UPDATED: Seeking Event Photographer, Graphic Artist

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word (and to all who expressed interest). We’re no longer looking to fill these positions.

Hi, again, everyone. Rebecca and I are once more on the lookout for some help, and since you all have been very helpful so far with referrals for our as yet unannounced project, I thought I would try asking around here and via social media before we go the old fashioned route in terms of filling the positions mentioned in the title of this post.

Details below. Any questions, please feel free to ask. If you’re interested or know someone who might be interested, please contact me via Twitter, FB, or via this site.

Finally, in the interests of transparency, these are (basically) low-no pay positions. I wish they weren’t, but we’ll do what we can to repay the favor of any friends of friends who have the skills to help out for a day or two and wouldn’t mind giving us a hand.

Event Photographer Needed for Evening of 7/18 (NYC)

We’re looking for someone to take candid shots during a programmed presentation and while mingling in the crowd before and after the presentation. The hours would be from about 6:45PM to 9:00PM on 7/18.

Ideally, candidates will have some experience with this type of photography, and their own equipment.

As per usual, unfortunately, we have very little available in terms of budget. We’re definitely asking for a favor, which would be returned in the form of future paid work (if/when we have other gigs and more of a budget), referrals and public praise.

That being said, if you’re a pro and are perhaps interested, feel free to contact us with a proposed modest fee in mind for the use of your equipment and for processing. You’d also be free to enjoy the event as you are able, in between snapping shots.

Graphic Artist Needed for Quick Photoshop Job (NYC, Remote Possible)

We’re also looking for a decently experienced graphic artist. I can’t yet release the full details of what we need done in terms of the gig, but the ideal candidate will have experience with layering and basic visual effects work in addition to general photo editing skills.

The artist would need to be available to complete this work by 7/19 or 7/20, after delivery of assets on 7/18. I can provide more specific details to interested applicants.

As with the photographer role, we’re unfortunately very limited in terms of budget. We would return the favor with future paid work (if/when we have other gigs and more of a budget), referrals and public praise. This project may also provide you with some interesting work samples for your portfolio.

Again, if you’re interested and could be persuaded to perform this work for a modest, flat fee, please don’t hesitate to apply.

This job would probably go more smoothly if the eventual artist were based in NYC, but remote work could be possible.

Preparation and Control

We battle chaos.

That’s what it feels like, much of the time, right? Whether we’re (seemingly) safe and comfortable, or (seemingly) dangling over a precipice between survival and some (perceived) point of no return — it can feel that way, right? Us against chaos. We’re biologically conditioned to expect it.

For me, I’m learning that this natural reaction can be tempered, that there are perhaps different types of instinct, other than the one that’s always prepared for chaos. A conscious voice and an unconscious one, at minimum. I don’t pretend to always know which should be listened to at any given moment. I think probably it depends on circumstance and on how far each of us is willing to go in the direction of either abandonment or control.

PA Puppy can't get a Grip.
PA Puppy can’t get a Grip.

This most recent non-committal point reminds me of the filmmaking process. If filmmaking is anything, in my opinion, it is a dance between abandonment and control.

In crafting recorded narratives, and even in viewing and consuming them, we play god. This is a point that perhaps gets lost among the race to “produce content” — which almost anyone can join at this point, in certain terms. We pretend another world, usually one that’s like ours in at least some accessible way, is real. Depending on what side of the narrative we are on, we then either pretend to be able to capture and populate a world — and lives within it — or we accept it’s reality as a witness to these built worlds.

Personally, as I’ve already discussed, I believe we’ve drifted, on the whole, a little too far from our actual reality, while as a population we participate perhaps too frequently in patterns of “world hopping”, in the preceding terms. But I have already discussed that. I’ve also made it clear what I believe needs to be done, here and now, in terms of what kind of narratives we would create and absorb. If I were running the world. Which, luckily, I’m not.

But. For real.

In so many words, I think The Moment that is coming — for us, here in America at least — is one of reflection. And, hopefully, increasingly, discussion as well.

As a filmmaker, this becomes a complicated proposition for me. In today’s environment, it’s actually very easy to enter discussion. In a way, we’re discussing ideas right now. It’s been a great positive change in my life, having this site to turn to regularly, and having you here reading and, sometimes, reflecting back at me. Now that I’m almost a year and a half into this endeavor, whatever it is, I can’t see not having this space — and you — in my life.

I’ve been overwhelmed for the past several days, and not exactly in a bad way. For a few hours last night, for example, I became overwhelmed emotionally by the small flood of interest in our recent call for collaborators. But I’ve also felt exhausted. Already.

I’m working hard on something. I don’t know how much of a secret that is by now. This project feels important and I know working on it is going to continue to be hard. Thus, we arrive, finally, at the title of this post. I’m having incremental trouble focusing on the line between preparation and control.

As I said, it’s a dance, this filmmaking game. At low budgets — and even at high ones, I suspect — it’s also a test of endurance and the ability of a person to practice self-care. You can’t make films if you can’t stand up. Although I did once “direct” a scene while crumpled in a sitting position in a corner of a room. Won’t forget that day.

So, I was thinking about all this, recently, and I actually started to feel better. Just by reflecting. And for that, I feel grateful. It’s taken years to be able to (sometimes) relax about this stuff.

I have this space to turn to, and you to talk with. I know a fair percentage of readers here are artists. I suspect you understand what I’m talking about. I bet everyone else does, too. Everyone has their own dance.

We battle chaos. But we’re together in this battle. Further, while the real world is certainly not so neat and perfect as it sometimes appears to be from our screens, it also contains it’s fair share of grace.

I think that’s a fair point to make. Filmmaking, with its fictional worlds made up of parts of our own, even the real world, as seen through so many different lenses — the processes of it not about control. Not ultimately.

It’s about preparation. And then collaboration. Creativity.

Call for Writers (Quick, Easy, Fun)

UPDATE: This call for submissions is now closed. Thanks to everyone who sent in a script! 

Hey, folks.

So Rebecca De Ornelas and I are looking for some help with a fun project that we think could also be a cool way to spark some quick and easy collaboration.

I can’t release the specific details publicly, but here are the basics:

  • We’re looking for several original one 10349148_10101298458056442_6565653928597047063_npage monologues (screenplay format) that tell a difficult story in an honest, perhaps even semi-comedic way.
  • We would like to see a strong cross-section of diverse voices submitting (and please feel free to spread the word on that front).
  • We would like to see a strong cross-section of diverse characters (in terms of age, gender, background) in submissions
  • There is no compensation, however…
  • Selected scripts will be produced and delivered to a few different audiences (including mine on this site).
  • Selected writers must be willing to sign a release that grants us the right to distribute the finished product only within the parameters of our project (you’ll get details).
  • Selected writers will be given a final copy of the video and will retain all copy rights to the produced and written material.

