“De-mythologizing the making of films is essential in this day and age. I’m a cynical one at times – so I was surprised at just how much you helped pull the veil off the BS train. THANK YOU for your honesty and candor…having 2 days of unfettered guidance and frank illuminations from badass peers currently on the frontlines was wonderful. You are doing such a good thing!!!!” – Alicia J. Rose, filmmaker
Something very powerful has risen up since we have completed our first two Rebel Heart Film Workshops. So many of the people who have participated (like super talented Alicia, quoted above) have got in touch afterwards to thank us for our honesty.
It seems that honesty is in short supply in our industry.
On one hand, it makes sense: in order to convince financiers to back you, you have to appear successful. So even if the truth is that your $250k movie hasn’t made back a nickel, you’ll make it seem like it was a dazzling success. You’ll talk about how it got picked up for distribution, even if the truth is you paid for a service deal. If, in making your movie, you had to fight every second with a bully producer, you’ll stand up at the Q&A, hug the producer and proclaim the experience was amazing.
So looking at other filmmakers, you always think they’ve got it figured out and you want to do what they’re doing. It seems like you can make money from dramas with no stars budgeted at $500k, and there are distributors out there who’ll pay you cash for them, and everyone is amazing always.
But the truth is often different, and we’re doing each other a huge disservice by not sharing it. When we tell each other the truth of our experiences in making films, we empower ourselves and others. When we talk about the truth of the distribution deals we are offered, when we speak of the reality of our budgets and the mistakes we make with them, we pave the way for others to make better choices, and in turn create a trust with them, where they will share their honest experiences.
By learning from each others mistakes, as well as from our successes, we truly create a situation in which more indie filmmakers can survive and thrive. Isn’t that what we want?
Sometimes I think it’s the scarcity model that holds people back from telling the truth. We think there’s only a certain amount of success in the world and that if someone else gets it, we won’t. We turn into a bunch of Mexican crabs, all trying to stop the others from escaping the bucket. It’s ego, it’s fear.
Collectively, we need to shift away from this. It takes to courage to tell the truth, to say “here’s where we did good, but here’s where we screwed up – and I can tell you this so you won’t make the same mistake.” But by doing this, we’re shifting towards the abundance model. There’s room for us all to be successful and by empowering others, we empower ourselves.
In the workshops, I strive to be as honest as I can about all my filmmaking experiences. Some of the anecdotes are “off the record”, and requested never to be repeated outside the room. But in the room, with other filmmakers who are trying to figure out the conundrum of creating a sustainable living in our industry, I would be doing them a true disservice not to be as candid as I can be.
I’m intrigued about the idea of sharing everything as I embark on making a new film. Should I share the budget before we shoot? My knee jerk reaction is to shroud it all in secrecy, as that is the industry standard. But does it have to be?
For the time being, I’ll probably still share some material only in the safe space of a workshop, rather than blaring it all out on the internet. But who knows? Maybe that will change.
One thing I know for sure: it’s only through the honest sharing of information and experiences that indie filmmakers, as a group, have a hope of creating a sustainable, ongoing alternative filmmaking ecosystem; and surely that is something worth taking the risk of truth for.