“If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Of course Yann Martel is a writer, a brilliant one, and not a filmmaker, but he is an artist, and so are we!
Across The Pond, TV Pilot, England, 2009
Unfortunately, there is little to no government or public funding or support for film in the US, and in the very, very independent world, very little point in taking the endless amounts of time to research and apply for whatever is out there, particularly if your work is fictional…
Same with Kickstarter or indigogo, you wouldn’t want to put one of those campaigns together every month just so you can make a film I can tell you!
That said, and after having spent countless hours researching and attempting to apply for various grants and funds, and setting up kickstarters and indiegogos, so I can speak from bitter experience, I believe it’s a real relief to know that your budget is either zero or close to it. As odd as that may sound, I have always found the lack of money to be wonderfully freeing.
No money, no involvement by others creatively or otherwise, no commitment to others expectation, and therefore whatever is created is yours!
Your vision, your rules, your mistakes, your triumphs.
But then, if there is no money for films or from films, there must be money to live and how do we make films, short or otherwise, and live….
A good question….
One I am still figuring out for myself.
Needless to say, I have had very, very tough moments over the years where I have either been unable to cover my bills or unable to make a film.
But you must remember that filmmaking is an art, and therefore we must consider ourselves to be artist. At times the role of the artists is to starve, so I guess the less money there is, the truer the artist.
Which must mean I am the ultimate artist!!
Because with two kids, two dogs, a cat and three chickens, I have a lot of mouths to feed and bums to wipe…I also have a Husband who can thankfully complete both those tasks for himself, at least for the moment, but since he is an actor and a filmmaker too, we are both on the same page when it comes to regular jobs, ie, we don’t really have them…we ‘freelance’…
We have all our own film equipment, or most importantly, our own camera. So we can, and do, make our own films and shoot other peoples, develop projects and write for our own production company, knowing we can at least shoot something when we’re ready.
For free, essentially.
But the question of ‘how can we shoot this with no money‘, and how can we pay our bills, is of course a real consideration for filmmakers.
Even the big guys have to find a way to pay for everything, and the bigger you get, the harder that seems to become.
Filmmaking is not really considered to be an art form in the US, at least not by the general public.
In Europe and many other places on the planet it is, The French treat filmmakers like gods, but then, they are The French, after all.
But, seriously, if and when people ask me what I do, I usually reply “I am a filmmaker and a writer,” and then, of course comes the question, “Would I have seen anything you have done?” Or, failing that, and shortly after they have given me the proverbial once over, they assume I couldn’t possible have made anything they have seen based on the fact that I do not even remotely resemble what most people imagine a filmmaker to look like. I am female for a start, and do not wear, or even own a baseball cap. I am also in my prime, so to speak, not exactly the common consensus for the visual definition of ‘filmmaker.’
So I think the point I am seemingly trying to avoid making is this.
You can make very, very independent films, gorgeous, short, imperfect, full of passion and entirely yours, and make a living doing something else.
Lord knows even the well paid and very well paid filmmakers in Hollywood have to do that, they just do it by making a studio film they may not have much control over, that they don’t particularly love, and then they take some of the money they earn doing that and make their own independent film.
What I, and many other very independent filmmakers do is pretty much the same thing, we just may not be making huge studio pictures to pay the bills.
But whatever work we do, related to filmmaking or not, it serves the same purpose.
To support our habit.
Nothing to be ashamed of, far from it in fact. I am very proud that we have managed to live our dream. Even if it means I don’t eat out a lot, but hey, I’m a great cook!
I am a creative being, wether I am writing, producing, directing, editing or building a chicken coup!
So being able to do that most of the time, even if we are not lousy with cash, is, I believe, a real privilege, and certainly not something I take for granted.
So what if it means an occasional sleepless night worrying about bills, I know I still did that years ago when I was working full time and making money.
I am too old to worry about what other people think about my lifestyle, and I certainly don’t worry about comparing myself to the sudo-rich “Angelinos” who just have a lot more debt than I do….no judgement…
Basically, what I am saying is, that if you have to tell a story in film, regardless of your income, ability, experience and even how much time you have…..just figure out a way to do it!
Because we are non of us getting any younger and if you are like me, those stories in your head aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So unless you get them out of your head right away, they will probably end up driving you out of it…..not something any of us want I think!
Some of the most gifted filmmakers worked as something else and made their art when they could. Because they could do nothing but that.
Quentin Tarantino worked in a video store, John Hughes sold jokes to Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers, Martin Scorsese was a film editor, James Cameron was a truck driver, Peter Jackson was a photo engraver and Oliver Stone drove a cab…..
If you are an artist, a filmmaker, then be that and if you have to, be something else to pay the bills…. And that means do the work, write the script, shoot the film, tell the story and make money elsewhere to cover your costs.
If it means you film just on the weekend, or once a month, or even just on your vacation, thats fine too!
Being creative, being a filmmaker is about taking the story you have, the time you have and the resources you have and making something authentic and wonderful.
Wether that takes a year and millions of dollars, or it takes a couple of weekends, and the coins from your car ashtray…..the remains of one bad habit supporting another!
You will find a way….No need to worry about how……..just know that you can.
And make your work, ‘work’ and your habit ‘film.’