-

Seattle Indie Film Makers: Why We Can’t Stand Each Other.

Do you mean besides the fact that we are all jealous infants?

Ok, many of us get along fine and genuinely like each other. We’ve all felt the love. When we work with our friends on a project we are drawn together and create a sense of family that you rarely experience in life. So why do we often split into cliques and engage in the basest of sniping and carping about our comrades-in-arms?

Small stakes. Seattle indie politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. We are fighting over scraps. Scraps of scraps. Crumbs. This isn’t LA. Or Vancouver. Or even Portland. (Fucking Leverage!)  We lost our tax incentives, leaving our film landscape about as barren as a hysterectomied fish wife. It’s understandable how the climate can affect the professional and semi-professional talent and film makers among us, but does it need to affect those of us who do not make our living from film? In a word, no.

As indie film makers we have the freedom to make film for the simple joy of it. We can write, act in, produce and direct our own films. Does it get much better than that? We are free to explore emerging models for releasing our content, even distributing it ourselves if we have the cleverness and fortitude. Also, the labor and talent pool in Seattle is willing, available, talented and cheap. Yeah, cheap. How many times have you worked for nothing or next to nothing on a friend’s project? A lot. The good news is they are always willing to repay the favor. With all of the bartering, back scratching and favor trading it’s a wonder we have time to be irritated at each other.

As a culture, Seattle film makers  have the potential to be a unique powerhouse of indie film creativity and present a united front to distributors, investors, audiences and anyone else who may wish to invest their time and money in our passion. Will we? We have a good chance if we do the following:

Lose the illusion. Most of us will not make it. Whatever that means. No one is looking for us.  We’re not going to get whisked off to LA for our big break or ever make the basest of livings doing this. So get over it already. Once we shatter our delusions of grandeur we can focus more clearly on our product and we won’t be bothered by our friends douching off about how their pilot is on the desk of a producer in LA. (It isn’t. They gave it to their cousin who sent to his brother-in-law who knows a guy in LA who goes to the same health club as a producer. If the producer ever got it he tossed it in the trash.) When we are reasonable we can begin to enjoy the actual process of making film, which is the biggest reward of all, next to getting laid, and we are much more likely to make a compelling product that someone will actually want.

Be nice. Yes, the lessons you learned in grade school still apply. Be gracious and kind to everyone you work with. Don’t set yourself above them. Show gratitude for their hard work and give them dignity. If you gain a reputation for creating a warm, safe environment people will flock to you. They will be excited to work on your project and they will inject their enthusiasm into your product.

Be genuine. Refrain from the self-aggrandizing douchebaggery that is endemic in the film culture. Stop dropping names and relating the amazing connections you made at the latest film event, it’s off-putting. Instead, ask people about their projects and how they are progressing. Let them indulge in a little grandstanding of their own. They will think you are a brilliant conversationalist.

Be supportive. Lend a hand to your fellow film makers by talking about their projects, sharing them on social media and attending their premiers and fundraising functions. Do this even with people you don’t like. It’s easy to be supportive of a project we are invested in, but the moment we have a disagreement or part ways it’s way too easy to go back into sniping mode. Congratulate your colleagues on their accomplishments, but don’t suck their titty.  Give honest feedback and criticism of their work. Tell them what you feel worked and what didn’t for you as an audience member. And take your ego out of it, don’t trash the performance of an actor because you were passed over for the role. (See the previous point about being gracious.)

Stop making films for other film makers. We have all been guilty of this. We make something simply because our friends will think it’s cool or will delight at the inclusion of their favorite actor who just so happens to be their friend. A real audience does not care that you used the Epic RED to capture your footage or that you cast Sally Joe in the lead. (No one outside of your immediate circle knows who the fuck Sally Joe is.) They only care if your product engages them. Don’t insist on making a product that fits a predetermined level of credibility with your peers. Who cares if it gets into Sundance? So what if it’s not feature length? You simply dumped it on YouTube as webisodes? Who cares? A good story is a good story. Once you get over the handicap of trying to impress your friends you’ll put out a much better product.

