March 21, 2014

Keep it Indie

I've been tasting the word INDEPENDENCE this week and really letting its meaning swish around in my head: showing a desire for freedom, not subject to control by others, not looking to others for one's opinions...

I've been struggling with this lately, because the term Independent Filmmaker is an oxymoron. We rely heavily on the kindness of others. We enlist our own mothers into slave labour (craft-services), pull people off the street to act in our films (which I've done since the age of 12) and are constantly trying to convince the people who have money that we are worth investing in. Every Independent Filmmaker is a natural hustler with infectious optimism, but when constantly searching for that intangible substance (that break, the deal, the grant, the green light...) it's very easy to lose your way.

The search for money breaks our dreams down. It has us bend and compromise. It has us working with (or for) people we don't trust. It limits our great ideas to the realms of practical, sustainable, do-able. And even when we do make our films, apparently no one gives a shit - a sentiment which prompted Filmmaker Kentucker Audley to create a hilarious (satirical) petition to have indie filmmakers willingly give up their dreams and stop making low budget films.

I have fallen prey to all of this. In my hustle to make my indie film Gillian's Just Right, I've focused more on jumping through other people's hoops then developing the means to fortify my own vision. I believe the industry is set up to breed scarcity. The common rhetoric being spouted off by industry professionals right now is that you can't make an independent film without a $1M budget for a feature and $25K for a five-minute short. How can that be true when technological advances are making equipment more affordable? When the Internet has virtually knocked out the middle-men, making self-distribution possible and the connection between creatives and audiences immediate?

I've had to give my head a shake this week and call bullshit.
All of the indie support mechanisms, whether contests, grants, new-funding streams, or "revolutionary initiatives"... it is still asking to be chosen. Still asking for permission. That's not independent at all.

And it's so intoxicating to think that someone has the power to pluck you from obscurity, but only the work has the power to do that. I've been reading these words by the inspiring Ava DuVernay:
"You can’t move forward when your actions hinge on someone else doing something for you. All the time you spend focused on trying to move ahead in the industry, trying to grab, is time you’re not doing the work. Waiting for permission, waiting for help, waiting for understanding is not doing. You gotta knock it off.”

Read more: Ava DuVernay: First Sundance, Next – The World | Rising Stars | OZY
Thanks again Angela for drawing my attention here! So I'm spending more time thinking about where true independence comes from - it's not all about doing it yourself, for us filmmakers need the support of our community perhaps more than most, but it really is about knowing your own power, knowing your film will be made and stop asking for someone else to get it, to acknowledge it, to approve of it. Ain't nobody got time for that.

1 comment

  1. I absolutely agree about not needing permission to make great films. Well said.


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