A few nights ago I had a late night phone call with independent writer / director friend. We’ve bumped up against each other over the years and have kept track of each other’s careers and projects. I’ll freely admit they’re much better at pushing their stuff ahead than me, of course that carries its own issues, which I’ll get into in a second.
Later in the week I had dinner with another film colleague who is throwing in the towel and moving on with their life. Two very opposite places in the current film landscape.
The first conversation was a long one and we covered a lot of ground. One of the topics we covered was the current state of the Canadian Film Industry, which I’ll also get into deeper depth of in a minute. We also discussed the pettiness you come across between other professionals in the industry who see you as a threat because you might steal funding out from under them or maybe they just don’t care for how you approach life and your art.
For me the personal encounters break down into a few categories.
Real Deals: These are individuals who are active fans of your work. Hire you when they can. Option you and try to get your film made and who are upfront at all times about what’s going on with your project.
Professionals: People who are getting stuff done. They’ll pull you into their orbit every now and then and you’ll even get a paycheck or two out of them. They’re handy when you need to open a door because they’re ready to offer their validation to anybody who might have a question out of you.
Time Wasters: They look legit, they talk the talk but ultimately, when push comes to shove, they won’t back you or pay you for your work. They’ll push you for that free spec with promises of what to come. But when push comes to check book, (you know the real test of a producer’s resolve), it stays shut. It a simple equation, “No bucky buck, no fucky fuck.”
The Crazies: These people will always pay but once you’ve signed their contract, they completely lose their shit and the relationship becomes a death march of nutty demands and creative obstacles placed in your path almost by whim. They’ll fire you in a heartbeat and then try to hire you back at a later date with no concept of why you’re not keen to work with them again. If you sniff even a whiff of nutty in a meeting. Thank everybody for thinking of you, get up and walk away and don’t look back.
But ultimately we ended up talking about the hater contingent. I can’t speak to my friend’s experiences as it would somewhat out them but I can speak to one of mine.
It occurred well before the age of Facebook and Twitter when we had submitted a short film to the Chicago Horror Film Festival. Our film had been well received elsewhere and had gotten some decent reviews. So when the film was rejected by the festival it was a bit unexpected but no big deal really. Until the following week, when one of the guys on the selection committee took time out of his meaningless existence to post a review online of our film. Not a good review by the way. In fact it narrowed in with laser beam focus on the writing where he pretty much went to town on me and my ultimate lack of talent, vision and skill. Upsetting to say the least and as always, this sort of knife in the back does tend to shake your confidence in yourself . However, I decided to research my attacker. Turns out he was an NYU Film grad who had done little with his degree except write a couple of self published books (in a time where that was still a stigma). Otherwise he was a nobody and as far as I know to this day, still a nobody. A Leo nomination for me in screenwriting the next week put him in true perspective. He hated me because I had something he must have lacked. I can only guess what that might be. Perhaps I was a better writer, perhaps my dialogue irritated him . Maybe he sensed I had a larger cock. Who knows. But I am sure he and his tiny cock are still just as bitter and just as unproduced.
Another friend of mine once told me, “If you think you’re being rejected now, wait till you get produced.” He was not kidding. The minute you’re perceived to have an ounce of success, the knives come out. Of course it’s not in your face like it should be, instead it’s the subtle character assassination through social media. You know, that place where people think that their opinion matters.
Heads up folks.
That phrase, “Living a life of quiet desperation.” Guess what, it’s staring back at you every time you look in a mirror and no amount of posting your lunch or telling me what you’re doing at that precise second on Facebook or Twitter or whatever platform you subscribe to is going to make you any happier or fulfilled. No matter who you are, when you die, the world just keeps on turning.
The thing about most haters (not all) is that they like to talk but aren’t so motivated into pushing it into the doing part of the equation. It’s a lot easier to snipe from the sidelines than belly up to the bar and actually risk. I mean who want’s the ridicule and the derision that comes with actually doing something.
There’s a reason why it’s the truly stubborn who get stuff done. You need a very solid core of, “Fuck you,” to push any project down the field. You need to wade through a shit load of, “No,” to get the one yes that makes the ball start to roll and you need to know who you are deep down inside enough to be able to take the hits that will come and keep on coming.
It ultimately becomes about sacrifice. What are you willing to give up to get to the goal line and we are not talking about small things. Time with your family, time with your friends, trips and the feeling you’re sane (cause only a crazy person would put themselves through this).
And in the end, it may not be worth it. Which will make the haters cackle with glee. But you ignore them, saddle up and try again and again and again.
Which is why my one friend is a bit nervous going in and my other friend has had enough and is getting out.
I’m still on the fence but I’ll admit, punching out of this thing is tempting but I am a pretty stubborn bastard and my old man taught me how to take a punch.
As far as Canadian Film goes, the latest credentials required to get Telefilm funding is in my opinion, Harper’s masterstroke to finally destroy any chance of new stuff being brought to the fore by emerging Canadian film artists. Of course the next guidelines ensure that the Egoyans and the Cronenbergs (if they so wish) can continue to access the funding stream but if you haven’t had a feature in theaters and can show some sort of box office, you are shit out of luck.
Telefilm’s new mandate is to make money. Yeah because they’ve been so successful in the past at doing that. Telefilm’s real mandate should be to encourage new talent so they can then take off down to the states and then come back to Canada to film, which makes everybody money. But that’s too much sense in one paragraph for any of the dicks in our Government to understand.
Personally, it doesn’t worry me that much. You just go back to making film the way it’s always happened. You find a millionaire or a few of them and you fleece them for your budget. They get to say they’re producers which allows them to sleep with really young hot women and you get to make your film. If it actually makes money, you get to make more.