We're about to give way to a new year, and so I feel that it's time to address a question that I, as an indie filmmaker, get asked a lot.
"Do you direct and produce your movies? Should I?"
I’ve had a few years to experience the answer I have formulated. It really amounts to how I became the person I am today, and it can be applied to anything you want to do, in life. It’s why giving up is not an option, for me. It’s why I’m always working. It’s why I’m a die hard, free market capitalist. It’s why I’m always paying it forward to those who are willing to do the work and why I’m always there for the people who have helped me along the way.
This answer is not pretty.
It’s a trail by fire, and it weeds out the worthy from the time wasters. The bad news is, you might be the latter, your own worst enemy. Are you ready for the truth? Here it is.
Add mediacript, storyboard, fundraising, pre, and post production, FX, casting, set building, directing, and everything else. Yes, I do it all, and you'll have to, as well. I get help, but it always ends up coming down to me. Unless you have about 15 completely loyal and trustworthy friends who care as much about your project as you do (or that many slaves, which you know, isn't cool) you have to produce your films yourself. Otherwise you're better off finding something easier to do with your career and life that you think will make you just as happy. But that's the thing! No matter how passionate you are about anything, no one is going to care about it as much as you.
Ask any successful pro in the biz or business owner, and they'll tell you the same thing. If you have a great vision, everyone will be excited but eventually, one by one, they'll all be ready to go home. It won't matter to them, like it does to you, if the work is done or not. Even if you're giving them a cut on top of a paycheck, money is no substitute for passion. You can only be grateful for what they're willing to do, but you have to take it the rest of the way if you want to see it get done. Usually this will happen even before you reach the halfway point of your project. This holds true with everything in life. Human nature dictates it.
To sum it all up, the decline of any project comes from these factors:
- #1: Those who are willing to labor will at some point feel they have labored enough, and go home.
- #2: Those who lead find that they weren't as prepared or willing to work and sacrifice for the excitement they thought they had for a project.
- #3: Their project was ill conceived, the resources they set aside are inadequate, and no one else is willing to come in and pick up the slack to get things done. (Which is pretty much 1 & 2 combined.)
- #4: Even after all that, a project won't be up to the quality that people want, and it will fail.
Add media cannot emphasize this enough. When people ask me about this, what they are really asking me amounts to, "How do I break the creative sound barrier?" So many try to do it, and break up in the process. A few make it, but can't keep it going. That's why those who DO succeed are so hard to reach. They know the value of what they've created through their hard work and have no desire to hand it off to people who don't appreciate it.
If you don't know if you can produce AND direct, then you're probably not going to make it.
I'm sure that's not the pep talk anyone is looking for, but as the Olympic Gold medalist Dana Hee once recanted, in a story about telling her trainer to lay off of her because she was doing her best, he responded to her...
"You're best isn't good enough. Look around. Everyone here is doing their best. Everyone here isn't a champion. You want to be a champion? You have to do better than your best."
Are you ready to do better than your best for your art? If so, remember, you'll be the only one, so it's up to you.
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Oh, and in case you're wondering who I am to be telling you this: I am the director and producer of The Quantum Terror, Girl In The Window, and When Hollywood Green-Lit Comic-Con. I have worked on such films as Live Forever: The Ray Bradbury Odyssey, Harbinger Down, and a bunch of other stuff. I've also host The Practical People podcast show, published Moonlight Art Magazine, been and art teacher, a successful gallery artist, and am only just getting started.