Please do not send any scripts at this time. If you are interested in submitting, or would like more detailed information, let me (Michael) know via Private Message on Twitter or Facebook, or via this site. Twitter and Facebook will get to me faster. Please include your email address at this stage. That is how I will get in contact with you.

The deadline for submission is June 30th.

 

Indie Film is Dead: The Rise of Interdependent Film

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Perhaps you’re thinking: “Filmmaking has always been interdependent.”

Well, if you are, congrats. You’re smarter than me.

But I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for myself, and I — am excited.

Let me explain.

Independence Today: It’s Exhausting

I know it doesn’t work the same way for everyone, but I don’t think I am alone in having stumbled into independent film, first, because I love film, and second…because I’m (fiercely) independent. To a fault, sometimes.

Once, when I was in college, I was talking to a friend who I was trying to get to date me, who was smart enough to avoid that chore but kind enough to remain friends with me anyway. I remember, once, saying to her:

“Sometimes, I feel like my life is just a never-ending series of tiny rebellions.”

To which, she replied: “That sounds pretty accurate.”

I bring this up for a specific reason. The pattern is exhausting. Especially, now, in a world where true rebellion has been both quashed and yet at the same time mostly proven by history to be (arguably) less effective in result as it is in promise (there are, of course, major exceptions). It makes less sense to always be acting contrarily, from moment to moment, than it does to simply just turn around and walk in another direction. Or to do this subtly, quietly, over time.

That needs some unpacking, I know.

That Doesn’t Mean The Independent Voice Isn’t Still Necessary

Here’s my point — there always should be a challenge to the status quo. I hope we can all agree on this, even if we may differ in defining that status. I’m definitely not here to argue against rebellion and/or independence. But, as I have said here before, I do believe the time has come — for filmmakers, for artists, for people — to fight smarter, not harder.

So, instead of fighting alone, as I believe some smart and talented people are beginning to see — we need people to fight with us, and us with them.

I hone in on filmmaking as an example, now, because it has the convenience of being my primary vocation while at the same time providing a good embodying example as a result of its truly collaborative nature.

Why Indie/Interdependent Filmmakers Are Primed to Lead

I have been over this before. So have others. Here’s the gist, quickly:

Technology has been democratized.

I’m not going to summarize what this means. It should be clear by now. Basically, anyone can do anything they have a talent for, so long as they put in the work, over time, and are strategic about it. I’m living proof. My career studying film, in official terms, lasted six hours. I made my first film by studying a bit and diving in. It wasn’t perfect but it lit the flame and taught me a lot about the craft and myself. Oh, and I had a lot of help.

Knowledge has been democratized.

By the way, help protect net neutrality. It’s important. Here’s why.

Like I said, I got into this by studying and diving in. Most of what I learned, I learned on the internet. Countless others have done the same. This is important, in terms of independent spirit, in my opinion, for one primary reason. Film school — filmmaking in general — is often for the wealthier among our population.

Again, there are exceptions. But there used to be far more of them. This is mostly a product of our increasingly unequal, increasingly bifurcated society (the “Haves” and “Those Getting By”).

I won’t go into what’s happened to what used to be the lower class, because this is meant to be a hopeful essay. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and that we are artists in particular don’t owe the less fortunate a greater chance to exercise their voice. Even free access to democratized knowledge can’t help someone who spends every waking moment treading water. Anyway. End digression. Another story for another day.

The benefit of democratized knowledge is that those of us who are able and willing to rebel, to be truly independent (and it’s not easy, by a stretch) are at least able to try to make art. Though, increasingly, even to do this we have to do it together.

Need fulfillment is becoming “localized”

When I say that indie film is dead, obviously I’m exaggerating a little. In certain ways, actually, it’s never been easier to be an auteur (speaking purely on a technical basis) . However.

It’s also never been easier to convince oneself that this is easy, and to get in over the head only to realize it too late.

We’re getting too many mediocre films.

But there seems to be a trend emerging, that’s to me appears a match of circumstance to need. People are, slowly, working together — more often.

Mediocrity breeds boredom and cynicism that causes audiences to understandably jump ship. Even bold material that people argue over, in terms of its innate quality, is better than a lot of what we were getting up until recently.

But film collaboratives. Teams of filmmakers swapping roles and supporting each other across the years. Startups extending an hand from the tech sphere to ours, to the mutual benefit of each party. Locally made films, for and by locals, within neighborhoods and states. Niche documentaries supported via crowdfunding by those whose story spurred their genesis. We’re starting to take more risks in terms of trusting others. Those risks are starting to pay off.

Conclusion

This does not seem, to me, a replacement of indie film as we have known it. It seems an evolution of it, a birth of a new thing that’s like the old thing, and which may even exist in parallel to it for a long time to come, but is also necessarily a little more solid. Again, it’s more solid because we need it to be, to help us navigate a still consistently confusing time. Interdependent filmmaking is about rising to the moment.

It hasn’t been an easy transition for me. I used to be, and still often am, a loner. But I’m learning. I’ve started taking those risks. Asking for help. Offering it. It needs to be done.

If we’re going to survive, if we’re going to try to leave a mark on the world to make it even just a little more our own — we have to depend on one another. At least a little.

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The Feature Film Isn’t Dying, But We Still Need to Save It

I wouldn't even be in the position to make a feature film today, if not for changes in technology.
A throwback to my first short. I wouldn’t even be in the position to make a feature film today, if not for changes in technology.

An interesting blog post appeared on Short of the Week yesterday, written by the site’s Founder Andrew S. Allen. The title: Fade to Black—Is the Feature Film Dying?

The main argument weighed by Andrew — who appropriately spends most of the post teasing out this question rather than attempting to hone on any one answer — seems to be that filmmakers in particular can’t ignore the question due to two prevailing arguments.

1. We’re in a Golden Age of TV.

Talent and money and eyeballs seem to be increasingly turning away from film — or rather, not returning to it, after the last several years of contraction in the industry — and towards television, in terms of long form moving image content. This is not a new observation but it continues to be an important one.

2. We’re still in a bit of a Wild West Age, in regards to how to deal with the proliferation and omnipresence of The Screen (as creators in particular).

Again, we all know this very well by now (or hopefully we do). But, as Andrew and other smart people have pointed out, that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be thinking about how this affects the narratives we deliver (and that are delivered to us) via our many screens… daily, hourly, by the minute. It doesn’t mean we don’t also need to ponder how all this affects the creation of those narratives (and, consequently, our careers as well).

