Thursday, March 10, 2005

It Came From The Mailbag

I got this email today:

Hello John. My name is Matt and i had a question. Well actually a couple. I love b movies. Adore them. and i have always wanted to make my living making movies. So my queston is how do the Polonia boys make money off of their work. I realize they are made for 0 budget. but how do they get them for sale on amazon and things like that? And my second question is how do you even break into the field of filmaking? If you want to e-mail me back that would be cool. Peace man.

I decided to answer this email in my blog, as I get this question a lot. First things first, how do you break in to filmmaking? My advice is at the outset, learn the craft, either by going to school or reading books or studying movies or by picking up a camera and trying trial and error. Art is part of it; but the truth is a lot of it is craft, and you have to get your technical skills down cold for the artistic side to be acceptable and in fact enjoyable by audiences.

Next, network. Write emails (how I met Mark Polonia), go to cons and film festivals, visit message boards and e-mail mailing lists, volunteer to help others on their projects. I was an assistant editor on the feature film FORGIVE ME FATHER, which opened the door for me to work on a screenplay with the director, Ivan Rogers, who introduced me to Terrence Muncy of COW BOY, and on and on. Sometimes you have to nurture your contacts for years before they pay off. But if you prove that you are reliable and professional, eventually people will come to accept you. The problem is that there are so many people out there talking noise who don’t have any game to back it up that many producers and directors are gun shy and have a tendency to stick with who they know.

The truth is that nothing is ever made for $0 (even if it looks it). Equipment costs money, and its depreciation, there’s tape or film stock, even on down to the fact that people’s time and expertise has some monetary value as well. You should always be aware that your skills are worth something, and you should never give them away for free; however I think it’s perfectly acceptable to, as they say in baseball, trade your skills out for “future considerations.”

I would say that on the b-movie level there are a lot of people, though certainly not all, with day jobs that help offset the fact that the money side can be a real roller coaster. There are all kinds of ways to make money, but even more ways to lose it, making movies. One thing I’ve learned is that you have to find a reliable and honest distributor for your work. Again there is an art side to it but it is also business, and you have to have an awareness of that and protect your interests.

But most importantly, do something you feel strongly about or something you really enjoy doing; otherwise an audience will smell a rat, even if they don’t know how to articulate what’s wrong with your work.

I hope this helps.

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