Friday, February 17, 2012

Cyber-Begging for Cinema

I may be in the minority, but I'm not terribly crazy about the concept of "crowd funding" independent films. I've heard some pretty impassioned and thoughtful arguments in favor of it, but I believe there are reasons why independent wannabe filmmakers have to turn to cyber-begging to finance their dreams.

If you don't have the juice to finance or to find actual financing for your film - you beg for money.

If you don't have the discipline to work on your film a little at a time and pay for it yourself - you beg for money.

That said, not having the discipline OR the juice does not bode well for the wannabe filmmaker in terms of their eventual filmmaking success.

Films are made for audiences. If your "mass commissioned" crowd-funded film is intended for a very small audience comprised partially of those who are paying for it, that's fine.

I'm still of the mind however, that movies are intended for mass audiences. And as such, since movies are monumental group efforts that take many months to complete, their production should be approached like a business operation - not an art project.

When someone donates money to you, your mindset is wholly different than if you worked for a few years to save money. I'm sorry, but as grateful and well meaning as you might be for donations - you just don't approach a project the same way as if you worked for the funds you'd be spending on your film, OR, have to be accountable in some way.

Case in point:

Once upon a time there was a first time writer/director who managed to write a decent feature length script and convince a number of people to finance his film. This first-timer put zero of his own assets into the project and had nothing to show other than his script when he set out to raise funds.

Jump to 6 or 7 years later and we SEE this person as having spent almost 2 million dollars of other people's money and still not come close to finishing his first feature film.

Is this an isolated example? I don't think so. Certainly the streets are littered with reels and reels of film that was facilitated by well-to-do friends of first time maverick filmmakers who only talked the talk. Have there been crowd-funded films that were accepted into the Sundance Film Festival? Sure. And there will probably be more.

However, I know from experience that when you work for what you have, you approach how you live life a lot differently.

Case in point:

How many heirs manage to contribute anything meaningful to their communities or culture in general? Or even develop any substantial character themselves?

If you want to ruin a person, give them the means so they never have to work a day in their life.

When you spend your own time working for your own money, and you intend to finance your own film with your own money, there is no guarantee of success, but, you WILL (unless you're just reckless), consider things differently.

All this begs the question "Don't you normally spend other people's money even in the case of studio films?" The answer to that is - yes, but when you're spending investment money, there's a wholly different relationship between the producer and the financiers which makes you as the producer accountable for what and how you're spending.

It's this built-in accountability that affects your approach as a filmmaker I believe.

You are not undertaking an experiment so much in that case as if you got donations to spend. There's a bit more urgency to succeed in the case of spending the money you worked for. When you know it'll take you a year or more to have that amount of money again, you WILL think a little differently about what your doing with respect to the film's production. When you know that you could have bought a house instead, oh yeah, you WILL approach the project differently. When you have a family and you're spending money on a film that you can't spend on them, yes indeed, the urgency to succeed is wholly different as in the case of spending donations.

Watch how someone treats a car that they saved up for over time as opposed to someone who had a car given to them.

Are my analogies apropos? Human nature is human nature, so I'd say they are, but please do point out to me the first crowd-funded feature to get the top prize at Sundance or Cannes, because I really want to see that one.

©2012 Chris Santucci

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