I enjoyed the post, agree with many of the points made, and, as a filmmaker who has put a very lot of thought into this question and others related — I think it’s the right thing to be asking, here and now.

But, for what it’s worth, I don’t think features are dying.

I think, like everything else — they’re changing. I think they’re changing in importance and effectiveness, if not in form. Perhaps they’re also facing diminished attention, on a percentage basis at least, and that’s what I want to talk about, for a moment.

While I don’t think features are dying, I do believe viewership data about how we watch and what we watch today has exposed some dangers, in terms of where we are and where we are headed.

The question, to me, isn’t whether or not features are dying. The novel didn’t die and neither did the stage play. But, sticking with these examples…sometimes, after reading a particularly great book or after watching a great play — I’m struck by melancholy. I wonder: why don’t I do this more often? Why do I continuously make the easier choice to turn on the TV?

To be honest, it’s the same with film, for me. Despite the fact that I love film — indie film in particular — I’m not a great supporter of it, at least in terms of contributing to box office results by putting my butt in a seat. This is also why I feel like I can talk about this, though, for better or worse.

I don’t go to the movies much because my lifestyle doesn’t afford the opportunity at present. I work to pay the bills and to enable me to pursue my passion.

There’s not much time and money left over, after these two things — at least right now, in my life — to stop everything and check out for two hours by sitting in the dark with some strangers and getting outside of my head, along with them, on the way to some magical place that is like our world but different.

And I think that’s where the melancholy comes from.

In his post, Andrew observes that going to see a feature used to be an event in our lives, whereas now it’s more often something we sometimes maybe sit down and do casually at home, via some VOD platform, when we aren’t watching a serial TV program.

He’s absolutely right. This has changed. He’s also right when he hints, indirectly, in another part of the post — that it’s mostly useless to fight this truth. Stories, narratives, are all around us, now. We can access them anywhere, anytime. And we do — often, as Andrew also notes, in smaller, more digestible forms. An episode of TV. A webisode online. I would take this further to include a Facebook post, a Tweet.

Here’s where, to me, the question of whether or not the feature film is dying becomes moot, and we are faced — from both the perspective of filmmakers and the audience — with an imperative.

We need to make sure we hold on to what separates features from TV and all other forms of media.

Especially — and the why of this will hopefully become clearer in a moment — independent filmmakers need to take this responsibility upon themselves.

At the same time, Andrew is right to warn prospective and/or self-proclaimed filmmakers in regards to their beliefs and career intentions/aspirations. So is Filmmaker Magazine Editor Scott Macaulay, in the quote Andrew chose to end his post.

We (filmmakers, artists) have to recognize that we can neither fight nor deny the clear changes that have occurred and will continue to affect filmmaking and moving picture narratives and arts of all forms.

So, this is the imperative, as I see it — in two steps:

  1. We need to protect and support feature films, because they may be our last form of poetry. There is one, brilliant exception to this statement — that gives me much hope — but I will end with a plea to make this imperative a goal for indie filmmakers.
  2. We need to always serve narrative first, by following our instincts — hopefully always tethered to reality in some way — and formatting stories appropriately to the best representation of their pure expression.

I know both imperatives need some unlocking. Working backwards…

Television, by its nature, has its finger more frequently on the pulse of the zeitgeist than feature films.

If a show doesn’t deliver a narrative that compels large numbers of people to watch — regardless of whether or not they “should” — it doesn’t last. Yes, some shows are able to force this issue by throwing money and spectacle at audaciously basic and manipulative narratives, but that doesn’t define most TV that gets distributed.

The result of this, in my opinion, is that TV enjoys a “leg up” over film, on average, in terms of narrative mobility.

The smaller, serial nature of the format, and the smaller increments in which it is produced — even the existence of pilots, for which there is no real match in the feature world — allows TV the opportunity to adapt more quickly and more easily to present circumstances than features.

There are flip sides to this advantage, however, and one is the pressure to keep producing more quality TV, once success has been found, in order to make more and more money, regardless of the narrative appropriateness of keeping the story going, until such time that the narrative purity of the series bends or breaks beyond the point of no return. This does perhaps also happen from film to film, within studios or production companies or during the career of filmmakers, but it’s not as palpably noticeable and it also leaves entire expression of narratives (standalone, pure, successful films) intact. Also — for the most part — this leaves TV dangerously beholden, in a complete way, to the present only. This stifles reflection on and dialogue about past and future, which isn’t good for any culture.

Okay — but what of the shows that Andrew justifiably identifies as “film killers”? The Sopranos. Breaking Bad. Mad Men.

They’re all beautiful exceptions, if you ask me.

The aforementioned are some of the best shows on TV, and, in fact, by nature, they are the best of TV and film combined.

These are poetic character studies that last hours and hours, and that span years. Here, I would add The Wire as an ultimate example. Joss Whedon, when he worked primarily in TV, as has been well-documented, did an equally interesting and novel thing, by mixing a monster of the week format with a long-running serial narrative, season by season, even as his main characters continued to grow and change over the course of the series, linking everything and keeping it all brilliantly tethered to overall thematic narratives. And look at the path his career has taken — he’s one of the hottest filmmakers working today.

I don’t think we’re necessarily seeing a Golden Age of TV.

We’re seeing some artists — in the form of show runners — elevating TV into something more like film. We’re also seeing them challenging prevailing norms and formats while respecting the purity of narrative.

It’s fucking fantastic that Breaking Bad ended on Vince Gilligan’s terms. It’s equally wonderful that Mad Men appears poised to do the same, on Matt Weiner’s. Louis C.K. is another auteur who is thriving right now because of what he’s doing on TV — he’s leading the way in many terms.

What we may actually be in right now is the beginnings of a new Golden Age for serving narrative. Formats are breaking down, as has been discussed, because of changes to The Screen. Hopefully more changes, cultural changes, will follow. I think that’s the point of what Gilligan, Weiner, C.K. and others are doing. It’s brilliant and it’s brilliantly inspiring.

So, that’s why I’m cool with the best of what’s out there right now on TV.

Again — Andrew and Scott are both right. We “filmmakers” should be thinking of ourselves as servants of narrative first. We should be open to whatever compels us on an instinctual level, and we should endeavor, as we also strive to build a sustainable career, to respect narrative purity at the same time. A story that should be on TV but is forced into a feature film or diluted into a web series may not work unless it is cultivated into a different thing. Whedon again becomes an example. Buffy The Movie ain’t Buffy The Show.

But.

There’s no denying that films, as they were, are becoming increasingly scarce. Technology has changed film, as we have discussed. It’s also changed filmmaking.

