What’s scarier than directing your first feature? Definitely not werewolves or vampires—unless, I guess, that werewolf or vampire happens to be your executive producer. But really, no Halloween horror story not involving the leaked audio of a 2005 Access Hollywood puff piece can hold a castle-blown candle to the sheer stress and anxiety of finally slipping into the director’s chair on your debut movie.
Think about it. The cast and crew are all there, staring at you, judging—eyes hungry for instruction, practically searing a hole through your natty mustard cardigan, question after question coming after you like deathless, brain-devouring zombies straight out of Return of the Living Dead. And the only way to beat them back is to answer decisively… even if you’re totally full of shit. After all, the old cliché is true: you gotta fake it ‘til you make it.
At least that’s the impression we got from speaking to some of our favorite Film Independent Members and Fellows, including Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), Lake Bell (In a World…) and Justin Simien (Dear White People), who we asked about the experience of making their first movie. Their answer? Not. Easy.
Together, this odd collection of auteurs shared some of their most fraught, harrowing and ultimately rewarding moments as seen from behind the bullhorn and canvas jodhpurs on their big-screen debuts, somehow living to tell the tale with anecdotes intact:
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