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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Satisfying, but never fun

The movies are a glamorous business, comparable only to being a rock star, a supermodel, or a racing driver. However, talk to any indie filmmaker and they’ll tell you it just ain’t so. That’s an image carefully crafted by Hollywood at enormous expense, and it only applies to the tiniest fraction of the industry. The top stars and directors may have lavish lifestyles, but few others in the industry are so lucky. And even then, the reality behind the glitz is rarely as magical as their legions of PR agents would have you believe.

I’ll quote from one of my favourite movie authors, Philip R Cable, who has produced more low-budget movies than I can count.

“I have never worked on a film that was fun. Satisfying, yes, but never fun.”

I don’t agree with Cable. It can be fun making movies.

That’s one huge difference between the kind of movies he’s talking about and the amateur filmmaker working more or less solo. On a professional production, you’re working with a team of people, and tension will inevitably rise. People get frustrated and irritable, and then they get less creative and the film suffers. As the director or producer, you’re spending a lot of time dealing with people, and you need to keep calm and allow for that.

As a solo animator or machinimator, you can make your movie when it’s convenient for you, and when you feel in the mood. You don’t have a cast and crew standing around fed up, bored and hungry while you sort out some problem with a dolly track, while your lighting guy is chafing to get the shot in before the sun goes behind the tree and your assistant director is persistently reminding you that you only have one more day on this location and you still have three more shots to get. And you’re not permanently operating with a spreadsheet in the back of your mind keeping tabs on the production budget and the schedule so you can make your release date. When it all gets too much, you can walk away from the movie, do something else, and come back when you’ve figured out whatever was going wrong.

I think of filmmaking like I think of cooking. I love cooking, and I’ll cheerfully spend the evening or the weekend in the kitchen or browsing recipes. But most of the time, I only cook when I feel like it. I don’t have to make dinner every day, and I don’t have kids depending on me for three meals a day; I’d find that immensely frustrating and tedious, and I’d soon lose any desire to cook for pleasure. I’d certainly never want to work in a restaurant.

When you’re an amateur movie-maker, it’s still hard work, but it’s no longer relentless hard work, and it’s completely under your control. That makes all the difference.

(3) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 11:30 AM

Matt
Totally agree with your viewpoint.  This blog along with your previous one about the filming of The Proposal are very well suited together.  I believe that my memories of my Live Action pictures are nicer than the real events.  I wouldn’t give up what I did, but now movie making via machinima can be a less frustrating proposition and equally rewarding to Live Film.

Miami DUI Lawyer on 02/04 at 07:45 AM

I agree. I’m lucky enough to be at a point in my life right now where I can decide when and how I’m going to do things. If film making our producing is your passion, it should be fun. Good for you for understanding how to keep it fun and not losing your dream.

Philip Cable on 03/22 at 11:39 AM

I appreciate the positive review that you gave my book, MAKE MOVIES THAT MAKE MONE! I only wish that so many websites weren’t downloading it illegally on the web.



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