The trouble, to me, is that Mad Men and Breaking Bad and Louie and other shows — they are exceptions. The majority of the rest of what we watch is…it’s simply not very good or very helpful. Definitely most of TV is not good compared to some of the fine films being produced today.

Which is fine. It took me about seven years to understand this, but I know I can’t change the world with a blog post or one little indie film — or that it’s even wise to try.

Maybe I haven’t completely absorbed that last point 🙂

I hope I never do. Anyway.

I’m going to shut up soon. But here’s my final point.

I was watching TV with my wife last night, and said on two separate occasions, after beginning two separate shows (that I genuinely like):

“Sometimes, this show really bothers me. Everyone is rich.”

TV, more so than movies, is where reality goes to die. More accurately, it’s where we willingly push reality over a cliff (or, rather, where it’s pushed off a cliff by those in control of the prevailing narratives of the day).

Everyone, on most of the most popular shows, is good looking and either wealthy or eerily able to get by easily despite their alleged lack of money. Reality TV is anything but that, as we’ve all know for a while — though we continue to play along. Representative diversity on TV, though unfortunately better than diversity in film, is lacking, when comparing what gets made and pushed and seen…with what this country actually looks like, demographically. Very little — at lease very little of what most people are watching —  looks anything like real life.

And now these fantasy narratives ride along in our pockets.

I’ve written about many of the dangers of all this before, and I won’t go into it all again. Here’s what I will say, though, about how important independent film has and will become, under these circumstances.

Quite simply: we (indie filmmakers) are the vanguard in the fight for a return to reality.

America in particular is dangerously out of touch with how things actually are in our country. Again, I’ve written plenty about this. And I don’t say that to suggest that I believe we’re doomed — or that the feature film is the only or best medium to engender change.

But it is the most dominant, after TV.

I believe in the redemptive power of the feature film. The poetry of it, as I have said.

Because…here’s the thing.

In the real world, we don’t experience narratives linearly or serially. That is one of the most interesting things about where we are now, in terms of our immediate and all-encompassing access to narratives of all forms, via our devices. We can and do not only watch TV, but talk about it, obsess over it, live and breathe it, sometimes while we watch.

That’s fine, in doses. But we also shouldn’t spend — and haven’t historically spent — all our time experiencing narratives.

Narrative is also here so that we can learn and reflect.

Sure, some people treat television and other media this way — as well they should, when appropriate to them and the examples that deserve this treatment. But a film, a feature film that respects reality in some pure way, even if it’s not a documentary or an indie character study, a feature film that bring a bunch of people together in the dark to sit down and abandon ourselves to a narrative formed with the intention of proposing just one idea, to ponder privately, or discuss or debate…that’s poetic.

We need poetry, in life.

It’s a way of understanding what we value and why, and of expressing the sheer unanswerable question of what it means to be human. This is not a shocking or new observation, but I do worry about how much or how often we seem to have forgotten it’s lesson.

Television, web media, these are moving-image formats that may just have the ability to divorce us, finally, on an overall level, from the poetry we’ve been drifting away from for years and years as the page does continue to die and The Screen multiplies and multiplies.

There’s room for optimism, though.

Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, the web series format that isn’t quite TV (perhaps in a good way) that Andrew Allen also discusses in his own post, the extension of a single narrative beyond a single experience — these are things that are new which arose as answers to problems, even if we don’t yet understand, on a macro level, what problems, or why they’re important.

As such, I believe these tools and formats can be employed and experimented with, carefully, as corrective measures to the understandably indiscriminate damage caused by changing technologies as well as the willful exploits of those in power to keep things the same, so that they may remain in control.

That is part of it, too. Let’s stop pretending it’s not. The owners of television benefit from us watching television as a stand in to experiencing actual wealth and The American Dream.

But, back to the optimism.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, to remind myself as well, because I sometimes need to be reminded of it. All of this is about change. And real change is, for the most part, usually good.

There’s never been a better time to be creating — whatever that may mean to you or to me.

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3 Simple Steps Towards A Successful Indie Film

A production still from Multiverse, our current short film.
A production still from Multiverse, our current short film.

It’s been a bit of a struggle, lately, getting ready to make my new film. The jump to a feature from shorter content is a big one. Not that the small films have felt small. Things have a tendency to feel big to me no matter what size they actually are — this is a default reaction I have to sometimes work to temper — but with something as potentially overwhelming as the planning and implementation of a complete feature film, there’s no arguing the facts.

This is big.

That being said, I know that I can’t allow the size and weight of such an endeavor (or any endeavor) to overwhelm me. I know, as I have mentioned before, that I can only put one foot in front of the other.

I also know that a story is a living, breathing thing that can’t only be built, brick by brick, like a house.

What I mean to say is that I do not believe the successful execution of a film rests completely in doing a little bit of work, day by day, until it’s done.

I would think there are very few forms of artistic expression that work in this way only. A screenplay, yes — but a screenplay is not an end format. A novel, perhaps. But in the prevailing terms of success, the work of novel is not finished just by its completion. There must be readers, and, by this measure, more novels and then more readers.

The same can be said of almost any artistic endeavor, any product-consumer relationship (the artist/patron relationship is a product-consumer relationship), the end result of which is a desirable level of distribution or sales. The painter paints each day until he or she is done, and may keep painting for as long as the desire is there. But, invariably, there must be an audience. The alternative is obscurity and to me, in the long term, however unfair the presumption may be under certain rare circumstances — obscurity represents failure. A failure not just to “sell” but to truly connect, which is almost always the reason we start making art and telling stories in the first place.

So I have spent the last several years learning. I have written script after script until I got to this place, where I feel like the measure of the success or failure of any one film of mine is going to be owned more by the appropriateness and accessibility of its themes — and my own exploits to find people who wish to consider and discuss such themes — than the execution of its story. I’ve similarly spent enough time behind the camera, by now, to be able to say the same about technical execution and world building on set with select cast and crew.

I know I can do this. Still, obviously, there are doubts. Just this morning, I woke up, got out of bed, and the first coherent thought that passed through my mind was:

“Fuck. There’s no way I can do this.”

I learned over time not to listen to that voice. Actually, that’s not entirely true.

You would think ignoring the voice of doubt would be the way to go, but the best approach (in my experience) is actually to nod and listen and then refute. The fear behind the doubt is real. But so is the determination and the confidence that does return if and when the opposite is reasonably voiced — with compassion.

“I can do this.”

What this has to do with the majority of the above is simple: I am finding that, as with most things — there is (must be) a middle.

I do have to take small steps, every day. But I also have to respect the film’s need for overall guidance. This is especially true for ground-level independents like me. I’m not entering into this project with any goal other than to do my best and share it with you.

