Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Roof is on Fire

I've always thought Micro-Film Magazine was pretty cool. Now I think it's even cooler.

Now, from the mailbag, and frequent reader Jason:

Do people make any money with these movies? Or are they about in the same boat as microcinema film makers, as in they do it more as a hobby and hope to either break even or just have people watch their stuff?I guess I need to become more involved in the scene, because at this point I am interested as hell in finding out how the biz works, but have no idea who to talk to. There are very few people that I know that ‘work’ it like a business. Most of them just have it as a very expensive and oft stressful hobby.

Jason, there are a lot of ways to approach this question. Of course people would like to make money. Cash money is good, though a good sandwich and some bikini photos of a b-movie starlet or two ain't bad either. Sometimes trade-outs can work to your advantage, trading your services in exchange for "future considerations" (as they say in baseball) on a project you might want to do; then everybody benefits from getting experience and gets projects out there.

There are enough distribution horror stories told by directors and director horror stories told by writers and writer horror stories told by everybody else to indicate that it can be hard for everybody to get a nice slice of the pie, if indeed there is ever any pie to slice up. When you look at how many failed projects are out there I think you have to acknowledge that regardless of how much money you made at some point it is important to have something that exists, and to perhaps use it to leverage into something else that you can do better with.

I believe that in the last five years I have worked on about a dozen screenplays that were in various stages of development and production, in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and on and on, and today five of them exist where you can actually see them; and most would recognize that that's a pretty good batting percentage.

I have a day job, so I can't speak to how to make it a fulltime job exactly, and it seems like a lot of people I know doing it have other jobs on the side, writers who either own property or teach and directors who do corporate work and actors who work at Old Navy and so on. You do have to treat it like a business and not a hobby as hobbyists do not move forward in the business, professionals do. And no matter how big or small your project you should conduct yourself as a professional; there is no such thing as "just" a little b-movie or a "quickie" movie. Everything takes time and effort and work, even "quickies," and if you are going to be involved in them you should try to do the best you can and make them worth your time. If you try to phone it in, fans will smell it. I think it helps if you promise yourself that you will always do work that you're proud of; no matter how the final project turns out.

I wish you luck! If it's your dream, as it has been mine, all you can do is keep moving forward and hoping for the best, and waiting for that lightning strike.

The mailbox remains open at


Christopher Sharpe said...

I think most indies pretty much realize they are going to be lucky to even break even on their first few flicks. For me, it's about building a body of working and making sure each movie is better, more ambitious and hopefully more fully funded than the previous one.

But once it's in your blood, it's in your blood. There's no avoiding it.

Tom said...

Good advice, John!