won’t cite examples because there are way too many, but we all know that good actors, good technicians or good filmmakers have come up from bad failures before.
A film is a work of art, it may be turn out to be a bad film but in the process of making it, it may teach some very valuable lessons to its makers. We all learn by making mistakes and during the course of one bad project one inexperienced director may step on the path to be the next Spielberg.
For me the expression has very personal and alas tragic meaning.
When my first project “The Third Angle” was underway, I received news from home that my father had suddenly passed away. I have no words that would justify my emotions at the moment! I was very close to my father and this without the shadow of a doubt was the darkest, bleakest day of my life!
To make matters worse, my family lives in India and I was here in the UK. There was no way I could get there in time for anything!
To make matters still worse, I had second auditions scheduled for that night and my team had been working hard on the pre-production. The morning and afternoon hours were spent in a state that I don’t want to describe here but when coherent thinking returned I weighed my choices. I could cancel the project or I could go ahead with it.
I should mention that the project was on a very tight deadline in order to finish it before BFI deadline for short films for the London Film Festival 2011. My absence, since I was the writer and director, would hurt the project.
At that time, I began to realize many things at once.
I realized that I could not let my whole team down for my private grief, not to mention the actors we had already selected and the ones who were coming to audition tonight.
I realized that my father would have seriously disapproved of backing out of my commitment to these people.
I realized that I myself needed this project in order to keep myself distracted and keep my sanity.
I realized that not only I would have to carry on with the project, I could not even tell anyone about my private problems.
The post is getting long, let me conclude in brief. We had auditions that night and selected the remaining actors. I only told my friend Elaine, who was my first AD on the project and a close friend, that I would have to travel to India for a week and why. Elaine took care of rehearsals in my absence and I came back in time to start the filming.
We had many more problems with that project, but ultimately we finished it, I did post-processing on it myself and posted the DVD to BFI London Film Festival on the very last date!