You, specifically. The kindred of The Furious Romantic. You are the people I truly care about — whoever you are, wherever you’re from, however we know each other or whether or not we do. That is another truth I have to constantly remember, and could do a better job of remembering. It gets hard sometimes, with all the noise we are constantly surrounded by (or that we surround ourselves with). There’s a loneliness that comes with sourcing out, alone, what a story needs. There can be a further loneliness in shepherding a film through development and preproduction until everything crests beautifully with collaborative energy on set — and then ebbs and flows with diminishing energy as distribution runs its course and the first and most vibrant (perhaps only) lifetime of the endeavor fades away.

So, last weekend, I was thinking about all of this and wondering what to do. As you may know, I’ve determined to pursue a balanced life in parallel with this project. And perhaps it’s a testament to just how far I’ve come in my own personal and artistic development, but I was able after a few days to temper most of the aforementioned fear (there will always be some, and it will always come and go, ballooning and shrinking and ballooning again) by jotting down the following three steps.

They didn’t come from nowhere, and they aren’t original, but I’m sharing them because I believe they can be universally helpful in their simplicity:

  1. Have a plan.
  2. Keep working.
  3. Adjust as you go.

Is this list overly simple? Not really. I could easily slot in a few more steps (test, measure, analyze were candidates) but the point isn’t to form a prescription so much as an ultimate guide that begins with the presumption that — this is important — the film is going to and must happen regardless. The planning and adjustment are the protective flanks to the work, which is not usually a problem if you’re making films for more than a few years. It’s always going to require a lot of work.

The script for my film — which I’ll name for you, soon enough — has been done for about two weeks (until I dive into it again for another quick draft). I’ve spent the time since steeling myself for what is sure to be a hell of a ride, but also steeling myself to remember these three simple steps.

I believe that implementing the wisdom contained within these guidelines, from many different standpoints but one base, will take me (and my eventual team) a long way towards the successful completion of our goal — to not only make something great but get it to you, and as many more additional kindred that may be out there as is possible.

Exemplary quality (in no specific terms) and an eager audience. These are the twin challenges for today’s independent artist — or even today’s artists in general. They aren’t unique to our slice of history, and perhaps it’s time we stop pretending that they are.  We must make good art, and we must get it “out there” if we are to do it all again. The process must be arranged smartly, to the benefit of all, within the constraints of reality but with an eye on a better tomorrow in all terms. For this to all go well, again, work must be done. But just as it must be done in one direction, with one guiding voice, in order for the film itself to flourish — so too must this be done from the standpoint of career sustainability. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the filmmaker who holds this responsibility but it should be somebody who cares about him or her and the vision he or she serves from project to project.

Translation: It’s not enough to just have a film anymore. And perhaps it shouldn’t be. There must be a plan, for any filmmaker or artist who wishes to keep working and to perhaps become increasingly empowered, and it must wrap around the entire life of the project and, in a way, across projects. As long as we keeping working and adjust as we go — and do this in almost any way but a blind way — progress will be made. Step by step, yes. But in a unified direction with ultimate touchstone goals that do not contradict the artistic process but, rather, ideally, help it flourish.

It’s a strange — but exciting — time to be creating. I have said this before. Much has been observed, much more needs to be tested. It can be done. I’m going to try to do it.

There is, as they say, only one way to find out whether what I have planned is going to work.

So, soon — we ride.

via www.cracked.com

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I Am The Wolf: How I Found The Primal Artist in Me

Jack Nicholson is almost The Wolf.

A few weeks ago, I did something difficult. I stood up in front of a room full of people and told jokes. For five minutes.

I remember very little of the experience. I went into it prepared, and it actually went pretty well from the start, but I was nervous as hell and at the same time — very excited. The time went by quickly. I didn’t even get to finish the set I had timed out to last the full five minutes, because I forgot to allow time for laughter. Good problem to have.

The reasons I did it are few but significant:

  1. I had wanted to try stand-up for a long time.
  2. I was terrified to try stand-up, and was “required” to face this fear (more on this requirement in a moment).
  3. Despite number two, I had a feeling it would be a lot of fun.
  4. It wasn’t filmmaking or writing (at least not the sort of writing I’m used to doing), which to me meant I could express myself an an artist in a more immediate way than I’m used to, which was attractive to me.

In truth, the idea and the opportunity emerged from the process of completing a group journey through The Artist’s Way, which I can now endorse wholeheartedly (along with countless others) as a fantastic resource for engaging, reengaging, or deepening our relationship with our inner artist. Following the exercises and tasks in the book led me to admit reasons 1-3 listed above. Additionally, the book defines and advocates for synchronicity. In the context of the present example, this meant that, in order to honestly commit to the process of artistic recovery/discovery embodied by the book, I had to sign up for the inaugural open “mic” at my local go-to neighborhood cafe — because I truly did want to try stand-up and because the list “appeared” there in front of me.

But that’s all context. We’ll return to it in a minute. What I really want to talk about is The Wolf.

I am The Wolf. Me. Not Harvey Keitel. Not Michael J. Fox or whoever plays the same character in the TV remake. Definitely not Taylor Lautner — not even Joe Manganiello. No to Seth Green. Jack Nicholson is only the wolf during jumping competitions. Possibly, possibly, Russell Tovey is also The Wolf. I can’t take away the “authenticity” that man brings to the transformation.

Russell Tovey as The Wolf
Russel Tovey could be The Wolf, too. I can’t argue with that face.

All kidding aside, I found The Wolf in me early on in the process of completing the The Artist’s Way. He rose up out of my morning pages. Morning pages are essentially three stream-of-consciousness pages you write every morning, immediately upon waking, in order to flush your brain and/or expose your wants and needs to yourself. They’re also a space where you can safely complain, which is actually kind of nice.

I’ve written about The Wolf before, but at the time he didn’t have a name. To boil it down, now that I have a greater understanding of the situation: The Wolf is the artist in me.

He is wild, and sometimes violent. He survives, despite not getting everything he needs, however he must. There is the potential for the dog’s love and loyalty in him. But, at bottom, he’s a primal sort of animal.

Now, of course, all that comes off as a little dramatic. I realize that. But, as I’ve said before — I’m a dramatist. Drama is my business. Also, along the way of getting to know that-which-I-call-The-Wolf a little better, while I worked through the book, I did at times acknowledge that the artist in me was actually more changeable. Sometimes I am The Eagle, and not The Wolf. Sometimes The Wolf does, in fact, become more of a wild dog. Sometimes the metaphor (thankfully) looses its grip on rugged individualism, and my conception of myself as a Lone Wolf softens more towards “realism” — and I acknowledge the fact that wolves live in packs and that we all need each other to thrive and survive.

