Building Our Home: Is It Possible To Make A Living As A FIlmmaker?

by Ted Hope
March 19, 2011 1:31 AM
5 Comments
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You know what? As important as this question is, and as dedicated as I am to making sure we all learn the practical things that will allow us to both earn a living & build a new system that allows for artists to sustain a career in the arts, I also think that if we try too hard to answer that question, we will never commit ourselves to the art, craft, and pursuit.

We need to run full speed into this love of film, but particularly to do it with all of our heart. If we are also not lazy about it, and if we are studious in our endeavors, forever trying to improve our craft & our knowledge, while also maintaining a sense of wonder and pleasure, then perhaps we can truly become artists. That is the first step -- the becoming -- and only after we land in that dangerous swamp, can we address the second step of knowing the waters & environment. Once through those trials, and only once there, can we set about the third step: building our home.

Let's say you did that first step and made the leap. Let's say you then have remained vigilant in your practice and you are an eternal student of both film and the system. You watch movies, talk movies. You read novels and study art. You read up on the technology and train yourself to use it. You refuse to accept that the way it is is a given and you consider change. You keep your house in order and don't live beyond your means. You are thankful for the good fortune you've enjoyed, and don't blame others for your struggles. Well, then, you are ready for that next important step: survival and sustainability.

The Tribeca Film Institute held a panel at The New School trying to address "How To Make A Living As A Filmmaker" and thankfully it's up on YouTube. It's a long panel and could benefit from a bit of meta-tagging and some chaptering, but it is worth a ride, and if you are starting out a focused one.

What are the lessons it offers? Lots, but among them: be self-reliant; be generous; recognize that it is a long run; find another way to make money beyond filmmaking (teaching, shooting commercials, speaking gigs); build your audience and database.

I'd like to write a post on the practical things we need to do survive these days. I am going to start taking notes, but I would love your suggestions.

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5 Comments

  • trigger V2 | March 21, 2011 8:19 AMReply

    I would say It's pretty great that platforms like kickstarter exist because they enable independents artists and filmmakers like myself pursue ideas and develop projects in a public arena with the hope that while the projects gains popularity, it is also raising funds to make it happen.
    I'm running an online film project called the Show+Tell Show. The S+TS is a website where people from all over the world can upload videos of themselves doing Show&Tell;. The aim of the project is to create an international online archive of Show&Tell; videos made by people of all walks of life. By creating a platform and the access to these stories we open a visual library of objects, characters and voices. Imagine looking up the word "sword" and getting 15 different videos of people ages 10-90 the world over sharing their sword stories.
    The idea is to eventually make a documentary about the project using all the videos people have uploaded to the site.
    At the moment, the Show+Tell Show is on kickstarter raising funds so it can become a reality. please check out the link where you can see the teaser and find more information.
    http://kck.st/gc6XGR
    Many thanks

    -Veronica

  • Mike | March 20, 2011 12:06 PMReply

    I was at this Tribeca panel and althought I found it interesting, I was disappointed that the focus is mostly on documentary filmmakers.

    Whenever we talk about making a living as filmmakers it's easy for people to say, "Oh just get a grant" or "Pitch a project to PBS/ITVS/DCTV." The problem is, you're only going to get funding if you're working on a doc! There are at least a few filmmakers out there who still want to make narrative films...

    I'm still longing to hear from narrative filmmakers (Directors especially) who are finding ways to live while working on their films. Anyone making ends meet while still having enough money and time to make your films "on-the-side"? I'd LOVE to hear about your experience (and how you got there)!

    Thanks!

  • AsiaM | March 20, 2011 4:23 AMReply

    I think posts and panels like these are always important. They remind us that we are not alone- financial obstactes are at the core of the arts. And while some of the information might not be new, there will always be new filmmakers who need to understand what the industry and lifestyle is like.

  • Bilbo Baggins | March 19, 2011 7:00 AMReply

    Sorry Ted, but these panelists are extremely self-indulgent and boring. I guarantee you that not one person in attendance of that panel nor anyone that watches this will be able to go off and make a living as a filmmaker. The practical advice that you get from watching this isn't anything new or insightful and could've been said in 5 minutes instead of a dreadful hour and forty minutes.

    I dream of the day when indie filmmakers will stop with these stupid panels and conferences and do something more practical, productive and educational with their time...

  • JennaLunarno | March 19, 2011 6:30 AMReply

    CRAIGSLIST!

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