“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” ― Oscar Wilde
Clearly Oscar Wilde wasn’t talking about independent filmmaking, but if you play with the quote a little…..you do need a very well developed imagination to make a film with very little means… but can you really make a film for next to nothing?
“Love Hurts” September 2012 52 films/52 weeks.com
And why would anyone want to watch a film that didn’t cost anything to make?
I suppose it comes down to what you believe is of value.
A painter can create a painting with very little cost to themselves in relative terms, a bit ofpaint, a canvas and some of their time. This painting can them become worth millions, or it can become just something that the painter feels great about because he created it on his own, with his own mind and his own talent and now he can hang it on his own wall and feel he accomplished more than he could have ever hoped to.
Can film be assessed in the same terms?
I think that is exactly what makes very, very independent film so magical. The reward is never financial and because that possibility is taken completely off the table, there becomes no sense of commercial requirement. So what is created, by the blood, sweat and tears of you and your cohorts, is yours and yours alone, and is, in my humble opinion, art.
Even if very few people see the film, there are huge flaws with it and it’s not exactly what you set out to make, it is art, and special and wonderful because it got made, and because it got made by you!
If you are a musician you can play your instrument, alone, or with others, in front of an audience, or in your garage and you will be a musician. If you are a writer, you write, a painter paints, and a filmmaker must make films.
Is what a film becomes worth monetarily even a part of the equation when you decide to make one?
Well of course there are many filmmakers out there who incorporate that into their reasons for making one film instead of the other, if they are in a position to choose and have a budget from somewhere. Obviously the question of monetary success is one big studio’s ask themselves and their producers and writers and directors who want the money to make their films.
Independent projects must only ask themselves these same questions if they are looking for funding, and “will this make any money” is certainly the sort of question that prospective investors will be asking them.
These days independent films and even very independent films can and do make money. They make money from over seas releases and cable. Netflix has a huge selection of really wonderful independent films.
They can and do raise money from, grants, domestic investors, foreign investors and distribution and from crowd funding.
Ahh the magical world of crowd funding.
I have just recently, dipped my toe into the tepid sea of crowd funding with a documentary project I am producing, and its not as simple as it might appear. You can’t just go on Kickstarter and ask for a few quid. You have to have a registered company, tax ID, bank account etc, etc, etc…Then you have to answer a large amount of repetitive questions, put together a video pitching your project and it all takes a lot more work and a lot more time than you’d ever expected. I suppose this is intentional, and legally required for Kickstarter or Indiegogo or whoever, to cover themselves, and I’m not complaining. After all it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that someone might go on these sites asking for money with no intention of creating anything…but its s lot of work I can tell you. Once your project is launched you can’t just leave it at that of course, you have to promote the fundraising. Facebook and twitter and Instagram at the very least and emails and anything else you can think of all to raise awareness of your campaign and a few bucks for your project. I’m not sure what the statistics are exactly, but at least two thirds of these projects don’t meet their funding goal, and with Kickstarter at least, if you don’t meet your goal you don’t get any of the money pledged at all….which is a bit sad I think. A bit like an overly strict maiden aunt or a high school Jenga challenge. But technically if you ask for a certain amount of money because you think you need that certain amount of money to make something and you don’t get it all then logically, I suppose, since you yourself concluded that you can’t make that project for anything less than what you asked for, you can’t make the project. Which is silly…
Of course there are many filmmakers resort to credit cards and the like, and there’s a huge difference between donating or giving money to a project because you want to see it made for whatever reason and knowing you will never see any money back, and investing in an Independent film because you believe you will make your money back and some, usually because it has someone like Eric Roberts in it, he has a huge Malaysian fan base apparently!
In the real world, of huge budgets and diminutive ones, if you don’t get what you want then you get what you can and make the film anyway. There are plenty of CGI rich films that can’t be made for less than hundreds of millions because CGI on that scale just costs that much to make. But there are are also plenty of other films that don’t require CGI or massive casts or opulent locations that can be made for less than expected, and more and more often that’s exactly what happens.
But that’s a discussion for another day I think.
I make films, very, very independent films, with no allusion to funding, no time or patience for campaigns. I write, I cast, and I shoot, then edit and complete and move on. I think I am in love with the process, the magic of creating a film, short and small and probably not seen by many, but that’s not really the point for me in the end. The more films I make the better at it I become and the better my films become, hopefully… In my real world of low and no budget films, you take what you can and make the film. It is true that often means you can’t make the film you have in your head and you have to find the essence of your story within the confines of your pocket, but that’s not the end of the world, not by any means.
In fact, I think it’s the beginning of another world, the world of the visionary, of the poetic and the very, very passionate. The strange new world of very, very independent film.
Happy Christmas and a very, very merry New Year