I’m hearing a lot of talk about how independent filmmakers need to be paid for their work, whether it’s regarding distribution deals, online piracy, or their tip percentage at Fuddruckers.
Well, as a young filmmaker, let me give it to you straight from the horse’s mouth (which is currently the only place I can afford to live): filmmakers don’t need money. Why would we? We’re ARTISTS, people. Knowing us, we’d just blow it on Tom Waits albums and lofts.
We need struggle. We need that feeling of scraping by, with nothing but our wits to save us. Trust me: whenever a filmmaker talks about how they don’t have money and please can you help them because their heat has been shut off, they’re just being funny. Be sure and play along, responding with, “You should have had something to fall back on.” Then, enjoy laughing with another human being, because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.
“But,” you ask, “aren’t we supporting their art by giving them monetary compensation for it?” HARDLY.
Think about it: when do filmmakers make their best movies? When they’re at their most miserable and desperate. Raging Bull pulled Scorsese out of his biggest career slump, and Beethoven’s 4th saved David Mickey Evans after the disastrous Beethoven’s 3rd, which obviously suffered from too many studio notes (“Can we have him destroy FEWER dining rooms?” What idiots!). So, if you really want to help a filmmaker create their masterpiece, the least you could do is slash their tires. I’ve currently got a Kickstarter going to make that happen for myself.
Not only that, but money just makes us out-of-touch; turns us into “the Man.” I mean, how can you understand the fragility of the human condition when you drive around in a limousine with a hot tub in it (which is what I assume everyone who makes over $30,000 a year does)? No, filmmakers need to constantly keep their fingers on the pulse of the working class. I’ve personally been told that’s the only part of the working class I’m still allowed to touch. Otherwise, we risk becoming disconnected from the average person (or in my case, threatened with a sexual harassment lawsuit by an entire economic section of our country).
So, instead, let’s emulate some of the great filmmakers of today who have come from humble beginnings and stayed there, like Jason Reitman and Sophia Coppola (Note to self: Be sure and fact-check this part because I might be getting it wrong [Other note to self: Make sure you don’t leave this note-to-self in the blog post]).
Careful filmmakers like these know that the best thing they could do to ensure that the quality of their work remains intact is to stay completely broke. To finance their films, they max out credit cards and sell all of their belongings, and when the movie is finished, premieres at a major festival, and sells for millions of dollars, they make sure to only skim over the part of the distribution agreement that tells them they’re going to be paid in Rolos. This way, they can hold onto that sweaty desperation that made their first film come out so successful. It’s called a “career plan,” people.
Now, the problem of filmmakers being able to financially support themselves and their families (and it’s a SERIOUS problem) isn’t a new one. It’s been threatening the art of film for decades. Many a filmmaker has committed the rookie mistake of accepting smart and financially lucrative distribution deals, only to see it ruin their careers with the curse of consistent work. May God have mercy on their souls.
It’s time that we, as a community, come together on this and say “No more.” We need to let the world know that we’re artists, and artists use a different currency than regular people. Our pennies are the looks of wonderment on audiences’ faces. Our nickels are theaters full of laughter. Our quarters are when someone is so caught up in a story that they’ll sit for two hours with a bladder full of Mountain Dew.
So, you can keep your millions of dollars, because us filmmakers have something that will always be more valuable: our art.
(Unless you actually want to give me millions of dollars, in which case, I desperately need it. I’m dying here.)