But here’s the thing: being an artist is incredibly difficult. And, without starting any wars, sometimes I feel like independent filmmaking is the hardest artistic endeavor out of all of them — at least in terms of implementation and longevity. Identifying and communing with The Wolf is really just my way of “digging deep” to remind myself of why I do what I do and why it’s important not to give up. I turn to The Wolf when things get desperate. The Wolf is that part of me that knows how to fight, that is almost incapable of giving up. He is my anger incarnate.

In this way, The Wolf is also dangerous.

If (when) I let The Wolf out, on his own without any fetters from me — I’m left struggling to maintain balance. The Wolf exists in dangerous proximity to my id. He promises power and delivers it and then begins to hunt and to eat in order to replenish himself, yes, but also to satisfy a mad craving that won’t ever be fully sated. This is a lesson I have learned, sometimes the hard way, over many years of struggle. It’s why, for the most part, I don’t let The Wolf out any more.

But this doesn’t mean he isn’t always in me, so I had had to come up with another solution in terms of mostly stabilizing my relationship with this primal part of me that I need and love despite its flaws.

So what do I do? In a word: I cage him. And I only open the door to the cage when I know he’s alone except for whatever I consciously put it front of him.

I’ve always loved this quote for Gustave Flaubert, since the first day I encountered it many years ago, and I think it’s appropriate to share it now, in the context of this discussion:

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
Yep, yep, yep.

When I was minutes away from facing that greatest of fears that is public speaking — in the form of my stand-up debut — I was, naturally, a wreck. Maybe some people have an easier time of it, or would. For me, the experience proved as difficult as I imagined it would. At least in the early goings.

As I said, I prepared: for two weeks. Every day, for two weeks, I wrote and rewrote jokes. I practiced in my head. I tried to focus on the great advice I received from a few experienced stand-up friends, which ranged from the existential (focus on presence and on being you and nothing else) to the practical (have an idea of what you want to do with your hands, don’t tell them it’s your first time). In the days leading up to my spot, I studied less. I focused on relaxation and sleep and (fun) distraction. This worked, right up to the point when it was almost time to finally get it over with.

As I mentioned, the open mic was at a cafe. I didn’t order coffee before I went up. I decided on chamomile tea instead, which my wife bought for me because I could hardly focus on anything but not-freaking-out and I think she could tell. I know what you’re thinking: “Tea instead of booze? Bought by your wife? You can’t even buy your own tea?” What can I say? I am that hardcore.

I had signed up to go second, figuring it would be good to get it over with early, but too terrified to go first. The event started and the moment got closer. I hardly heard anything anyone said until the host called my name. But let’s rewind to that.

As you may have guessed by now, in the minutes leading up to my slot, I found myself locked in an epic struggle to STAY COOL.

It wasn’t easy to stay cool.

First, I told myself I wasn’t anxious. I told myself I was excited, instead, following the suggestion of this article which I had read recently. This worked for a while, as a sort of mantra, but the effectiveness wore off quickly. So then I told myself that the stress I was feeling was my body’s way of preparing me for the test to come. More advice from an outside resource. This tactic also worked — a little. I alternated the two practices through my head until I felt that the moment of truth was immediately imminent. Less than a minute away. And then nothing worked. I thought I was going to explode.

But, then, suddenly, I remembered The Wolf. And I knew it was time to let him out.

“I am The Wolf,” I thought to myself. I am The Wolf. The words became a mad mantra. I was still repeating them when the moment came and I found myself standing up and suddenly doing what I had been so frightened to do for a very long time.

Like I said, the set went well. Better than I expected. And when it was over I felt proud. I felt I had figured something out — or, more accurately, proven to myself what I knew to be true but couldn’t quite believe without the evidence. The Wolf is, in fact, dangerous. However, while he is a part of me — he is not me. I am The Wolf but The Wolf is not me.

He and I can work together, quite effectively, as it turns out, but that’s got to be it. My job is be regular and orderly and civilized to the point of being able to loose The Wolf upon the world when I choose, when it’s appropriate.

I am the man and he is the art. It’s a difficult lesson to remember but an important one, I think.

Thanks for reading.

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5 Daily Questions for Maintaining Creative Productivity

This an example of me acing Question 5: "Am I taking time to enjoy life?"
This an example of me acing Question 5: “Am I taking time to enjoy life?”

This January, for essentially the first time, I made a New Year’s Resolution. Two, actually. I decided to set two goals for myself, both of which were born out of my primary obsessions for most of the second half of 2013.

I want to finish at least shooting a feature film before the year is done, and I want to maintain at least a semblance of a balanced, healthy lifestyle while I do it.

Anyone who makes art — or who does any sort of project work in particular — could and would probably tell you that these are ambitious goals. Independent filmmaking in particular, with our lower budgets and our seemingly always empty pockets, puts a great deal of pressure on the human mind, body and spirit. It does this all the time, but the toll is especially great in the months leading up to production. Production itself is often a matter of pushing limits in ways that are perhaps sometimes celebrated, and which we can of course be proud of in retrospect, but which simply are not healthy in either the long or short term. And then there’s the post-production period, which often leaves us facing long recoveries. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually — even the addict’s rush that comes with having created, it doesn’t last. The truth is that making art depletes us.

Much of this is unavoidable, especially in the earlier years of a career, as we’re learning the ropes the hard way, as we invariably have to do. But, speaking as someone who has pushed myself too far in the past, I have to honestly say that I have come to the conclusion that, without balance, even art that has been hard-earned — it invariably suffers as we suffer by it, if and when we aren’t careful with ourselves. Limits can be pushed, but they also have to be respected.

For Example: One of The Times I Kinda Lost It

I arguably risked my life one day, for one of my films. Matters of budget and inexperience had led me to a place wherein I had to get my sound mix from New York to my editing bay (basically, a laptop set up in my old childhood bedroom in Rhode Island) — after 12 hours of work with our re-recording mixer. The film was set to premiere in a few days and wasn’t finished. I ended up making the drive alone, after having been awake for almost 24 hours. Towards the end, despite a surplus of caffeine, I couldn’t keep myself awake. It was three or four in the morning when I called my parent’s house (where I was living while making the film) because my fast-asleep fiancee wasn’t answering her cell. My brother picked up. I told him I needed someone to talk me through the last 45 minutes or so of the drive. It was that close. I had caught myself falling asleep at the wheel a few times.

Should I have pulled over to sleep? Possibly. There were a lot of things I should have done. Either way, when my phone battery died after about twenty minutes or so of conversation with my brother, I got desperate. I started talking to myself — loudly. I blasted the radio and opened all the windows and sang loudly. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know any of the words to the songs that play on the radio at three in the morning. When I couldn’t sing any more I came up with a sort of mad mantra, and repeated it and repeated it and repeated it. I rolled down all the windows in the car to let the cold November air inside. In short, I lost it. I went a little crazy. It’s perhaps a little funny now, but at the time it scared me — even if I didn’t admit it scared me.

