BEFORE WE BEGIN…
I don’t know what it is about this godforsaken industry that makes people so crazy. Actually, maybe I do.
Think about it; if you encounter someone who’s striving to be a mechanical engineer, a biologist, or an architect, chances are they’re pretty grounded and seem to have a realistic, yet solid game plan when it comes to achieving their career goals.
Now, do you ever notice the difference when you speak to an artist with (or without) a career plan? Maybe it’s the passion that comes within creativity or perhaps their attempt to bury deep-seeded doubt with rays of hope. However, if you ask me, I think we’re all nuts…in our own way. It seems this business can bring out the worst or the crazy in some of the most levelheaded people…and I don’t think that diminishes when someone becomes successful…it only gets worse.
Can you think of any other industry in the world where being deemed successful is essentially the equivalent of winning the lottery? You could be working as a dishwasher who is writing a script in your spare time when it falls into the right hands…then suddenly you’re the next Shane Black or Eli Roth.
Maybe you’re crashing on your friend’s couch (technically homeless) then you get that one audition and you’re co-starring alongside Gal Gadot. I guess those odds can make anyone crazy living this way on a day-to-day basis, but it’s not just the artists. As we’ve seen recently the upper echelon of Ho-Ho Wood have their own problems in which how they behave (thanks to the media frenzy of late), and I don’t think I need to elaborate on that too much. However, I do hope this time there is a lasting change in the behavior on set and behind the golden gates. It’s long overdue.
So yes, I believe you have to possess some kind of crazy to want to be in this industry and I accept the fact that I, too, am guilty of being a little south of sanity. I mean, aren’t we all just a bunch of tortured geniuses anyway? We have to remember this is a business – the entertainment business – and boy is it entertaining! But every step must be crafted with a purpose and a plan so you’re not running amok like an unsupervised inbreed in a Wal-Mart. Having a strategy in place is key while surrounding yourself with people who support your goals. Not handlers or enablers, but others who better you, who better the project…plus have your best interest in mind.
There’s a huge difference between those, right? This guide is designed for the filmmaker, regardless of what part of the equation you make up. What qualifies me to spill this information? Fair question. I have amassed what you’re about to read through my hits and misses spanning back from 1986 until now. In over 30 years I have produced everything from industrial spots to number one Box Office hits and anything you can imagine in between – and I do mean anything. I founded and operated a successful film company that’s approaching its 20th year in business (yay us!) and with the exception of a two-year hiatus I took to go find myself, it has said “filmmaker” on my tax returns ever since I can remember.
And it’s been an adventure to say the least. I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor. I like rich better if I’m being honest. I’ve been embraced, I’ve been shunned. While yes, it’s nice to be welcomed to red carpet events and private parties in Bel-Air, being an outcast has its perks as well. I believe if you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not being heard.
Okay, I admit…that’s the spin I’ve chosen to use while going through low phases of my career, when I’ve been neglected by my peers. I don’t claim to know it all because I discover something new each day. It amazes me how much has changed and yet things still remain the same. I also understand and respect that different tools work for different people, so I will do my best to keep this on point, yet entertaining, while attempting to cover as many bases as I can and appeal to as many of you as possible.
Over the years I have been very fortunate to make a cross section of films ranging in different budgets for various outlets. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess working above-the-line on a $20 or $30 million dollar film didn’t have a tremendous upside…but I’m happy where I’ve landed although it might not be as sexy or noticed by the general public, I tend to sleep much better making films for a dime, which I am confident will make back a dollar. And sleep is good. Especially when its been documented that 80% of studio films lose money. If the indie game is so good, then why aren’t more people doing it? I’m here to tell you it’s not – and more people are doing it than you realize. But it’s becoming much more difficult to turn profits in this era of VOD (video on demand) deals being the lion share of sales for little movies.
The returns can be a lot less, so making films that look good on the cheap are more important than ever, especially with such an oversaturation in the marketplace…all of this while the bar continues to be set higher and higher with every new gadget that comes out. Drones, gimbals and sliders have given us indie rats the ability and confidence to boost our production value, but like with everything else, they’re becoming old hat and filmmakers at the low-level are constantly reinventing ways to up the ante.
I hope most of this will be a fun read while educating you or reaffirming what you already know. For me, it will be cathartic in some ways, as well as painful at times…but I promise to remain transparent. Since I’ve produced a handful of films with respectable budgets and distribution, I am often asked why I prefer to play in low-budgetville. It’s simple; I like to work. For a guy like me, I’m lucky if a ‘biggie’ comes around once every ten years. Life is short and I’m too passionate about telling stories, regardless of where they’ll end up or how much of a splash they’ll make in the marketplace. To me, work is the same whether I’m getting paid or writing a check to do it, (which is more often than I care to admit), but every day that I am able to wake up, look in the mirror and say, “Good morning, filmmaker!” life is good. (Download Today)