The past week, since my last Sunday Blog Post, has been quite an active one.
The 16th Annual Woodstock Film Festival came and went; a grand celebration of independent cinema that boasted more women director-directed films than ever before.
Associate Producers Jon and Tracy Cring, as well as Heidi Eklund, met up with me to celebrate Women in Film at Woodstock in a well-received, joint reception hosted byUpstate New York Women in Film & Television, New York Women in Film & Television and the production company, Tangerine Entertainment, which focusses on producing women director directed films.
The best part about such events? You get to meet independent filmmakers who, like you, love their art, look to make it for wider audiences, and trade ideas, experiences and, yes, even secrets.
What’s the most sought-after secret for us filmmakers? HOW TO FIND YOUR AUDIENCE.
And yet, ironically enough, over and over, again, in online articles, comments on social media and in conversation, I hear, read, watch and even find myself speaking the lament, “Where are the indie films we want to watch?”
What to do about this massive disconnect? You have filmmakers who need an audience for their independent films and audience members who want to see movies independent from the big budget studio fare.
I’ve thought of waving my arms in the air and shouting at the top of my lungs, “We’re right here! Whoohooo – over HERE –Right in front of you –asking, heck, nearly pleading for your help and support!”
But that might seem a bit desperate and do more damage than good. Still, if you consider that we’re just every day citizens trying to make a living, like you, it does set the stakes a bit higher, and, with it, the case for alarm, doesn’t it?
We independent filmmakers are not independently wealthy, contrary to the image we attempt to put out there on the occasional “Red Carpet” event. We have (or dream of having) families, homes, health care, education, time off and savings for retirement, just like you.
However, it’s getting harder and harder in America today to achieve the American dream as an independent filmmaker. We don’t have many of the same film tax incentives and cultural grants for independent artists the way many other countries do. (http://www.shootfactory.co.uk/blog/tax-incentives-film-tv-filming-around-world/) We don’t even have the same social frameworks for inexpensive healthcare and education that might help us sustain a more meager, bohemian lifestyle.
The lack of support for individuals in the United States is making it all the harder to be “independent” – and we independent filmmakers end up picking-up odds-and-ends jobs as freelancers, just to make ends meet. Heck, some get stuck in such jobs along the way, never to return to the career path of their dreams – and true talents.
And, as a result, many a would-be brilliant director, screenwriter or producer who could have contributed something memorable to our collective culture, gives up on her/his professional goals because it’s too difficult to sustain a financially supportive career.
For those of you who have always wondered, “Why did John Doe never finish his film?” or “Why did Sally Smith give up trying to be a director after paying so much money for film school?” To earn a living while making your movies, you have to find your audience – and have an audience that is actively, progressively looking for you.
I would love to say that I will always be making independent feature films. But I’ll be honest with you, as producer of THIS IS NOWHERE, I feel like I’ve been running a marathon over the past three years where they forgot to add the finish line – and we both know that there’s no paycheck included with that ribbon.
I’m focusing all of my energy – and prayers – on finishing this beautifully shot and acted film.
You get up, you pray for money, you penny-pinch, you pray for money, you organize, publicize, write email campaigns, you pray for money, you spread the word in every way you can to your colleagues, your family, your friends, you pray for money, you take on odd jobs, and you pray for money.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to spend my praying for other things than money.
I would much rather, for example, pray for world peace, or that, at the very least – if I absolutely MUST be selfish with my prayers – someone enjoy a peaceful afternoon watching our film, connecting to it and walking away with the feeling that his/her life is more fulfilled as a result of engaging our collective artistry in cinematic storytelling.
Still, if audiences out there don’t look to support our independent films, but rather just wait for the next, big action-packed weekend blockbuster, we can’t – and won’t – be able to make them, much less make a living off of making them.
The good news is that crowdfunding is a way for filmmakers and their potential audience members to find and support each other.
In our cause, if potential “This is Nowhere” audience-members just contributed $10 in advance, to reserve their seat in the final screening via our Seed&Spark campaign, it would help his take that final step to finish post-production. (Yes, we already have the film, otherwise, made – and paid for!)
Just think about it. If 1000 of our 1300 THIS IS NOWHERE Facebook followers reserved $10 tickets in advance via our Seed&Spark campaign, we would raise $10,000. And if they contributed $20 (bought an extra ticket for that special guest), we’d meet our desired crowdfunding goal of $20,000.
Wow. Just… W.O.W.
I’ve suddenly become speechless and can no longer write. I think I’ll go off to get ready for bed and… pray.
There is a little bit of DARCY in all of us – that soul-searching, young individual seeking light where there is darkness; thirsty for truth, where the lies fail to nourish ones natural quest for equilibrium and justice; and hoping that the world beyond your front door offers opportunities of which, at present, you can only dream.
When I was in my teens, I longed to get out into the world and see if there might be anywhere offering more than what was on the plate for me in the small, economically strapped, culturally undeveloped town where I lived.
Of course, my dilemma was the same as DARCY’S: The soul wanted to fly, by the heart wanted to stay.
What to do when you love your parents, but can’t wait to get away?
Looking back now, having taken that flight, left the home, travelled and worked and seen much of the world, I want to tell the DARCY’S out there: “Yes,” there is a whole other world out there… but home is, and always will be, where the heart is….
As the producer of THIS IS NOWHERE, I felt it was very important to tell this story – not just for the young DARCYS out there, but also for the DARCYS who are still young at heart, fighting to remember what it feels like to still have those youthful, passionate, honest, and, yes, even naïve or innocent dreams.
When I was a cultural reporter for DW-TV in Berlin, Germany, covering the Red Carpet of the Berlin Film Festival in my late twenties, I had the unique opportunity to interview the great actress Shirley MacClaine.
I had read one of her books, “Dancing in the Light,” in which she talked about naivety and how it had affected her life, and I asked her during our interview, “If you were to live all over, again, [a very appropriate question for Ms MacClaine, if you know anything about her], would you be as naïve?
Shirley MacClaine answered, “Yes, absolutely,” because, “if I had not been as naïve as I was, I might not have started half that I’ve finished. And the naivety saved me. Had I known the danger around me, at times (hanging around with the Brat Pack, for example), I might not have sailed as smoothly through it.)”
Now, fifteen years later, I often recall what Ms MacClaine told me and the courage it gave me to be who I am in the pursuit of my dreams – naivety and all. And I marvel that little me, the teenager from Ypsilanti, got to be near and ask such personal questions of such a great actress – at all.
DARCY, I guess, is alive and well in me.
But this, too, is why I am so maternally protective and supportive of our little indie that could: DARCY encounters her own challenges and dangerous moments within THIS IS NOWHERE, but it is her quest for beauty and truth and love – and, yes, naivety – that pulls her through.
I think that, like me, you’ll find yourself both rooting and fighting for this beautiful teenage creature on the cusp of adulthood and all that she represents to dreamers like us… because, in truth, we are all holding out, hope of all hopes, for a place in the world we hope to see through those rose-colored glasses, bringing into vision, what we wish to see.
An actress, director, producer and writer, Heidi welcomes you to her Blog. Learn about her latest endeavors and garner a glimpse into her recent accomplishments, both professional and personal.