This rant was inspired by Cracker Funk, instigator in chief
Ever since I saw Platoon, I’ve wanted to make films. I was 14. I was always in love with war movies, but to me it was a kind of self-criticism I had never seen before in the genre. I fell in love with Oliver Stone and started watching all his movies. I wanted to be a filmmaker. But I also wanted to play world cup football/soccer, and cricket. So I put it away as just another un-achievable dream.
I came to the US for college, got a great job in Palo Alto, then moved on to work in another high paying job in LA. One day I went to the LA film festival. I was so underwhelmed by the film I saw there, I thought to myself, “If this is the caliber required to get into a film festival, I can do it. This is definitely not world cup soccer or cricket.”
At the time I also decided to leave the US, as I didn’t think I was going to get residency. So I quickly wrote and shot a film before I left the US. I went back home to Bangladesh. I got lucky and got another high paying job working for my cousin, and traveling the world selling his products. I got to go to Scotland, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Australia, China, UAE and South Africa twice a year. I edited my film in the meantime. Then my Canadian residency came through and I decided to move to Toronto. I showed my film around. Non-filmmakers always liked it more than filmmakers. But nobody really wanted to do anything with it.
I tried to get another finance job, but everybody seemed to want a recent graduate or an ex-president of some company. I thought I’d make films instead. My family thought I was crazy, and told me so. “What is your game plan? How do you plan to monetize your time and your products? How do you plan to buy a house and pay for mortgage?” my loving and concerned NYC banker brother would ask me (He’s great
I didn't know the answer, but it felt right. I thought, maybe if I just learned how to increase my production value, this time people would notice. So I joined a summer film program. I learned some things about lighting for the inordinate amount of money I paid for the summer. That’s about it. Nothing about audio, other than how to switch on and operate some audio gear and what buttons to push. I disagreed with everything they taught in the scriptwriting class.
- We discussed how to get a job. They said it would be easiest to get a job as an editor. I thought great.
- They said it would be best if I also learned ‘motion’ or ‘after effects’ because that would make me more marketable as an editor as I would also know titling. So I learned ‘after effects’
- I tried to get a jobs as an editor. I got some freelance gigs, which were all really time consuming and low paying.
- They said, “maybe you should learn 3D, and then your pay will go up.” So I learned Cinema 4D. I started getting greater interest to my reel. But people still didn’t want to pay very well.
Every filmmaker I met had the same complaint. “I’m really good, I just don’t have a reel for people to recognize my talent and give me a job worth my mettle.” I didn’t meet anybody who had made it. I couldn’t figure out the process. It wasn’t as simple as it was in college – "Study economics, get some finance summer jobs, have a decent gpa, then go into an interview with a nice suit looking presentable.” It seemed to work wonders at the time. In this filmmaking business there was no process. Everybody just said grandiose things. “Concentrate on your story, everything else will take care of itself.” “Be good at something and people will notice.” I wanted to ask these people how they knew this ‘secret’ and why they were not applying it in their own career plans? I wanted to ask them why everybody spent so much time discussing prime lenses vs. some other equally useless thing.
To some degree, almost every filmmaker I’ve met in the indie film world is, useless - to some degree. They wouldn’t last a day in a typical US high stress work environment where people get to call you names if they wish ("You make one more mistake like that and I'm sending your ass back to Croatia"). Only ONE dp I’ve met so far, who really was sincere about his craft. He didn’t talk much, but when I told him what I wanted he always knew how to do it. Too bad he’s currently living in British Columbia, or I’d work with him constantly.
Anyway, this is a pointless rant about my pointless filmmaker life, my feelings toward my now chosen profession and my colleagues. There is no game plan, but everybody thinks that if they just did ‘this’ or ‘that’ then everything would fall into place. I’ve been listening to the ‘this’s’ and the ‘thats’ for almost two years now. Nobody has pulled off anything. I’ve seen people spend money, based on other people’s advice. I’ve seen the crap outcome of all this money spent, but I’ve not seen real progress. I’ve not seen work, around which everybody could rally around and say, ‘take that Hollywood.’ I just haven’t seen it. And time just ruthlessly keeps passing on by, and I keep wondering to myself how long I can last in all of these lies and misplaced faith. I’m lucky. I’m not the spending type and so I was able to save my money. I still wear the $50 watch I wore in college. So now I’ve built a little studio in my living room. There is no sofa, just lights and scaffolding to hang things from so I can shoot things cheaply. I plan to do this for some time. I’m okay with things not working out for some time. But I’m just tired of listening to the ‘success’ plans other filmmakers keep offering to me. I just don’t know what works anymore.
How do I feel about my future as a filmmaker? I’m not too sure. But I feel something like this:
“I’m driving a stolen car through a pitch black night
I keep telling myself, I’m gonna be alright
But I ride by night, and I travel in fear
That in this darkness, I will disappear.”
- Bruce Springsteen (Stolen Car)
Please don't take this rant seriously, and please do not take offense. It is really meant for no one but myself. The last half hour has proved immensely therapeutic for me. I'm glad I was able to write all this.
Best of luck to all the dreamers,