By Ted Hope | Hope for Film April 27, 2011 at 5:29AM
Is it necessary to earn a "good" living creating ambitious work? Should it be enough just to get the opportunity, to hear the calling, of making films outside of the mainstream commercial industry? Can we ever give enough thanks and appreciation that we don't have to weld, lift, push paper, or aid in the killing of civilians and instead can inspire, instill hope, develop empathy in others? I struggle with this, as you know, and am thankful that friends and collaborators like producer Mike Ryan join in this discussion, as he does below.
dylan baker and lauren ambrose in "THINK OF ME" currently in post production
Ted, We've talked about this before, you seem to refuse to accept that the "collapse" of the indie film bubble was a good thing. It actually for me is a cause of celebration and has actually renewed my love of the fiction feature drama.
The years between Clerks and Hamlet 2, though they also produced many great films like American Splendor and Old Joy, were years in which corporate aesthetics undermined the whole indie film medium. Now that the profit mongers have left the space we are seeing less twee crap like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine. AS for the issue of making a living from non corporate sponsored art...what would Ida Lupino, John Cassavettes, Kenneth Anger and Oscar Michieux say? They struggled their whole careers, they are my indie godfathers , not the grab the cash and run to Hollywood soulless hacks which Sundance produced in those 'glory' years.
The struggle for financial stability is a given in all arts in which you are attempting to speak honestly in a manner that is in opposition to corporate "popular" commonly accepted aesthetics or themes. I talk about our 'troubles' to my friends in the Jazz industry and they raise an eyebrow and say 'welcome to the real world". There are living Jazz legends who produce masterpieces throughout their life for whom financial struggle is just part of everyday existence. The record label owners, the club owners, the artist reps, in jazz they all struggle , not to make profit, but to get by financially so they can continue to work in the field.
Success is being able to do the job full time. AS for what one might need to live then it sounds like you are comparing your yearly income needs to what you got in the 'old days'. I look at what my family members make as public school teachers, cops and social workers, in NYC, and I cannot complain. In fact if I were to complain I would talk about the ridiculously low pay NYC cops and teachers get, and their job is way more important and harder than mine. So, I don 't compare my income level to what someone made from films five years ago, I compare my self to what friends in the Jazz, Dance and teaching fields make. I think we all need to face the reality that film was once the popular equivalent to rock and roll medium and now it is more equivalent to jazz. Consequently if you can't commit to the vow of poverty that those fields require then your expectations are unreasonable and out of line with the whole purpose of 'truly free film'.
Mike S Ryan has produced 14 films in the past seven years. He currently has Kelly Reichardt's MEEKS CUTOFF in theaters and Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime is about to be released on DVD. Last year he shot two films, LOSERS TAKE ALL and THINK OF ME that stars Lauren Ambrose, Dylan Baker and Penelope Anne Miller. He is currently in preproduction on two films that are about to start
shooting in May.