I’ve already done this – I didn’t think I’d have to do it again. I thought if you did it that once, at least if you did it reasonably well, the next one would almost make itself. I thought that I wouldn’t have to scratch, scrape and claw an absurd budget into a respectable feature film…not again. This business can’t be that hard, can it?
The primary, and potentially only, reason I’m writing this right now is because it is a distraction from what I should be doing: tirelessly working to find a creative solution for the need of an original score for a feature-length comedy I have in post called What Would Bear Do? (The only shameless plug I’ll force on you for it: Whatwouldbeardofilm.com). If I didn’t hate me, I’d have a respectable music budget in place for this problem and I’d just go out and hire a great composer, pay him the thousands of dollars he/she deserves for such a critical part of the post-production process on a project like this, and then let them work their magic. Instead of electing for that logical route, I shot this film with $9k secured as my full budget, so I will spend weeks and weeks and weeks (and weeks) pulling my hair out while begging composers to see the artistic merit in my little film and “do me a solid” on the understanding that I’ll forever remember their sacrifice and do everything in my power to handsomely compensate them on every film I make forevermore. All but one of these individuals will laugh (and sometimes curse) at me while writing cordial emails apologizing for their sudden unavailability for a project with that working arrangement, and they’ll be absolutely in the right in their doing so. If you’re going to take on making a feature film for $9k, you’re going to need to bust your ass tirelessly and learn to be uber persuasive. Speaking of, I have a few composer emails that have chimed in while writing this paragraph…I’ll be right back.
Ok, I’m back. The emails were all of the laughing variety, so the search continues. Anyhow, to briefly digress, I mentioned I’ve already done this. I had a film released on 5/22, a romantic thriller entitled All God’s Creatures (the only shameless plug I’ll force on you for THIS film: Allgodscreaturesfilm.com – the link to purchase the DVD is on the website, so you should go do that), through Osiris Entertainment. AGC was my “first feature” and we spent about $30k all-in to make it. I started writing the script that would become that film in June of `08, so it’s been nearly four years of never-ending work on creative solutions with no money to alleviate the stress of finding those solutions by me and my co-producer in order to get it out into the world. It’s going to be on the shelves at Walmart – that’s filmmaking success at the micro-budget level, isn’t it? I’d have thought so if you asked me when I started writing that script in `08.
Hypothetically asking myself for the sake of starting this paragraph right now, I’m not all that sure. Having shown that I could in fact go through the motions of making a film prior to, it certainly was easier to ask around for the relatively nominal investment required to fulfill that $9k budget, and I imagine it was easier to convince the talented cast and crew I was fortunate enough to head into production with to come along for the ride. I certainly learned things in my mistakes on AGC that equipped me to better prepare for and execute the game plan for WWBD. In shopping AGC around at the American Film Market last winter, and in the work I put in leading up to it to increase awareness of a small fish in a big pond, I established relationships that hopefully will allow me an easier path to securing distribution on WWBD when it is finished. All that said, I don’t think the process itself is/has been any easier. I think the lesson here is that, as most every filmmaker interview I’ve listened to tends to mention, it’s never going to get any easier. Success only leads to increased expectations and different sets of problems to overcome, so start enjoying all the work that goes into finding those creative solutions to pain in the ass problems on your micro-budget film, because they’re always going to be there.
All that negativity off my chest, I should probably wind this down on a positive note. One thing that definitively “gets better” with each project you control is the enjoyment of the work itself, the collaboration. There’s no way to learn if you enjoy working with someone and respect the work they do other than to get in the trenches with them and do it. As you find your go-to personnel for each department through that process, the time spent doing the work – in your choice writing environment, on set, or in whatever constitutes your editing hole – to bring your material to life with those people, while it may not get any easier, without question does become more enjoyable. So keep plugging away, find the people you enjoy working with, and at least laugh a little while you collectively figure out your next impossible filmmaking conundrum.
I think I can hear another email laughing at me from my Outlook, so I have to get going. You should probably get back to solving that pain-in-the-ass problem you’re putting off too.
Josh Folan is a producer, writer, director and actor with professional credits dating back to 2005. His first feature-length film venture, All God’s Creatures, was recently released on DVD through Osiris Entertainment and can be purchased through the film’s website at Allgodscreaturesfilm.com. Folan wrote, produced and starred in the romantic thriller, which premiered at the 2011 Hoboken International Film Festival where it was nominated for best screenplay and best actress (Jessica Kaye). His second feature, a slacker buddy comedy titled What Would Bear Do?, is currently in post production and can be looked up at Whatwouldbeardofilm.com. Folan wrote, produced and starred in the film as well, in addition to taking on directorial duties for the first time. His most recent project was line producing a feature-length art house musical called The Lives of Hamilton Fish, directed by Rachel Mason, and you can follow him (@joshfolan) and his production company, NYEH Entertainment (@nyehentertains), on twitter and facebook if you’d like to stay in the loop with his work.
Check out other Film Courage articles by Josh Folan, including: