Money, and what you do with it

There are filmmakers out there who are able to make really amazing works, and sometimes really popular works, on a shoestring budget.  Feature films for under $100,000.00.  Under $50,000.00.  Under 10,000.00… and some for basically no money invested at all.  Usually a lot of favours and indirect investment (they already have the equipment) are involved, like I mentioned in my last entry.  Its great that we are moving closer and closer to having inexpensive video technologies, a time where you can make film art for very little investment.   Jean Cocteau said,  “Film will only became an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper.” But we aren’t quite there yet, and besides that, I think that it really depends on the kind of art you want to produce.

Lighting sets the mood for both the actors and the audience. Still from Useless Things (DP Osheen Harruthoonyan).

It’s true, we could go Dogme 95 and get rid of many of the complications of filmmaking but I don’t think those are the kind of movies I wish to produce.  I like them certainly, but I am definitely moving toward my films becoming more complex with lighting and sound, not less so.  One could look at some of my earlier movies and say I was adhering to the rules of Dogme, when in fact I simply had no idea what I was doing.  I’d probably rather no one actually looked at my earlier movies at all, its far too embarrassing.  I think of myself as a late bloomer, which is code for: my first films are terrible.

What I am getting at is that until I happen to own an amazing assortment of lights, sound,  and camera gear, or know people who do (who are also generous), I will have trouble making what I want to make without a little bit of money.  Osheen Harruthoonyan my DP and our production managers Katarina Soukup and David Eng have been tirelessly trying to get us affordable quotes for our lighting package, and it’s been hard to balance the need to ensure we have the equipment to make it look great, and the need to save so I don’t end up putting the post production on my credit card.  It’s a sensitive balance, and one that every filmmaker is presented with.  “How much of the money that you are spending is ending up on screen?” is a question people regularly ask. The answer had better be, “quite a bit.”

I don’t like to judge other filmmakers too harshly because I know how insanely hard it is so make a movie.  It’s unbelievably difficult, it involves an immense amount of work, and you never really know how it is going to turn out in the end.  Good producers know how to hedge their bets when making films, they know where to put the cash where it is best needed, where it will most likely will be seen.  This in itself doesn’t guarantee the success of a project, but it at the very least ensures one aspect of the movie will be sellable.  It’s an important talent directors need to learn as well, knowing what part of your film will be the most memorable, the part that the viewer takes home with them and thinks about.  I think that knowing that, and putting your money and effort there, is a key element to making a movie work.  Hopefully, with Mr. Crab, I have figured that out.