“Its not dog eat dog,
its dog doesn’t return other dog’s calls”
It seems like these days everyone wants to make films. Throw a rock in a Starbucks and you are probably likely to hit someone writing a screenplay. Throw it hard enough and it’ll be one less to worry about.
Youtube has showed us that there is a budding filmmaker in almost everyone. Michael Winterbottom’s film “A day in the life” which consisted of compiled footage from people all over the world on a single day demonstrated how widespread filming has become.
Not that quantity always translates into quality..as you trawl through the internet you notice one thing..talent is not always apparent but that somehow seems less relevant in a way. Why does everyone want to do it is the question? What’s driving the desire? It can’t just be to look cool and shout at people..can it? Not that looking cool and shouting at people isn’t enjoyable..of course it is, but there has to be more to it than that..
What is it about filmmaking that is so appealing to so many? And all are secretly harbouring the fantasy that one day they will be plucked from obscurity and invited into the hallowed world of tinseltown…the important question is…why?
Maybe we should look at the “how” first…the “how” is quite simply digitization. People now have the ability to go and make films off their own back whereas before this was an impossibility.
Back in the day, before the world turned digital, if you wanted to make a film you needed lots of people and lots of cash. I made my first short film in 1997, which coincidentally was the year that Christopher Nolan also made his first short..not that I’m comparing myself to him…although he was also born in the same year as me…but we each have our own path right?..I mean, its not like he’s having the sort of career I would want or anything like that..anyway, its not even a race is it? And even if it was..we all remember what happened with the tortoise and the hare right?
I personally remind myself of this pertinent parable on a daily basis (it helps get me up in the morning) but am now going to shut up and end this confessional digression…now where was I..Oh yeah, my first short..
A one day shoot. A full crew. Cost: £5000.00.
It sounds like a lot but that was actually a very reasonable budget for a 10 minute film shot on film (the processing alone was a couple of grand!) We blagged favours for all the post-production costs (edit, telecine, sound etc) otherwise it would have cost another £5000! Fortunately it was paid for by a production company who had optioned a screenplay I had written otherwise it wouldn’t have happened at all.
There were about 30 people working on set when we filmed and to this day, I’m still not sure what a lot of them actually did.
But in those days there was no other option..and then it all changed. Digital cameras and editing software became affordable and available and suddenly you could go and make a film for next to nothing and have everything you need without having to mount a massive operation at great expense.
Sadly the film production company who had my script collapsed under the weight of the owner’s coke habit but I didn’t need anyone anymore..I could do it all myself. To purge myself of the experience I went off and shot a feature length film on a budget of 200 quid..just because I could.
Digitization brought freedom..and the death of the middle man.
The middle man can be anyone that is the key to the cash that will ultimately fund your project. It could be a commissioning editor, a producer, a stupidly rich individual..whoever it was, you would have to get through them before you could get to anyone else. All power resided with them. And if you didn’t have an “in”, you were very unlikely to even be able to get them to read your script let alone get a meeting with them.
As Woody Allen put it so perfectly:
“Its not dog eat dog, its dog doesn’t return other dog’s calls”
The middle man is dead..long live the creator!
Ok, so he’s not quite dead. I know, they are still there and still commanding all the power at the top end of film production but there is now a booming industry in self-generated films. The advance in technology with cameras such as the Canon 5d have allowed filmmakers to go off and shoot cinema worthy productions on micro budgets without being “green lit” by a bean counter in a suit.
Making up statistics as I go along you could say that for every 1000 scripts written maybe 1 would be optioned, for every 1000 scripts optioned maybe 1 would get made and for every 1000 films made maybe 1 would find distribution. I know I have just plucked those figures from thin air but you get the idea..the chances of anyone seeing your work was slim..at best. And yet now, with a simple click, you can upload your work to be seen by potentially billions.
I like the democracy of the internet. If a film is really good it will get passed around. If it isn’t, it won’t. Simple. Youtube and other web based platforms have allowed filmmakers access to viewing audiences that would dwarf most tv and cinema box office figures. The only difference being that, no matter how successful your film is, the chances of you making any money from it are practically zero…it’s a small snag but a snag nonetheless.
But then you have to ask yourself, what you are doing it for in the first place? We have come back to the “why”. What are you hoping to gain from it? If you want financial reward, the film industry probably isn’t the place to look for it. You’re facing lottery odds. But if you want to produce films and get them to an audience without it costing you an arm and a leg, your time has come.
I do have a sneaky suspicion however that a lot of the drive for wanting to be in the film industry is for the fame and fortune. Everyone loves movies and wanting to be part of that glamour is incredibly appealing in our celeb-led times. I mean, what kid wants to grow up to be a train driver or a scientist? These days they all want to be either in front of a camera or behind it.
Personally I’d like to think it was more of a need to express oneself creatively that is pushing everyone in this direction. In the Werner Herzog film, “Cave of forgotten dreams” they uncovered the most incredible cave paintings from over 50,000 years ago which only demonstrates how the creative urge has been in man from the very beginning. This is nothing new but it does seem to have become all encompassing. In a world of artists, who’s doing everything else?
I think the “why” might also stem from the fact that we are all seeing the world through different eyes and we feel the need to attempt to replicate our own perception in the hope that it will match others. It is a desire to connect…and to not feel so alone in our life experience.
If you’re looking for a stint under the spotlight and the adoration of the public, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons. If fame and fortune are the be all and end all for you..go fuck a footballer.
Amongst all of this somewhere is me..I am one of these people. Why am I doing it? What can I say? I feel the need. Do my delusions and desires fit into all the above categories..most definitely. Do I have any better chance of “making it” than any of the other millions all trying to do the same thing? Probably not.
However, I did recently come to the conclusion that the thing I had spent most of my adult life trying to become, I kind of already..was..I just hadn’t really realised it. My trajectory has maybe not been on a par with Christopher Nolan (aka my Nemesis) but I am still making films the same as him, just maybe on a slightly smaller budget and scale and an ever so slightly smaller paycheck..or no paycheck at all for that matter. But in the immortal words of the Dark Knight:
“It’s what you do that defines you.”
Now, get me a skinny soy latte and get a fucking move on!