Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The things we do for love and money...

We had our monthly FA meeting on Sunday night. For those of you who don't know what goes on at an FA meeting besides incantations, ritual sacrifice and group sex, I'll lay it out for you:

Starting at 5 p.m., there is a potential member info session followed at 5:45 by a free seminar on some kind of filmmaking topic given by an accomplished professional (who may or may not be an FA member). Then, at 7:30, there is the regular member meeting where we discuss all the stuff going on in and around FA as well as update people on cool filmmaking events around town and across the country. We also check in with each and every member, finding out what they've been up to, what projects they're working on an what support they need. Then, around 9:15, we watch whatever films members have brought to show and finish off the night with a little beer/wine/snack reception. The whole thing is a 5 to 6 hour night, but it is fun, informative and inspiring - and it's only once a month.

Anway, as members got us up to date with what's going on in their lives, I found myself wondering what so many of them do to pay the rent. Clearly, they were in the room for the love (or obsession, but what's the difference). But to do the thing they love (make films) they have to do something to make money.

Coincidentally, the very next day, I had a phone meeting with our new partner in FA productions - who, by the way, is a semi-retired investment manager who never again has worry about how to pay his bills. As we discussed strategy for FA Productions and the type of capitalization it needs, I found myself wondering "how did it come to this?". How did I become a money-man, fundraiser, producer and entrepreneur? I was (and still am) a filmmaker/creative being and that simply cannot be more opposed energetically to money-hustling.

Or can it?

Well, there is definitely a different energy at play when one is creating "art" than when one is creating money. But the two are so interdependent - especially in a medium as expensive as film. And it is really no different in any art form. Everyone from Michaelangelo to Picasso (and zillions before and after) has hustled to find "patronage" - financial support that allows them to create. They all either became commercially successful artists or were successful at finding wealthy individuals/organizations/governments/corporations who would support their work.

A gift for attracting money is definitely a must in filmmaking and every working filmmaker I know of has tapped into it somehow, created it for themselves or were just lucky enough to be born into it. But how does one tap into it or create it for themselves if they, like most of us, aren't lucky enough to be born into it?

Of course, because filmmaking is so often referred to as the film BUSINESS, people often try to make a business out of their filmmaking - either by creating films they think will be commercially successful or by engaging in some tangential income-earning endeavor - from producing/packaging films for studios, to editing films to holding seminars to working at festivals to working in a rental house, etc., etc.

But for my money (bad pun intended), putting your energy into creating a commercially successful film is a huge crapshoot that most often fails, especially if you are not organically inclined to create such films. And even if you are, you need to find money to live while you write/find such a project and then you need to attract money so it can be made.

And doing tangential "industry" work may put food on the table, but it rarely if ever earns enough to fund your films (unless they are shorts) and often times sucks so much energy out of you, you have nothing left for creating.

But attracting money is not so much about what you do to bring it to you, anyway. It's all about mindset. Then, you work from that mindset to ALLOW money to come to you. And what is that mindset? Well, I can only speak from my own experience, but I've found it is a combination of the following ways of thinking. And in this thinking, the energy around being a great creator of art and great attractor of money does not seem so diametrically opposed:

1. I have to be doing what I'm doing (making films). I was born to do it and I will shrivel up and die if I don't.

2. In making films, I am bringing something new and/or important into the world that must have its birth. It doesn't seem to matter if this is true or not in any objective sense, just that you believe it to be true. Of course, if you truly believe this and apply it to the creation of your films, you will demand the most from yourself and indeed will be compelled to find what is distinctive in your aesthetic and develop it.

3. I deserve support for my filmmaking. If #1 and #2 are true, then of course, so is #3. Have you ever noticed the sense of entitlement that a lot of rich people have? That they always expect to get what they want? Part of that is indeed because they have money, but part of it is because they don't know what it's like to not have money - to not get what they want. Therefore, they carry themselves like they expect to get what they want and deserve it. This has an affect on others around them. You need to carry that same energy and affect anyone that might consider giving you money.

4. My passion has value. Of course, many bad filmmakers and out-n-out nuts believe this. The line between genius and madness is indeed thin. But this belief is a pre-requisite, nonetheless. If your passion has worth, it will be supported - financially and otherwise. But it can only have worth if you first believe it. Your passion will be necessary to push everything forward and to draw people and resources to you. If you don't think it has worth, no one else will.

5. There is enough out there for me. Do you get jealous when you hear of others making films and doing the stuff you want to be doing? Get over it. Instead, celebrate it. Use it as a model - as a personal message to you that the life you want is not just possible, but achievable. There is plenty of money out there and a lot of people get to use it. They don't deserve it any more or any less than you do (provided #1, 2 3, and 4 are true, however).

Yes, there are lots of other subtle and practical things that I can include, but these are the big five. If you can develop and hold these beliefs, then ACT (or make decisions) in accordance with them, you WILL attract money. No ifs, ands or buts about it. If #1 is true, then you will create. If #2 is true, you will create at a high level. If #3 is true, that creativity will demand support. If #4 is true, that support will attach real value to what you are doing. And finally, if #5 is true, there is no lack of support available. Everything you need will come to you.

Is this all just fantasy? Try it and find out. So far, it's working for me.

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