Notes From a Cynical Filmmaker



Trust me, or don’t, I would understand, but everything I’m about to tell you we’ve all been guilty of.

Cynicism, it is one of things that keeps us sane but also one of those traits that seems to get on peoples nerves. Now don’t hate yourself for being an advocate, but simply be aware that more often that not, us cynics are wrong.

Let’s be real for a moment. If you’re a filmmaker or if you’re in film school you often strive to be the best; otherwise you’re just settling for the silver or bronze. Being surrounded by a collection of peers interested in the very same thing you are is quite simply an amazing feeling and you find yourself screaming, “This is where I belong!” You flourish in the creativity around you and enjoy talking about bad angles in feature films; there really is nothing quite like film school. But as soon as that first project is screened they turn into competition and into enemies. Following that sudden shift you find yourself secretly hoping each second of their film gets worse and worse so you can have that one little hurrah moment to yourself. Admit it, you’ve done it.


After amassing $37,000 in 38 days, Chicago Filmmaker has about 1 hour to raise $63,000 to reach his $100,000 goal or he keeps nothing.  When his campaign ends, he has no plans to crowdfund again.

One of my favorite things to do for other filmmakers is give them critique. A group of creative types get together and watch short after short and then talk about them; it’s simply put, damn good fun. Sometimes it may seem as if I am degrading someone or calling their work “awful” (if it’s misinterpreted) but make no mistake, it’s for the betterment of film. What I mean by this is that us filmmakers give critique so that our peers may correct their mistakes further down the road and improve. People can take it the wrong way, but it shouldn’t affect one’s honesty. Others won’t get any better with constant praise, no one does. Assuming your work is great and always will be because your mom and friends told you so sparks a smug and lazy attitude towards filmmaking. You can trace the downfall of many Oscar award winners this way.

Allow me to digress. Your peers are your most valuable asset, (mostly) everyone who works or has ever worked in the industry has sat right where you are now reading in one way or another about how to further their passion. But strangely enough, I’ve found myself often resenting those who stand out to me, those who’s lighting is just that much better, and even those who sometimes are just damn lucky. This resentment has pushed me away from the people who could give me that extra boost to make my film even one percent better.

At the end of the day, you work on their sets and you give them critique, but do they hate you for it? Are they trying to waste your time or demean you by having you hold the boom? These are things that constantly run through my mind when I am around my peers, it strikes fear in me, the fear of failure.

I often imagine filmmaking as running track. I would like to be in the lead, but there’s always something unaccounted for; maybe I’m weak, or too slow, or perhaps my nipples are chaffing to the point where I’m afraid they’ll start a fire. Soon I find myself being lapped by person after person until I’m in dead last. Let it be known, they don’t give trophies for last place. So why would I give my competition even ten dollars to make a film when I could use that ten dollars for something so small as a sandwich? Well for the cynic in all of us I unfortunately have no answer to that. But I can tell you from experience, this is no mindset to live on.

It’s natural to compete with one another, and unfortunately someday you may end up winning that silver medal. But the guy or gal who won the gold, assuming you kept them on your team, surely won’t forget about you.

Us independent filmmakers and us student filmmakers, we have no name, no credibility, and in a business dominated by nepotism, where do we stand and whom do we turn towards? Well as cheesy as it may sound, we do have one another. At this stage in our lives and careers we must find other like minded artists to share our vision and our end game. Find the best DP, find the best writer, find your best friend to stand there and hold reflectors for you – just be sure to feed them at least.



Check out the video for The Endless Road by Chris Campbell


Currently attending Art Center College of Design, Chris has a creative passion for all things film.  He’s won awards for his documentary short films and working towards a BFA in Film Production with a focus on Writing and Directing seeing nothing but a future ahead.