How To Avoid This?

You can see why I’m eager to not repeat the same mistakes I’ve made in the past, when it comes to navigating the difficulties of making good stuff on the cheap.

As has been pretty well-documented here, I’ve come a long way as an artist and as a person since those days. I’m not even sure I would get to that bad of a place again even without my goal of balance. But I’ve come to treasure what I’ve built for myself these past few years. I still struggle with the repercussions of continuing to fight the good fight, and I still have to wrestle incrementally with my demons. I just lost a small battle to fear and doubt last night. Today, I’m all right, even though I know it will happen again. The key is to take things in stride and to avoid an avalanche.

I can’t afford to fall to madness, at any point, as I get closer to initiating my plans for making my new film (which you’ll hear about soon enough). The endeavor as a whole is going to be hard, and at times it’s going to be a legitimate struggle. I know that. But it’s also something I have to do. I have to make this film. I can’t let this need destroy me.

So, what can be done? What can I do — what can we do — to protect ourselves and our projects from the sometimes debilitating effects of long-term creative pursuits? Similarly, what can be done to protect our long-term creative pursuits from their own debilitating effects on our lives?

I think the answer is no different on the project level than it is on the macro level, as we strive continuously to live another day as artists in the real world.

Here’s what I came up with. Most of this is borrowed.

The Questions

Since the beginning of January, I have asked myself the following five questions at least once each day. Lately I’ve been trying to do this two or three times.

  1. Am I taking care of myself? It took my years to realize that I’m not good at self care. It took time and some outside help and it’s still sometimes a struggle. While everyone is different, I do believe that Americans on average — we don’t take great care of ourselves. Additionally, artists tend to be born out of complicated circumstances — not always, but much of the time. It’s important to my well-being and to my productivity to take care of myself, and to remind myself of the importance of self-care, everyday. How do I do it? Through reflection, meditation, and action. By action, I mean I try to do nice things for myself, no matter how small. Most of the time, this means taking a break or a walk or stopping everything to drink a cup of tea (it works). On a larger level, it means eating healthy on most days and getting enough sleep on most days. Sleep. Is. Huge.
  2. Am I avoiding the important? This is adapted from Tim Ferriss, who recommends in The Four Hour Work Week that we ask ourselves a variation of this question a few times per day (“Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?”). I have long had my phone set to ask me Tim’s version of the question in the morning, the afternoon, and early in the night. It helps me keep myself focused. A lot of times, I ignore the reminder, because I know I’m on track. Sometimes, I growl at my phone, because I am not on track. Usually, this means I am afraid of something. However understandable the fear may be, it’s almost always in the way of “the important”. That won’t do. Also, an additional note: while this may not align perfectly with the spirit of what Ferriss advocates, sometimes, for me, “the important” is not a project. Sometimes, it’s self-care, or my relationships, or –more on this below — enjoying life.
  3. Have I taken a step towards my goal of making my film? I don’t care how big a step. Every day, I make sure to do one thing to move my current project forward. Sometimes, it’s just sending an email. Sometimes, it’s research. It doesn’t matter. Any tiny thing I do on any one day brings me one step closer to the larger realization of my ultimate goal. This can be easy to forget, when fear creeps in and all we can think about is the overwhelming list of tasks that must be completed to make a film, that are standing in the way of it being finished. This point of view doesn’t work. Trust me, if you aren’t already nodding your head. It’s a trap set by self-sabotage. However a big task gets done, and by whoever — it’s always a matter of steps. We don’t magically float to the top of a tall flight of stairs by staring up at them worrying how we’re possibly going to walk all steps at once. We get there, in time, by putting one foot ahead of the other until it’s over.
  4. Am I being open in my relationships with others? This is perhaps a question that’s aimed more specifically at where I am in my life right now, but I’m sharing it anyway in case a few people might benefit. Also, the question itself necessitates I mention it. Basically, I feel I’ve spent too much time holding back certain parts of myself (again, out of fear) as I’ve interacted with other people, throughout my life. Life goes more smoothly (and my work goes more smoothly) when I kick this propensity and endeavor to just be me. Focusing on openness, I have found, also helps hasten decision-making. I don’t labor over decisions or create as many scenarios in my head when I’m being open with myself and others. I’m able to more fully live in the moment. Daily meditation and informal studies of mindfulness and Buddhism have helped me immensely in this respect. Openness has numerous benefits. There’s room for tact, of course, because not everyone needs to know everything about everyone else, and we all need to protect ourselves sometimes — but I think we’ve suffered enough as people and as a society from the effects of leaving feelings unspoken. The repression isn’t healthy.
  5. Am I taking time to enjoy life? Save the best for last, right? I unfortunately need to remind myself to stop and enjoy life. I tend to work too hard. I tend to brood, when I’m not working. There is not much room for naked enjoyment in either of these default states. Even work that makes me happy — it’s still work. So I have to ask myself this question, at least once per day. When the answer is “no”, I do what I can to correct the situation. Sometimes, again, this means a cup of tea, or maybe a soda or a snack. Many times, it means taking time to read some fiction, watch a movie, or listen to a podcast. Anything that isn’t work and gives me pleasure. That includes going out. I will force myself to go out when I don’t want to, because I know by now to mistrust the feelings and thoughts I get that tell me to do the opposite and stay home and work or brood. Balance has to include joy, for me.

So, there you have it.

Hopefully, some of the above has been helpful. I’d be interested to hear what others are doing to maintain some semblance of balance while working through large projects (I include life in this category). Hit me up in the comments if you have anything to add, or any further questions about how I came up with this list in particular.

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UPDATED: Casting Sketch Video (THANKS!)

EDIT: Thanks to everyone who helped us spread the word about this casting call. We got everything figured out and the shoot went great!

Please feel free to share this casting notice

Hey! I wrote a sketch that I’m producing with The Motel Staff and Rebecca De Ornelas. We’re looking to cast a few roles for a shoot happening TOMORROW.

Would love referrals (or submissions) for any of the below characters. No-budget, so credit and copy only, but scene(s) shouldn’t take too much time and the shoots are fun and collaborative. Contact me through this site and/or feel free to send people my way if you think they might be interested.

Actors/comedians with clips strongly encouraged to submit!

THANK YOU!

Shoot Date: 12/15/2013
Location: Queens or Brooklyn

MIGUEL | Male | Hispanic | Age: 20 – 35 | Role Type: U5 – Updated: 12/11/2013
Miguel is standing outside of the coffee shop, he encounters Glen, the leading male on his way out. He puts Glen in his place. Great comedic timing is a must.

