Making microbudget films can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. My friends and I shot my first feature, Rising Star, a year ago, and we’re just finishing up picture editing right now. Our amazing sound man got a big movie job over the summer (naturally, because he’s amazing), so we had to wait for him to finish the job before coming back to us. And I just got a job of my own this summer, so now that the movie needs me the most, I have a huge chunk of my week carved out for working. When making films isn’t how you make a living, making films is really hard.
So when Victoria Westcott asked me to join her and Lucas McNelly in creating a crowdfunding panel proposal for the 2011 Screenwriting Expo, I was a little skittish. I knew I didn’t have time to do it, I had other things I needed to concentrate on, and I wasn’t sure screenwriters would want to hear a talk about DIY fundraising. But I said I’d help out, so we put a pitch together and sent it off.
And naturally, the director of the Expo got back to us immediately and said he loved it.
So I had a trip to plan for. It wasn’t all bad – the Expo is in Los Angeles, I’d see Lucas again after he came to Connecticut for Rising Star, and I’d get to meet Victoria in person for the first time – but to be honest, I was burned out. When the picture editing for your film lasts for a year, you get dragged down and depressed because there’s no forward movement. I didn’t know if I wanted to spend a weekend explaining to people why my film STILL wasn’t done. But I committed to it, so I was going to do it. My boss gave me permission to take that Friday off to travel, and I was off to the west coast.
When I got to the hotel, I checked into the Expo and hung out for a bit until Lucas and Victoria showed up. And when they did, it was like running into two old college buddies. If you’ve ever become friends with someone online and then met them in person, there’s always that little worry that you won’t gel in person. No worries with these two. We all immediately clicked, which was really nice.
Good thing, too – since we had dinner with David and Karen planned for half an hour after they both arrived. We hopped a cab to Santa Monica, and met them just as they were walking to our restaurant. And dinner was awesome. Hanging out with these four was like listening to an oral history of crowdfunding and microbudget filmmaking over pizza and beer. And it was great to listen to other filmmakers who’ve gone through the same things I was going through in making Rising Star. I know it sounds cliché, but listening to these guys made me realize I wasn’t alone. It was a wonderful experience.
The next morning, the wonderful continued with our panel, “Crowdfunding Your Film.” Lucas, Victoria and I made our presentation to a room of engaged, excited filmmakers (not just screenwriters, I found out). One of the filmmakers, Darryl Anka, was actually running a Kickstarter campaign of his own, for his film “Dearly Departed.” Everyone there really wanted to learn about crowdfunding, and we were able to show them the fundamentals, and help them understand the process. It went so much better than I imagined it would. I had an amazing time.
And for the rest of my time there, I had a blast hanging out with Lucas and Victoria. We spent hours talking about our experiences, good, bad and ugly, while making our films. We talked about how our panel would help Lucas and Victoria for the Film Courage crowdfunding panel they’d participate in that following Tuesday. It was exactly what I needed; I got to spend time around people who were madly, passionately in love with indie filmmaking. That made me remember how madly, passionately in love I was when I started making Rising Star. It was rejuvenating to be around them for the weekend. It got me excited about my movie again. And now that I’m back home in Connecticut, I’ve redoubled my efforts to get Rising Star finished. I’ve gone out and sought feedback from professional mentors of mine on the cut of the film. I’ve been listening to music from local musicians for possible inclusion in the film.
And I’ve been working really hard on promoting the movie: in fact, Rising Star just got named the indieWIRE Project of the Week on their Web site, thanks to over 500 of our fans voting for us in a Facebook poll. I can feel good things happening again. And for the first time in a while, I feel like I have the energy to finish the movie and get it out into the world.
If you ever find yourself doubting your journey toward finishing your movie, or your ability as a filmmaker, please take my advice: talk with friends who are also making movies. You don’t have to do it by traveling anywhere; you can do it in person, on Twitter, by email, anything. I promise you, you’ll learn that your journey is not one you make alone. We’re all going through the same frustrations, the same highs and lows. The connection you make with those friends will feed your heart, and give you a boost that will help you continue on in this crazy, amazing world of indie filmmaking.
So to Lucas, Victoria, David and Karen: Thank you so much. You guys have become my second wind. And when I finish Rising Star, you guys will be four of the reasons why I was able to do it.
Marty Lang is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Film, Video and Interactive Media at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. He wrote and directed his first feature film, Rising Star, in October 2010, and it is currently in post-production. He is also the Assistant Director of the Connecticut Film Industry Training Program. He loves traveling, UConn basketball, and pugs. Follow him on Twitter, too!