So damn true…
As indies – or in any industry, for that matter – I see bridge-obliterating happening way too often. No wonder that the mass of indies remain stuck in neutral at their present purgatory-like level of development. Shame…
Look, I fully expect people to have agendas and I suppose it’s why filmmakers go into this biz in the first place: a certain amount of ego must – by definition — be involved in the process of getting a story from script to screen. It’s akin to wanting to have your own kids, as if there aren’t already millions of of needy youngsters around the globe who need the services of a loving family. It’s this abiding desire to want to see yourself in full 3D Technicolor in motion, cooing and crawling about on the carpet which is causing overpopulation, but let’s not go there. For some reason, the fascination with wanting to see a replicated you bumbling around on all fours on your kitchen hardwood remains salient.
Similar to this desire to want to spawn your own brood, filmmakers will do anything in their power to make their film happen.
I know — and have met – indies who will step over inert bodies to make their projects happen. They’ll manipulate you like a Stasi agent. Like politicians stumping the proverbial hustings, there’s nothing they won’t promise to their would-be constituents for the privilege of becoming their next elected representative. The level of behavioral depravity some of our voted-in officials sink to will knock you doolally. What some indies are prepared to do will also knock you clear for six.
The difference, however, with our indie film community, dear friends, is that we’re an interdependent ecosystem which feeds and breeds off each other.
Because we have tremendous resource constraints at almost all phases of our long production cycles – a reality which hardly seems to be abating as the years propagate from Year Zero (2007, when distributors pulled up stakes and left indie filmmakers and documentarians drier than a dead dingo’s donger), we indies (and indie practitioners) are forced to constantly operate in a situation of rampant scarcity. We’re like penned up convicts compelled against our wills into a fetid, louse-ridden, surreal armed camp with limited foodstuffs at our disposal, inadequate shelter against the elements, murderous prison guards at our periphery armed with submachine guns against skeletal inmates who wantonly rain down deathlike truncheon blows on our and our fellow “prisoners’” heads for apparent violation of protocols of which we have absolutely no prior knowledge. We are cannon fodder.
What results is that when a morsel of food does, somehow, miraculously appear, it’s hoarded away into the secret rotting linen folds of a tattered, flimsy rag of a protective garment, shielded, this morsel is, from the prying lupine eyes of fellow inmates who will asphyxiate us for the chance to salivate over this miniscule crumb of nourishment. The longer we remain penned up in such unjust, criminal, and inhumane captivity, the more entrenched, pronounced, and intractable our behaviors become.
For indie have-nots, things are silly weird. What inevitably happens is that we revert to being animals. The bestial side of the human being reins supreme, and once we’ve reached that point when all bets are off.
Major correctives need to be applied. We can no longer only focus on our damn projects exclusively. We have to think more about banding together.
What point are we at with indie film?
You tell me…
If you’re anything like me, you’re researching, attending film festivals, and talking up the craft to your fellow creatives. And you’re watching films. A lot of them and comparing what’s already out there to what you’re trying to mount. You know your classics from your epics. You know your foreign from your domestic. You know your tail from your head.
You’re hearing about other filmmakers’ projects, accepting cards and asking people for their names, acknowledging them, and thanking them for their time patiently, and then you’re tapping your foot listening to their possibly-maybe promises about the windfalls of funding they’ve (soon) got at their disposal as they set to start shooting their pictures over the next few weeks (which is of course why they’re drumming up support for their projects at second-tier film markets dressed in day-old pajamas, drinking a lot of cheap boxed wine, and constantly looking over my shoulder with their beady eyes).
As the playing field becomes increasingly level, what with democratized filmmaking methods, cheap cameras, and plenty of people savvy in Final Cut guerrilla editing techniques, these predatory-like characteristics I describe above will become ever more pronounced. These same porcine sloths will continue to feed from the same slop trough.
You’ll have pricks who will attempt to cut you down, besmirch your bona fides, to gluttonously steal your project ideas, and to add insult to injury, attempt to milk you for your contacts and networks (if you’re caught so unawares!) all because there’s this insane bum rush for some far-off finish line where only a few of us can stand atop its narrow podium, like on Everest.
Does this describe you?
Recognize yourself in these lines? Then it’s high time to sit yourself down, crack open a brewski, and carefully reevaluate where your career’s going.
If you make it your mission to act like a mollycoddled self-referential “I am a river to my people!” kind of entitled indie artist, your shelf life in this game will hold intact about as long as heaping scoopfuls of tiramisu gelato on a searing Florentine 35C summer day.
If you promise shit you can’t possibly deliver on within any reasonable stretch of the imagination, you will won’t make it past your first film, if that. If you spew and talk a mean stick, yet don’t back up your statements with solid deliverables and achievements, you’re nothing dogmeat in our precious vertical so gird your loins.
If you pilfer from the hallowed commonwealth of precious resources housed in our indie film “Library of Alexandria,” prepare to suffer your fate in silence because this community will not rise to herald your cause. In fact, tides will violently turn against you, an infernal wind churning into a whirlwind, consuming you, your script, and your flimsily laid-pipe in a raging post-biblical blaze.
So cut it out. Stat. Because you’re ruining it for the rest of us, silly.
If after reading this bromide, this is still you, here’s my best advice if you want to continue rolling around in this sandbox:
- ensure you’ve got access to a load of private equity, because you can forget about crowdfunding your films. No one likes dealing with an incorrigible jackass.
- make sure you’ve got someone supporting you financially, too, because at the rate you’re going, no one’s going to be buying, distributing, or patronizing any of your films. You’ll be blacklisted and won’t even know it. And, well, you’re going to need money to live, right? Prepare to get tougher than old goat’s knees.
- think about getting into another career, because ours is strongly tied to collaboration, not to your self-absorbed delusions of grandeur.
And, most importantly, like Ted says above, better be able to walk on water because all your spans will have been burned beyond recognition.
Remember that it takes ages to build bridges, but mere seconds to destroy ‘em.
You’d do well to heed that advice.
Adam Daniel Mezei, PMD | Producer of Marketing and Distribution
Indie Audience Engagement Services for Independent Feature Films and Documentaries
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