A filmmaker friend once told me that making independent movies is about taking all your worthwhile friendships and business contacts you’ve made over the years and ruining them. “It takes about a year before people start talking to you again,” I remember him saying.
It’s a somewhat extreme take on the whole endeavor, but I understand what he was saying. It’s sort of strange to be in the position of having good work to offer people, but not much money to pay them for it. It’s hard not to feel like you’re taking advantage of people when that’s exactly what you’re doing. Sort of.
Whether your uncle sends you a large check or a friend lets you use their house as a location, independent films run on favors. But favors alone won’t make your movie. It is people’s investment of time, work, and sacrifice that will ultimately see you through, and I believe that “investment” begins with instilling in people a sense of ownership. People should never feel like they are just helping out, but rather becoming a part of a greater collaborative effort. This film does not belong to me alone. It belongs to anyone who believes in it enough to want to join in the process.
To that end, I have been floored in recent weeks by the amount of support pouring in. Seemingly out of nowhere I have a new co-producer, a casting director, some actors, and a key crew member all secured. These are not favors. These are people that are excited enough about the film to feel it is worth their while to come on board.
I can ask people to borrow their camera. I can ask people to borrow their apartment. I can even ask someone to work for free. If I’m lucky, people will say yes and I’ll save some money. But I can’t ask people to enthusiastic. I have to enthuse them. I have to offer them something to be excited about. Maybe it’s a great part to play, maybe it’s a Producer credit, but the only thing that makes those things appeal to them is my own enthusiasm. I have to love the investment enough myself for someone to want to join me. Even a good script can’t rally the troops alone, that falls on the filmmaker. Hopefully, that enthusiasm becomes infectious and ultimately fuels things down the line if/when one starts to doubt themselves.