This past weekend I attended the Independent Film Forum, a yearly forum held about all things indie filmmaking. It’s filled with keynotes, case studies, market reports, networking opportunities and much more. It’s a great place to go to get an understanding of where things are currently in the indie film marketplace and also to meet others in the field.

Overall, the theme of this past weekend, as I saw it, was this:

Things are difficult for making independent films.

Even the keynote speaker opened his discussion with acknowledging how very poor his film did at the box office the previous night.

But things are also very exciting.

The entire marketplace is shifting right now and rediscovering itself, with new distribution platforms sprouting up constantly, making it easier than ever before to reach an audience.

But with that, comes the difficulty of being heard among the noise.

Is it just me or does it seem like there’s a constant stream of mindless content available everywhere you turn, all designed for the attention span of a three year-old? And does anyone else wonder why television is having a golden age but cinema remains mostly saturated with comic-book tales and 3D epics? Television is embracing complex, character-driven stories that audiences very clearly want to see. In my opinion, it’s time independent filmmaking caught up.

So, will there ever be a time that is “good” for independent filmmaking?

Chances are, probably not. The very nature of being independent implies a certain level of difficulty in that something is created outside the influence or control of others and in the film world, those “others” have a lot of control over theatrical distribution and exhibition. But with digital platforms, they do not. At least, not yet.

And yes, films are incredibly expensive to produce and money is hard to find. But was it ever being handed out or grown on trees? (It pains me sometimes to think about how many stories could be told, meaning films could be made, with $100 million dollars, which these days is just a third of a blockbuster’s budget but I shouldn’t get started…)

As an independent filmmaker, I believe we need to continue to try to make our character-driven films, despite the difficulties. There is an audience. One that perhaps don’t go to the theaters anymore because they want stories beyond the narrow offerings of box office blockbusters and consumer marketing opportunities. An audience who likely binge on cerebral episodic television but will come out to the theaters once again if we give them a good reason to.

As noted during a panel discussion at the forum, “It’s the wild wild west out there” in terms of independent film distribution.

And If that’s the case, then anything goes, so what better time for independent filmmaking to thrive?

Have Courage, Will Film

I launched a Kickstarter campaign a little over three weeks ago to “kick off” the fundraising portion of my feature film debut, Driving Your Mind, a film I co-wrote with editor, Suzanne LaBrot. I’m not asking for the budget of the film by any means but rather a modest amount (in my opinion) to help get the ball moving for this film.

It has not been easy. I’ve tried my best to offer value for value but the reality is it’s down to the last five days of the fundraising campaign and I’m at about 45% funded.

Imagine trying to move a mountain, by yourself, with your arms. That’s kinda what it’s like if you’re a writer/director/producer trying to get an independent feature film made. At least, for me, I often feel like I’m trying to move mountains. Making a film is hard. It’s damn hard. But when mountains do finally nudge a bit and the sun streaks through, that right there is the essence of life and exactly the reason I do this.

Kickstarter helped me see I have to go outside this small box I live in. At first, it was an eye-opening experience to see only a handful of people I know decide to support me in this endeavor (and I’m taking into account all who supported me, both financially and/or with other actions) But then! I realized how large this world is and how my work has only been exposed to a select few…

It’s ME who needs to step this up now. I need to throw out my hatred of networking, all of my fears about being perfect and what not and get the budget I need to make this film without sacrificing any quality. I need courage. I am going up against the steepest of mountains. And thinking about this, I’m reminded of a moment from my childhood…

When I was no taller than my waist, I had a fear of something on television. It was big and scary and busted through its clothing and turned an odd shade of green. The Incredible Hulk. This green giant scared the bee-jeezus out of my brother and I when we were kids until one day, my father decided to show us this hulk was nothing to fear. He made us go to the television screen when the show came on and touch it as the Hulk grew into full form. It terrified me to think of doing anything like that at that moment… but then… after a minute, being coaxed by my father… I did it. I touched the hulk on the screen and nothing bad happened.

I need to channel that moment right now and touch “the big screen.”

Have courage. Will film.

(And for anyone interested, please find my kickstarter campaign link below! Thank you for the consideration!

Do things happen for a reason?

As those who know me or follow my blog are well aware, I am not religious (I’m agnostic, actually) and I don’t believe in fate. But lately, I’ve been wondering… do some things happen for a reason? Or is it simply a matter of timing?

Ron Paul came into my life this past year when I was searching desperately for someone who I could believe in and could fight for to become my president. Since I’ve found him, I’ve been motivated to volunteer my time and work hard on his campaign. In the process, I’ve truly learned about what an amazing human he is. And during all this, I’ve been dealing with my career as a filmmaker…

I make films that I know not all people want to see. I wish they would but reality dictates otherwise right now. See, I believe in individual responsibility, in as little government as possible as the Constitution states, in philosophy, in making people think, in drawing out what one doesn’t want to think about. I don’t do it because I want to be different or controversial or antagonistic. I do it because it’s what’s real to me, what’s meaningful to me and what I’m drawn to as a filmmaker. It’s my life. And in effect, it’s my life’s work. But it’s not that popular right now. So, what do I do?

I keep at it.

And I think about the time when these values will appeal to the masses, even if they don’t right now.

And that’s where Ron Paul comes in. I truly wonder about the timing that he’s entered my life. It’s practically Kismet, but I never believed in that. He’s been at it for forty plus years and has never wavered from his principles. He’s braved the masses rejecting him, ridiculing him, ignoring him. But now, his time has come. Not only has he predicted this entire mess we find ourselves in as Americans, with blame belonging to BOTH the right and the left, but he’s resonating with America’s youth because they aren’t okay with the status quo.

It’s the likes of him and people like my parents, two individuals who have never asked for anything from anyone but came to America as legal immigrants and used their own efforts to achieve success and instill responsibility into their children, that I am motivated by to continue making the films I believe in and not succumb to anything but.

It’s a tough road to stand by one’s personal beliefs but when I see people like my parents and Ron Paul, I’m reminded that it’s our beliefs and principals that matter. And while the success of those who feel this way may not happen overnight, what’s important is that they remain true to themselves. Success is defined by each individual…

Perhaps the author of Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White, had it right when he said – “Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Start sniffing the air or glancing at the trend machine, and you’re as good as dead, though you may make a nice living.”