Let me start off with a little excerpt from the novel, Paul Clifford:
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets.”
This sums up my life as a filmmaker perfectly.
I was born in a log cabin, in the middle of a snow storm, in Montana – so my parents tell me. As far as I know, I could have been born in a hotel room in Van Nuys. But let’s stick with the Montana origin. My parents were… how should I put this…”free spirits”. We did not stay long in Montana. After my brother was born, we drove our green, converted school bus to sunny California. I would make California my home for the next sixteen years. Around the age of eight, I made friends with Evan, the kid next door. Evan’s dad was a big movie buff. He was the five-Blockbuster-movies-a-night kind of guy. And it was awesome. From Evan I was introduced to cult favorites like, The Evil Dead, Madman, Halloween, etc. These movies would make a huge impact on me, personally and creatively. From then on we struck a path of movie-making destruction. From our first script, Demon Boyz, to our pre-teen opus, Body Borrower, all we did was live and breathe movies. This was several years before Youtube, the internet, or actual jobs. Our movies were made with the little money we could scrape up pulling weeds or mowing lawns and our only audience was ourselves and the handful of neighborhood kids. Let me say that again, “Our movies were made with the little money we could scrape up pulling weeds or mowing lawns and our only audience was ourselves and the handful of neighborhood kids”. This one line is really a mantra that every filmmaker should live by, as I do to this day.
There is no money in movies. Ask the thousands of out of work actors, screenwriters, directors, etc in Hollywood and they will agree. So, why make movies you ask? I really don’t know. It is partially the drive to create. It’s human nature. It’s also lots of fun. I recently was part of a 24-hour movie project that me and my partner imposed on ourselves. We set out to make a short film in 24 hours. Nothing really new there. People have been doing these for a while, so we thought we would take a stab. Twenty-four hours is a long time to do anything, but it flew by. We actually had a completed short film on youtube in 22 hours. And it is really good, if I don’t say so myself. But most importantly, we had some of the most fun we have had in a long time and it only costs us about five bucks. My point is, don’t get into movies to be the next Steven Spielberg or to buy that mansion in the Hollywood hills.
I have talked a lot about money; making it and spending it. As I said earlier, I had to mow a lot of lawns and pick a lot of weeds to make the most basic of movies. That has not really changed. Like most independent filmmakers, I still have to hold down a day job to support myself and my family (family can actually save you money, they love helping out and usually work for free). Raising money, and actually making money, has dramatically changed over the past few years. Let’s start with making money (kind of backwards, but I figure it will give you something to look forward to during those endless nights at the editing station). Sites like youtube and Vimeo are great for the budding filmmaker to show off his or her work. If you have the skills or money, you can even have your very own site to showcase your movies. The past ten years or so of internet innovation has really allowed the filmmaker complete control over his or her movie, from creation to distribution. Sites like Netflix allow people to view such underground hits as ”Thankskilling” and “Cannibal: The Musical”. Both movies that would have only been seen by small group of fans a couple years ago.
Now, on to the painful part – raising money for your movie. As I pointed out above, the internet has allowed a giant explosion of creativity to erupt upon the world. But before you can release your movie onto the web or even on the big screen (brick and mortar movie theaters are dying, digital distribution is the wave of the future. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise), you need to make the movie. And though it might cost as little as $5 or $1,000,000, you need to raise the money. Before, you had to find investors, save for years, max out credit cards, or win the lotto (I am simplifying the old methods of raising money). Now you have those options (which I would say aren’t really options) and more. I am talking specifically about crowdsourcing. Of the many shorts and full feature movies I am developing, I have this pet project called Gourmet Gamer. It is a web series that I have been working on (and off) for about 5 years. As both a gamer and a filmmaker, it is something very near and dear to me. With the rise of crowdsourcing, sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, I now have the chance to take it and run. These sites give thousands of filmmakers a direct route to funding through the fans. And who better to raise funds from, than the people that will ultimately enjoy the end product? Be warned though, crowdsourcing is both exciting and extremely stressful and frustrating at the same time.
There you have it. Filmmaking is a journey, with stormy nights, torrents of rain fall, and gusts of wind, to occasional clear skies and warm rays of sunlight.
I would like to leave you with this quote from one the greatest filmmakers of all time:
“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.”
Zane Fielding is an independent filmmaker from Austin, Texas. Along with Evan Parra, they make up Windmills and Eggnog Productions. Besides making award winning shorts, they both are talented Special FX artists. Together, they have roughly 20 years experience in front and beyond the camera. Along with Gourmet Gamer, they currently are in pre-production on a feature length horror movie.