There’s been something really bugging me lately, and I haven’t had the words for it. Something with money, with distribution, with making things that are worthwhile. And I’m still sorting it out. I guess I’ll just go for this and see where it takes me:
So I was listening to this great conversation between Austin Kleon and Chase Jarvis about creativity, about lifestyle for artists, all of it (check it out, it’s great).
And Austin Kleon gives an example of the culture we live in – he uses the example of a bracelet. You give your friend a bracelet you’ve made and the first thing that your friend tells you is, “Hey, this is so great. You should open an Etsy store.”
And that’s the culture we live in today. The second anyone creates anything, we need to know that it can make a profit. Because then it becomes real.
A question directed at me a lot lately is something along the lines of, “What do you plan to do next with the movie?” And it’s often accompanied by the questioner wondering about distributors and VOD, etc. So it’s about marketing, it’s about selling the product.
Now, while I get this amongst fellow filmmakers and people working in the film world, it actually comes up even more often with people who don’t make art, who aren’t trying to sell their art. For example, I work for an old man in his eighties (a retired doctor) and – I completely regret telling him what distribution was – he asks me every. single. week. whether or not I’ve gotten any attention from distributors, whether or not I’ve won an award as a filmmaker, etc. And it’s insanely aggravating and makes me want to pull my eyeballs out. Not because the answer is no (although, sure, the answer is “no” so far – but we’re learning about all of that right now).
But because he hasn’t seen the movie. Because he’s obsessed with whether or not other people think it’s worthwhile. (Let’s all think about ourselves and Rotten Tomatoes scores…) He’s obsessed with whether or not I make money. The same way that he’s obsessed with wine ratings. (Don’t worry, he can’t read this…)
And I want to pull my eyeballs out because I never ever thought this movie would make money and that’s not why I made it. That’s not why any of us made it (and a LOT of us made this movie together).
I’m not going to say why I/we made this, because making art (or is that word a stretch? making “something”?) doesn’t really need an explanation – and you’ll see why when you see the movie, you’ll see the expression that came of all this work.
And it’s not to say I hate talking about making money and distribution (because, herloo, I totally want both of these. I also want to work more as an actor and as a writer and I want to find funding for my next movieeeeeee. I also really wanted to plant my flagpole and say, hey, film world, I’m over here!). And I don’t mind if you ask me about it. It’s just…strange. I mean, what’s the deal – too much Shark Tank, people?
I do wonder about our culture making art into a revenue-making spectator sport. I think about NPR reports tallying up the box office but not saying anything about the content of the films. And on that note, I hate that we’ve started calling film and even great TV programs “content.” It sounds like the equivalent of a “unit” that can be shipped. (And I guess it always has been that way, but that’s for another blog…)
I get why it’s cool to see the outer world agree with your opinion – like when your favorite indie actor gets an Oscar nomination or if your favorite underground writer suddenly gets featured in a big magazine. But that said, I wish we lived in a world where we talked more about the themes and the artistry of the work, rather than the work within the marketplace.
But we live in a culture that’s obsessed with the numbers: Reports of approval ratings and strategies of the president almost seem more important than what he’s doing and saying. Hollywood is hiring terrible actors based off of their social media followings. We’re actually allowing a man to run for president who gives women a numerical value based on appearance.
Okay, so that’s a big picture rant – but I feel the effects at this indie level.
And that’s so, so weird.
I made June Falling Down for a lot of reasons. (Here are some.) But mostly I just wanted to make something that felt beautiful to me. I couldn’t stop myself from making it, and I’ve been driving myself into the ground making it for years now. For zero money.
And you know what? I’m going to do it again.
This is not sports. I didn’t get into this as a sport and I won’t live it as a sport. I’m not here to make a ton of money – though I do want to be able to live off of being a filmmaker. And I do want to act and write professionally. And I don’t think that art and money are on opposite sides of the spectrum. I also recognize that the movies have been all about making money for a very long time now. But sometimes there are some real, lovely, incredible works of art made in this business. And I guess that’s what I’m aiming at.
And I’d also really like you to pay to see this movie when we release it (someday, somehow). Or at least the next one. Because I need to eat and live somewhere that isn’t directly next to the train tracks. And because I think I can make something that makes money. But, again, that’s not why I made June and it’s not why I’ll make the next one.
(and fulllll disclosure – I totally would love to sell some paintings on Etsy someday. But that’s not the point of painting. And that doesn’t mean they’ll exist more online than they do sitting in my apartment.)
And I’d be very happy to pay to go to your concert, to buy your book, to buy your coffee, your bracelet. And it’s okay if you’re not number one and I’m not either – if we like each other’s work, we like each other’s work.
So. All that being said, for the love – make it anyway. Make your dinner beautiful tonight and don’t take a picture, draw in your notebook and show anyone, play guitar and sing sweetly for your dog. I say make it. It matters.