Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Goodbye Promise

A tale of two lives. That is the struggle of being an independent filmmaker. On the surface everything looks Lobster, with closer observation you will find Tuna Fish.

It is an insane world to live day in and day out as one who makes films outside of the studio system. It is also a terrifying and lonely place. I know my plight is no different than the thousands of actors, writers, musicians who flood the vast corners of Los Angeles and beyond. But this isn't the blog of those thousands of folks, it is my blog. And here I will share my realities, hopes, hardships and triumphs.

I can't help but think of the Film Courage interview with In Search of a Midnight Kiss Director Alex Holdridge where he says "In LA there is so much pressure put on this perception of your success that people do not open up about how scared they are about money." (Here is a quick video/audio clip of this quote http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQpdssJOD5Q)

Another moment that captures this perfectly is when I shared the Red Carpet recently with an Actor from a prominent independent film. He said the whole experience was surreal because he has never been so broke. Yet here he was being interviewed, having his picture taken. It is all so glamorous.

I have spoken to dozens upon dozens of filmmakers over the past year and I have learned that yes they have made a film but they haven't necessarily made a living off of that film. Forget the living, they haven't even made anywhere near one year's salary.

The common perception is that anyone who makes a film has to be making money. In a few cases they are, but in most they are not. In my case, I have not made one dollar for Night Before the Wedding. Though, I should point out that the film is in the very early stages of making it's money back. I will not see any money until the film is paid in full. That of course is a great motivator for me to keep pushing and promoting it. Though it will very likely be quite some time before any money is put directly into my pocket or bank account. In the meantime it is an uncertain journey ahead. These present circumstances have me questioning what I am doing with my life.

All this leads me to my next film project. What am I to do? I have a finished feature film, but it is not paid for and I have made no money from it. On top of it, we all hear the screams and shouts that indie film is dead. Distribution models are collapsing, the economy still hasn't recovered, and getting money to make a film is as tough as it's ever been. Just in case you are on the fence about what the pundits say, allow me to clearly state that INDIE FILM WILL NEVER DIE! I could go on a side rant about this alone which would cover a full blog but I want to stay focused here.

I have chosen to not allow the circumstances around me to prevent me from growing as a storyteller. I have decided to embrace my current situation and go and make a film anyway. I will just embrace all of the current challenges and infuse them into my story.

Like I said, my path ahead is uncertain. I do not know if I can cross the threshold to become one who earns a living through my filmmaking. This through-line leads me to the idea for my next film. The lead character will be at a crossroads with his life's dreams.

I do not have time to write a full screenplay right now, so it will be an improv-based project that will rely on the talents of actors along with my story instincts and of course some creative editing.

The thing that makes this go is that I have my own camera. Though it is not an expensive one. I will once again use what I have...which is key. I own an HV30 so that is what I will shoot on. If I didn't have a camera, and I was determined, then I would borrow one.

I do not have money to pay a crew or for production equipment. So that means I will shoot it myself as a one man crew and I will embrace natural lighting.

I do not expect to 'wow' folks with this film. It will serve as an experimental, exploratory film that is certain to teach me a lot. I would rather keep working on films within my means than sit around waiting, talking about my next project.

With that, here is a test poster for the project that features Actor Gregor Collins. It is certainly not the final poster. Would love your feedback. What do you like about it? What do you dislike? What story do you see? What images come to mind? Is there anything you would do to improve it? Thanks in advance.


ClarkD said...

I think it is a great idea to build the idea through the initial poster image. I think that the poster is compelling in the sense that the character seems lost and is looking, "I assume towards God", for some kind of answer. Or looking up in the air. As to say why me? And, or where do I go? I like how simple it is, however if it were a comedy, I also like a disaster happening in the back ground, plane crash, nuclear explosion, etc.
I also see dark humor in it's simplicity.

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Anonymous said...

I’m willing to bet that all filmmakers question whether or not they’re on the right path (a sane path) from time to time. Jessica and I (King is a Fink) started making movies for our friends 10 years ago and only started making shorts suitable for public consumption 2 years ago.

Although the filmmaking community is extremely supportive, finding ins, agents, and clues to future success seems almost impossible. But we love what we do. We may not be rich, but we’re happy, and we improve our skills with every short we produce, every script we finish.

So we trudge on, hopeful...and with smiles on our faces.

wellywood woman said...

I don't often get a visceral response to a blog post. But reading this I want to send you a hug. I'm in a similar place, starting to shoot my first fictional feature at the end of January, after many years as a non-profit-making artist/activist/mother: www.development-the-movie.com

Love the poster but think it might be more effective with the title at the top, separate from that last sentence.

David Branin said...

Clark, Julie and Wellywood Woman, thank you for your commentary.

Look forward to sharing the progression of 'Goodbye Promise' with you.

I am sending warm thoughts and courage back your way.

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Anonymous said...

This poster reminds me of a parody of those inspirational posters in offices with mountains and the Grand Canyon and messages about dedication and teamwork. So it's already pretty funny.

I would imagine the film representing the slow-motion shattering of some established order, with humor, absurdity, a little self-deprecation, and maybe some surrealism and sunlight - think Vanilla Sky/Sex and Lucia/Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/Waking Life. The formula could be something like = Humor + truth + simplicity + melancholy. Can't wait to see how it develops...Best of luck in the new year!