Call me a dreamer but I think we have the potential to turn Seattle into a behemoth of indie entertainment products. We are just on the cusp of it. I can feel it. Once we learn to stow our petty rivalries and jealousies for good and get down to the nitty-gritty of making good, viable products that audiences actually want to see, beg to see, we will usher in a new age in Seattle indie film.

Once distributors and investors catch on that Seattle is an endless well of unique, appealing, reasonably priced content they will be knocking on our door.

Who knows? Maybe we can make a living at this.

 

12 Comments

  1. I believe that I just referred to this post as “awesomeballs.”

    Which it is.

    Especially endearing to me is the YouTube remark, which is precisely where I dumped my web-series.

    Ultimately, we’re storytellers. We need to remember that these stories are to be told to an audience. The greater the story, the larger the audience.

    Look, we all want to please ourselves, and some of the best projects come from making something that we love… but if we leave audience out of the equation, its simply mental masturbation with a lot of pretty pictures. Oh, and awful alliteration.

    Huzzah. Go, Seattle!

  2. Why thank you for your kind comments on my douchey blog! I’ve taken a peek at your project, “They Live Among Us.” Awesome balls right back atcha, sista! I love anything with fallen angels and biblical fantasy themes. I guess that’s a product of being a fallen minister. Very nicely done. I shall plug it shamelessly.

  3. I think most Seattle film people want to make a living in film. Fame is a perk and all, but we all dream of getting paid to do this. Not many people stay in the game for the love of art. Personally, I would be happy just to make 20k a year producing ultra low budgets and self marketing them.

    Howlywood is cool alright, but if I never step foot in that city again for the rest of my life I wouldn’t carry any regrets.

    • I’m with you, Gabriel. I think most of us would settle for doing this as a part time job. As it is there is usually an outlay of capital rather than a net profit. I would love to do this as a living and twenty G’s would be a good start, but i would probably need fifty to make it work full time. Of course i would love to front a rock band for living too and that’s never going to happen either.

      • Yeah, 50k would be very comfortable doing something one loves to do.

        My goal with this game has always been to make a living. I can’t give that up myself, and I reckon most in the Seattle film community feel the same way. Hence competitiveness. We all know not all of us will make it. But no one wants to give up. who can blame that?

        Great blog by the way. I agree with your post about writing advice. Cheers.

  4. Right on, Ben.

    We need to define ourselves as a place for INDIE film, if we define ourselves at all. Forget Hollywood. For those who want Hollywood, it already exists. Go there.

    Think instead of the model of the Seattle music scene, circa 1990. People made music they liked for their own enjoyment without concern for what the rest of the world thought. It was different and it was good. The world took notice.

    Seattle is know as one of the most literate cities in America. We have a wealth of smart, talented people like few other places.

    I’m in complete agreement with you, Ben. We should be willing to help one another, even when the project isn’t what you personally would choose to be doing. Help for selfish reasons: so others will help when you need it. Too often, I hear people overly concerned with “professionalism.” Usually, they are trying to impress me with how “professional” they are by telling me there’s one way to do things. Bullshit. Anyway you can get it done is a right way.

    I say be an amateur in the literal sense: one who loves. Follow your bliss, as Joseph Campbell says. Do it for the love of it and you can’t fail.

    • I agree with that, help for selfish reasons. I never trust people who claim they help out of purely altruistic motivations. I fully expect reciprocation.

    • Yes, Craig! Nice!

      There is nothing more unprofessional than trying to convince someone you are professional. Don’t tell me, show me. I have a lot of respect for that quiet professionalism that just goes about its business, does its job and doesn’t expect a big gold star for doing what you were supposed to do anyway.
      I can’t count the number of times some hack douchebag has cornered me and pontificated at length about how things must be done and why I am doing it wrong. Fuck you. I work construction. I have zero problem following fuck nuts like that out to their car and dropping them.
      Obviously there are all kinds of ways to do something. Did it work? Was it good? How can one person be the final arbiter of the ‘proper’ way of doing something.
      It’s not that I mind being shown a better way of doing something, my best ideas are stolen from other people, my problem is the level of contempt people serve up with their counsel.

      Geesh, I’m getting wound up now. LOL!

  5. Go to hell Ben! Quit talking about my projects.

Your Comment

Use the arrow keys to navigate slides, or spacebar to pause or play.