Friday, August 13, 2010

It's not the gear, it's your friends.

Every few months a camera or some other piece of gear comes out and the Internet says "There's no excuse now" for you to not make your movie.
Furthermore: "There's all kinds of open-source software. There are books out about screenwriting -- books that actually make sense!" (Insert subliminal message about Blake Snyder's Save the Cat here.) "All it takes is your time and focused effort (a lot of focused effort) and you too can make a feature film. Or two. Or three!"
Well it's not true.
Your gear doesn't matter. Hell, if 35mm film were still the only way to go you'd find a way to come up with the six or seven hundred dollars it takes (gulp!) to shoot every 11 minutes of the stuff. You could edit on a movieola or a flatbed. Really. You could. People did that for a long long time. Indy producers did that. That's not what's keeping you from making your movie.
The Earthkiller gang - Nat Cassidy, Maduka Steady, Tom Rowen, Lucy Rayner, Alaina Hammond, and Robin Kurtz. Photo by Joe Chapman
No, rather the reason you're not making a feature film is because you need to be surrounded by people who actually want you to succeed.
Now it's true that the primary person in your life who doesn't want you to succeed may be you. I can't help you there.  But in many cases, in many times in life, you're surrounded by people who actually feel bad if you were to do something awesome. Because to them, you doing something cool makes them feel less cool. It took me a long long time to realize that.
Let me digress with my favorite exception to the people in the world who have negative energy.
Lucky for me I have a friend from childhood (or at least "teenager-hood"). His name is Ed McNamee and he wasn't born with the "keep friends down" circuit in his brain. In fact, he wants everyone to succeed. He wants me to succeed. He wants you to succeed. Heck, he probably wants you to be successful more than you want to be successful. And he doesn't even know who you are.
Robin Kurtz as Helen in Earthkiller. Photo by Joe Chapman.
Dozens of playwrights, probably hundreds of actors, and scores of other people have had their dreams realized with Ed's help. And it's not even that he necessarily has to actually do anything to be of help. It's just that positive energy that's there which makes everything easier.
And that positive energy is contagious. It's what built Manhattan Theatre Source. (Hmm... now that I think about it, there's kind of an interesting correlation between how Theatresource has taken a turn for the worse while Ed's been away from it... interesting.)
In any case, Ed isn't really a film guy. He doesn't even really like science fiction that much. He doesn't actually work on Pandora Machine movies. But he'll come to every single premiere of one of my pictures. He's sat through my first two completely unwatchable films. Now that's a friend.
But I don't see him for months at a time. He doesn't work on set or help with post-production. He would if I asked him, but that's not really his bag. My point is that it's not so much what he does but where his energy is.
And that's what's important.
Our usual gang, Maduka, David Lee, David Frey, Tom Rowen, the Queen of Mars, and many more, actually want these movies to get made. There's nothing in it for them that the movies don't get made. Sometimes they don't even care what part they play in making sure it comes to fruition, as long as it does. My man Mitchell Riggs is like that all the way, same with our other partner here in the studio -- Blair Johnson. It's all about the positive energy.
Sometimes they just want to help me with whatever bizarre thing I have in my head which I want to do (which is very humbling). But in all cases it's the positive energy which makes it work.
I used to joke back in the beginning of Theatresource that instead of the usual backstabbing you see in New York theaters we had the situation that everyone was hoping someone else would go on to fame and fortune so we could ride their coattails to success.
Now, how does that apply to filmmaking?
Well, if you're sitting there with a Panasonic (or Canon, or Flip, or phone) camera in one hand and a cheap computer based editing system in the other and would love to be making movies but just don't seem to be able to get one off the ground then look around you. Are your friends making jokes instead of giving you real help? Are they making snarky remarks about how they could do it better than you could? Are they just telling you what you can't do?
Get new friends.
You don't have to dump your old friends forever. But you do have to get some distance so you can get some creative work going. And you have to find people who genuinely want you to have a smashing success (whatever that means) in whatever you do.
And no matter how wishy-washy hippy-dippy it all sounds, that positive energy is the difference between you getting things done or not. Especially big things. Like making feature films.
So surround yourself with positive energy.
Peace. Out.

1 comment:

Chance Shirley said...

Amen. With a little talent, a musician can make a good album all by himself. But nobody, no matter how brilliant he might be, can make a good feature film all by himself.

Well, unless it's some kind of animated thing.