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May 26, 2010

Careerism

Without giving any semblance of preference to any of this summer's diversions (I still haven't seen Iron Man 2 or MacGruber), let me quote director Mike Newell, who stated in this NY Times story that he's "the kind of guy who’s only really happy when it’s Hungarian, in black and white, with subtitles.” Which, in the context of the article and the movie it's about, comes off almost as a sideways apology - or perhaps I'm just reading my own fears into it. The issue of subjecting my personal conviction in exchange for a good paycheck is something I haven't had to deal with yet (and from this vantage point it's a problem that doesn't seem so terrible), but it's something that I think about frequently enough. I want to make the movies I want to make, the way I want to make them, but I also want to make a living at it, and the degree of compromise that is implicit in that is something I worry about. At this moment in time, that compromise consists of me forcing myself to edit a commercial instead of rewriting the same scene for the millionth time, but I'm always eager to project.

To split the difference: I could continue scraping by on a few thousand dollars a year from odd editing jobs here and there, and making my little films on the side - but on the other hand, my concept of integrity has at this point expanded past the point of blind idealism (or, at least, the blind idealism of a 24 year-old, substituted now for that of someone moving closer to 30). But then I think about a director I had lunch with a few years ago, who wanted to pick my brain about how to make a small movie that was close to his heart. He said he knew exactly how to spend 100 million on a film (and had indeed done just that) but couldn't fathom how to make something personal for 250,000 (I'd lied and said that the film I'd just made cost 100,000 instead of 30).

There's a slipping point in there amidst all those troublesome numbers that I'm worried I'll someday overlook. And, upon realizing I've missed it, I will probably will indeed fall back on the time I flew to Chicago just to see a black and white subtitled Hungarian film in order to substantiate the notion that I'm in this for more than the money.

Posted by David Lowery at May 26, 2010 8:57 PM

Comments

One thing to consider about somebody who produces $100M films is that they'd have difficulty getting people to work on a $250k film because of their track record.

A few years back, I saw Spielberg at Lincoln Center. One of the things he said was that he could never make a movie for $100k, even if he wanted to -- because the moment his name goes on the project everybody will demand to be paid.

That said, even most legit indie producers who make movies in the $2-5M range wouldn't know how to do it either, because they wouldn't know how to device a business plan for it.

The reality is, when you make DIY films, you get what you can and make it because you have to.

Posted by: Edward Wilson at May 27, 2010 4:54 PM