At the entry level of film-making, you will find yourself begging, borrowing and occasionally returning-for-refund everything you can. There are still two things in movie-making you can not cheap out on: Performance and Sound. You need those two things just to tell a story. To be competitive with an average filmmaker? You need pretty pictures with shallow depth of field, appropriate lighting, and decent art design. Something that says I didn’t shoot this in a cream-colored walled apartment with no decorations.
Now I am actually a very pragmatic guy who tries to make his way through the world with as much honor and integrity as possible. I do not like a hard sale, and I try not to perpetrate them on anyone. I’d rather be able to look you in the eye and say “we’re going to do the best work we possibly can, and work to get this film seen and recognized for all of our efforts.” I would be ecstatic if that and a handshake were all I needed to attract talented people; however, I’m not seeing this as a very successful method.
For example: I was reading a casting call for a short film that was looking for help this summer. In the first paragraph, they began with their accolades, Lead Faculty at a (checkbook) Film School, a Pro-Football Player who has sold several un-produced screenplays on spec, and a writer who will be making this his directorial debut (on this project) to demonstrate his ability to direct a feature-length film. He wrote a movie, $25 million budget, $27 million Domestic Gross released earlier this year. All three are represented by a Top 5 Hollywood Talent Agency.
They claim, “the short film is already ‘scheduled’ to be
pitched upon completion to several influential persons in Hollywood. This will be used as a sizzle reel piece to shop a feature to be shot here in Denver. It will be marketed as the feature film that will help bring film incentives to Colorado.”
Interestingly, they get to the pitch in the third paragraph. The pay
will be low, most of the crew are working on it for exposure, and it’s touted
as a great opportunity for actors to be seen and/or be recognized when this film gets marketed to studios for feature funding.
Most of this is possible, but realize this posting is from Colorado – a state without any viable incentives. Colorado voters do not want to fund their K-12 schools, let alone subsidize the movie industry. The reality of this posting is that people, employing film students as free crew and looking for free talent, are hoping to get a bigger better deal for themselves via their already established contacts. Fair enough – they are selling an opportunity to be seen in passing, but there were a lot of shiny lights before they got to it.
Somewhere in here is a balance between professionalism and
opportunism. It reminded me of the article by Seth Godin, Rockstar to the Modern Man, and his article on Hope and the Magic Lottery.
Seth states, “you deserve better than the dashed hopes of a magic lottery ticket. Magic lottery hope is a damaging psychological force for people who are taking risks, and that hard work is the ultimate path to success. Hard work isn’t sexy or
Lets face facts. You need some sizzle to sell your piece even if you tend to use the above board/honest approach. It seems that if all things are equal, actors and/or crew will go with the more sparkly option, the one that overtly offers a chance at the Magic Lottery Ticket. Even if you are adept at transferring your enthusiasm to your prospective volunteer, they have to see something in it for them.
So I ask you fellow filmmakers, how much do you play on people’s hopes
to inspire them to get on board your projects? Is it possible to do it
otherwise- with people you do not have a relationship with?