Starting over after a decade walking a road in a industry that has dead-ended is no easy thing, not to mention a total personal financial collapse and painful divorce. The past year has been hell. I sometimes picture myself walking over a great battlefield, the ground soaked in blood, still warm from the fight of the revolution that has only recently subsided. Corpses litter the ground, and there could be unexploded landmines under me each step I take.
The revolution I am speaking of is the collapse of the independent film industry as modeled on it's distant cousin... the big studio centric factory system.
Lets face facts, it was never much more than the studio system disguised as “independent” in any case. For a while it worked and profited the gatekeepers who controlled it.
The digital revolution changed all that... we now have access, to cameras and technology that was previously kept behind a high cost barrier, and the internet has opened up pretty much every other barrier that the controlling interests used to maintain the status quo in their favour.
Last year, directly preceding the collapse of my life, I was retrenched from a large post production facility. I was one of the go-to guys in terms of data-centric workflow and bridged the producer/facility divide as I was able to communicate complex acquisition, post and deliverables requirements to relatively non tech-savvy film producers. As cameras, formats and post got easier, I could see my job disappearing. I was in the first wave of more than 30 staff to lose their “factory” jobs.?? Seeing the effect that this revolution has had from ground zero in the world of post, let alone watching many friends in production as crew struggling to survive left me questioning everything I was trying to do.
The guerillas have won, and I have had to leave everything I knew and the system I trusted behind and re-assess it all starting from scratch.
Well, not quite from scratch. A year down the line, I'm no longer questioning what I am trying to do, but how to do it, because that is primarily what has changed. I'm now going solo... nobody is going to make my dream a reality but me.
The Democracy of Filmmaking - A New Direction
I've started walking down a new and exciting road, and the past year has already been far more rewarding than the previous ten. It's been hell, but I'm actually following my dream now, and I'm walking right over the rubble of the barriers that have fallen. I'm a lot poorer financially and lonely, but I'm covering far more ground.
The One Man Studio
The new demands of independent film require anyone who helms their own film to wear more hats than ever before... and to be comfortable and confident doing so. You've got to reduce your dependencies to an absolute minimum. This definitely doesn't mean doing everything yourself, but it certainly means taking active responsibility for your team and every task that must come together. That's producing.
It's simply not enough to want to be a director only, or a D.P, or actor... not if you want to sustain a life long string of projects, you can't rely on someone else hiring you. I've started creating my own employment doing what I love instead of relying on someone else.
It Doesn't Have to Mean Compromise
The exciting thing for me is it hasn't even necessarily meant compromise. I shot my first short film “Daydream” on super 35mm. I learned by shooting endless rolls of 16mm just for fun on my clockwork WWII era K3 camera because that's what was available. I worked at a facility with a lab attached and I had relationships with pro's, so celluloid was easy.??I borrowed gear, short ends and old marginal stock cost me nothing, I learned to load a mag, to light a scene, to use a light meter and to pull my own focus... to cart around my own boxes. I'd bring home 2K, 5K and 8K HMI's from the studio at work and overload my domestic fuse box. I shot with a “crew” of two with gear that usually has up to ten guys hanging around it.
Leverage everything you have! Don't let any opportunity pass, no matter how insignificant it seems at the time... and don't be ruled by money, do it for free. Free is the new paid but what you'll learn is worth every hour you spend doing it.
Exploit Your Niche
My love for all things digital cinema, and for post technology is still alive and strong, it's still my niche and I exploit it every day to leverage new opportunities. I help others, I blog, interact with it and make sure I stay on top of the technology.
I am co-founder of “IndieLAB” the South African chapter of The Digital Cinema Society, and we meet monthly to discuss various indie centric topics, sometimes technical, sometimes creative.
My second short “Inside” shoots on the 18th,19th and 20th and I've managed to secure a Arri Alexa for the shoot... and I will blog and journal my experiences with the camera for others to benefit. This is a zero budget short, but I exploited my niche, my contacts and leveraged that to increase the value of my film and I'll have state of the art pictures as a result.
I have found a huge support base online and with other local filmmakers. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be able to do any of this without the active indie film community on Twitter. Build your network, join the conversation and engage your community both in person locally and on the internet.
Just Do It
There really are no more excuses. Do whatever it takes to get it done. Just make movies. It will mean learning new skills, sometimes collaborating, sometimes working alone.
Sometimes it means accepting limitations. Zero budget for “Inside” means one location, a cast of one, and a crew of one. I'm a total hyphenation. I'm writer-producer-director-cinematographer-DIT-focus puller-editor-colorist-marketer. I would never recommend this, but in this case it will work because it's a highly controlled and limited situation with plenty of time to get my shots, get my performance all made possible through careful planning.
Overcome the fear of failure, or of what anyone else thinks and just do it. The walls have come down but so many are standing at the foot of the crumbled remains too scared to proceed.
Now is the most exciting time in the history of cinema to be a filmmaker!
About Richard Lackey:
Richard is storyteller, dreamer, engineer, and designer... a creator. American by lineage and birth, Richard grew up in the UK and has been living in South Africa for the past decade. After studying Aerospace Engineering his interests turned to storytelling and the craft of filmmaking.
Richard started in the industry cutting childrens television as a Avid editor. His keen technical abilities kept him in the post world as a facility based technical post producer specializing in data based workflow, and digital cinema acquisition.
He's a technologist and blogger, a active networker on twitter and pushing forward with his own short films, a feature or two in development and now a web series. He wears different hats for different projects as a writer, producer, D.P and director.
Connect with Rich Lackey:
@richlackey on Twitter
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/richard.lackey
LinkedIn - http://za.linkedin.com/in/richardlackey
Website - http://www.sentinel-entertainment.co.za
Indiewood – http://www.indiewoodblog.wordpress.com
Digital Cinema Demystified – http://www.dcinema.wordpress.com