YOUNG WOMAN | African-American | Age: 18 – 30
Seeking female to portray one half of a couple that passes Glen who is trying out a new coffee shop. Will have a line in close up.

All This Chaos: Translating The Indie Film Landscape

Our audience-building for Multiverse began with our crowdfunding campaign (even earlier, actually).
Our audience-building efforts for Multiverse began with our crowdfunding campaign (even earlier, actually).

This week, I attended Screen Craft’s inaugural New York City panel, Digital Discourse: The Future of Distribution and Content Creation, at the WGA-East. It was a genuinely great panel. You can read a summary from Screen Craft by following that link, Indiewire pulled some more highlights here, and the discussion was recorded and should be available soon online via Screen Craft and/or other resources.

That being said, I want to also chime in a bit about what I gleaned from the discussion. Bits and pieces of what was said have been banging around in my brain for the past few days, and I think some paths are beginning to emerge in there that are made out of the contributions of the thoughtful, focused, hard-working people who made up the panel.

The links above provide plenty of information on what was said. The video will offer the full set of info and insight — and I would encourage interested filmmakers to check it out when it’s available. But, for what it’s worth, here’s what I got out of it.

While not an exhaustive list, we (filmmakers and creators), need to focus on:

Realism

This is something that people generally shy away from saying (because they’re nice), but many people who call themselves filmmakers don’t try hard enough or don’t work hard enough to develop the confidence and skills necessary to achieve long-term success (however that may be defined) while at the same time cultivating their artistic voice. I’m saying it now because I’m not speaking to anyone directly, and can further bite the bullet and point at a past version of myself who was guilty of this very mistake.

I could write about this point for days, but in terms of the end-game (monetizing work to at least the point of sustainability, if not past it), it’s sufficient to point out that none of the panelists that spoke on Wednesday were wrong — the reality of the distribution landscape is that it’s not the same, that it continues to change almost daily, and that “the good days” are not coming back. The old narratives of what it means to be an indie filmmaker (perhaps even a filmmaker in general) and to succeed as one — they no longer apply. This is not news to a lot of people, perhaps. But there’s a difference between knowing there’s a mess to be sorted through and accepting the responsibility of the sorting. This is why focusing on the next three concepts is crucial.

Adaptation

Marc Schiller of BOND360 spoke passionately about his findings so far as his firm continues to partner with filmmakers to navigate this changing distribution landscape, but the lead-in to almost every specific note he made, and every recommendation, can be summed up by the word: adapt. Once we’ve accepted that the landscape is shifting, adaptation becomes not only an imperative for survival but an invitation to innovate. There’s no rule that says indie filmmakers can’t thrive in today’s current climate. But as Marc and other panelists pointed out, we have a responsibility, as storytellers, to trace the organic pathways to our audience by not only creating and delivering what we feel compelled to share with them, but to also do so in ways that appeal to what they want and expect out of the equation.

Experimentation 

Figuring out how to adapt requires testing and experimentation. Highlights from the panel, in this regard, include testimony from moderator Ryan Koo (founder of NoFilmSchool.com) and Erica Anderson (from crowding-funding and distribution platform Seed&Spark). From what I know about Ryan, it seems an argument could be made that he’s got to where he is now almost purely on the basis of experimentation. He had ideas (both creative and entrepreneurial) and combined them and tried things out. One thing led to another, in succession, over the years, until he got to the point where he’s now developing his first feature. Erica spoke about Seed&Spark’s WestFest film festival in LA, through which they were able to test some of their ideas on how to reach sustainability by putting just as much effort into collaborative distribution and community building as they did programming. Along the way, they piloted other ideas surrounding the potential for joint-revenue between filmmakers (such as a tip jar).

Marc Schiller and Adam Neuhaus (from Radical Media) detailed similar efforts to test ideas and approaches surrounding how to engage and market to customers who are actually interested in you and/or your product (a strong case could also be made that, as a creator, you are also your product). They (and other panelists) also pointed out the importance of keeping audiences happy by giving them what they want and by making it as easy and simple as possible to get it — and making the exchange fun as well at every opportunity.

A lot of this is about embracing some of the spirit of experimentation and ingenuity that has served the tech industry well in recent years — and tethering it to your creative intentions.

Tact

All of this being said, we have to think as well. It’s not enough to listen to advice and follow it blindly. This is a similar point to the one I made last week in my post about creative productivity, when I wrote about the necessity of introducing thoughtfulness and discernment into our daily considerations about what to do and how. Assuming the creative impulse takes care of itself, and/or that we’re able to establish our workflows and put in the work and get the films planned and made — a consequence of looking at the distribution landscape realistically is that we need to adapt and experiment thoughtfully as we develop the work. We need to apply strategy, at the earliest phase of preproduction, to the overall need to build, engage, and nurture an audience. I spoke briefly on Twitter with Dani Leonard of Big Vision Empty Wallet about this as well recently — all of this needs to be done after you have developed your voice as an artist (or, at the very least, as you develop it) and are thus capable of figuring out out how to truthfully introduce that voice into all efforts to get your work seen. If, as a filmmaker, you can’t do this, whether it’s because you don’t have the time or the skill set — find someone who can. Or partner with an organization who can help. Make sure that person or organization understands you and the work, and/or help them understand.

Conclusion: Opportunity is Out There

All this chaos is to the advantage of the independent filmmaker. Big distributors are struggling to adapt to the changing landscape, or refusing to focus on it based on fear or apathy. The studios could care less about what’s happening on the ground, which they can’t see from where they are anyway (I believe Marc Schiller made this exact point during the panel). If we as indies are at all doing our job right, we’re already on the ground watching change take place. Sure, we’re small and we’re broke. That’s often been true of indie filmmakers — at least so long as they hold on to the true spirit of the label. But our smallness and our financial limitations can be leveraged to our advantage. We can make ourselves quick and nimble. We can experiment freely, with nothing to fear from a fall other than another bruise on the ass.

Notice that the Screen Craft panel was smartly “subtitled” to include distribution and content creation. Notice also that I, as an indie filmmaker, also decided to subtitle this post “Translating The Indie Film Landscape” — rather than “Translating The Indie Film Distribution Landscape.”

This is because, like so many other things in our lives as hyper-connected citizens of an increasingly globalized world, it’s all starting to bleed together. So, we have a choice. We can accept the reality — the happy reality, in my opinion — of this great resettling of American independent film, and embrace the chaos and empower ourselves to become a part of its new shape, or can we do nothing and end up left behind to watch others do it instead.