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Today, Filmmaker's Process is officially dead. But don’t worry, from the ashes, a new brand is sprouting up. A far more ambitious, meaningful brand:
This is a hugely exciting change for me, and I hope it will come to energize and inspire you as well.
If all goes according to plan, this site will help you make your wildest filmmaking dreams come true. And no, I’m not being facetious when I say that.
I intend for Filmmaker Freedom to be the only site around that shows you how to make the films you care most about, and support yourself and your family from that work.
Basically, it’s that combination of artistic freedom and financial freedom that lies at the core of where this site is headed.
Regardless of whether I live up to that claim, though, I can still promise you that Filmmaker Freedom will become one of the most useful and inspiring places on the internet for indie filmmakers.
But to understand why I’m so jazzed about the future—and why I’m going to spend the next few years of my life building this site and sharing big ideas with you—we first need to start in the past.
The painful truth about “making it” as an indie filmmaker
For as long as I’ve been an indie filmmaker I could sense there was something wrong with the way things are done, at least on the business side of the equation.
Making a good indie film is one thing—a very difficult thing in fact. And for anybody who completes an ambitious film project, and they’re actually proud of the result, I salute you. It’s a big achievement.
Luckily, more and more people are able to do this now (and make films of surprisingly good quality on tiny budgets). All thanks to inexpensive tools and widespread education. It’s a great thing.
Here’s the rub, though…
It’s one thing to make an indie film, but it’s another thing entirely to support yourself and your family from that work. That part of the process is far more difficult and, if we’re being honest, outright depressing.
Most of the indie filmmakers I know work at least one other job, usually more. Sometimes they make corporate videos and commercials. Sometimes they teach. Sometimes they work in totally unrelated fields and spend their free time on film.
Sure, they make shorts and features, take them out to festivals, and sometimes even get some kind of distribution deal. But the idea that these people have “made it” as filmmakers is a little bit misleading.
Because in truth, until it can pay your bills year after year, indie filmmaking is nothing more than an expensive, time-consuming hobby you subsidize with your real work.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that if it makes you happy to live that way.
It’s not my place to tell you
But personally, I think it sucks.
That’s not even the worst part, though. Here’s what bothers me most.
The toxic culture of mediocrity that holds filmmakers back
We live in a world of endless possibility and constant disruption, thanks in no small part to the internet and digital technology. There are new, hungry niche audiences emerging online that are poorly served by mainstream movies. And just like all of the information on how to make films is freely available, so is all the information on how to reach these audiences
Basically, better paths forward are everywhere if you’re an indie filmmaker.
Yet we’ve somehow created a culture where the expectation is that you won’t make a living from the work you care most about.
I told one of my film industry friends—a working camera operator who started in the world of indie films—about my plans for Filmmaker Freedom. First he looked puzzled, then he laughed and told me it was cool, but super naive and doomed to fail.
I was convinced that if I could just show him that these ideas were already working in the real world, he’d come around and get excited. So I trotted out a few examples, explained the business principles and psychology that make it all possible, and confidently thought I had nailed it.
But nope. He still thought this was nothing more than an impossible dream from a misguided friend.
And I wish it was just him and a handful of other filmmakers, but this culture is widespread. It’s everywhere we look.
Hell, even I’ve written articles about why you should think twice before going into the “business of indie films.”
So most of us don’t even try. And those of us that do try learn very quickly that it’s a shitty business, and that we’d be better served working as a cog within the industry system instead of pursuing our own paths.
That’s how we end up like my friend. Once an ambitious indie filmmaker, now a camera operator who works 12-14 hour days on reality TV projects he clearly doesn’t care about.
Basically, we’ve created a culture that says if you want to “make it” as a filmmaker, you need to shut up, fit in, make movies for the masses, and just keep doing what you’re told.
And in some form or another, we’re all complicit in buying into that culture and perpetuating it to other filmmakers we meet.
My friend meant no harm
That’s why for many years I believed there was nothing I could do. I believed filmmaking wasn’t the right path for me because I couldn’t change any of this stuff. I believed that filmmaking had to be done on the terms of people with more money and power and status than me. And I believed that if I wanted to be part of filmmaking, I’d have to give up hope on making my own stuff and just work “below the line” for years and be grateful for the opportunity.
So, I did what a lot of millennials do. I started freelancing in the world of marketing, learning how it all works.
And then I picked up a book called You Are A Message by a dude named Guillaume Wolf.
I started thinking about what the ideal scenario would be for indie filmmakers. I
I started asking myself, what if I’ve been misled, and this really is possible? What if I could show people.
So, what would this look like?
It’d start with you being honest with yourself, and figuring out what kinds of films you truly want to make.
Then, it’d be about building an audience of likeminded and passionate fans, nurturing that audience, and then
But it wouldn’t stop there. It’d be all about owning my intellectual property.
Why do you want to make those films? What piece of your identity are you reinforcing and strengthening by producing this work?
There’d be no sales agents, distribution companies, or the army of middle men that clog up the film distribution process.
There’d only be filmmakers and fans, and the connections between them would be
Some might say I’m naive, a wishful thinker. But that’s wrong. I’m just confident and optimistic.
In one of my favorite books, Todd Henry’s Die Empty, which is about how to do your best work every single day, he goes into the difference between wishful thinking and optimism. Check it:
“There’s a vast difference between optimism and wishful thinking. One is a mindset that expects progress through effort, and the other is nothing but a bulwark against the fear of failure.
Someone who is optimistic expects the best while actively working to bring it about. Wishing externalizes responsibility and hopes that everything lines up according to plan, but doesn’t do anything to actively bring about the desired change. Someone who operates from a place of wishful thinking is—in essence—a closet pessimist.”
So there you have it. I’m an optimist. Pure and simple.
I’m taking responsibility for the outcome that I want to create in the world, and I’m going to put in every single ounce of work required to make it happen.
Whether you’re courageous and freethinking enough to join me in this journey is up to you.
But you and I both know that if this site cracks the code of true filmmaker freedom,