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Seattle Indie–The Karaoke Of Film?

This wild mofo lays down a mean Air Supply.

I love indie film for the same reason I love karaoke: you never know what you’re going to get. Karaoke is the grandest egalitarian experiment in pandering to closet narcissists the world has ever seen, and by god if it isn’t brilliant. Everyone gets to be a star, and you don’t even have to know how to sing. A 70 year old grandma riffing on ‘Baby Got Back’? I’m so there. But right in the middle of that hellish cacaphony of horse flop are genuine moments of talent and brilliance. Some singers are gifted amateurs, and some are professionals who just come to get their performing jones or try out new material. It’s an amazing thing, when someone can knock your socks off in a shithole bar doing karaoke at one in the morning. Even so, Granny is still more entertaining.

Seattle indie feels like a giant karaoke contest for film makers.

I say that like it’s a bad thing, but it certainly is not. Everyone needs a safe place to learn their craft and build their skills. If you’re not able to do actual work, learn from your mistakes, and put your dues in, you can never progress.  Unfortunately, this is a fact that escapes many indies, and leaves many of them frustrated, disilusioned, and unable to advance. An ignorance of the amount of dedication and work it takes to succeed seems to be endemic in the performing arts, whether we are talking about film making, acting, or being a musician. It’s an odd thing, because we almost take it for granted that people dream of having their talent recognized and ‘making it’ in the big time, but once we take that mindset and overlay it on another trade we can see the ridiculousness of the proposition. Nobody wakes up one day and says:

I am the greatest welder in the world. Everyone shall recognize my genius. Bring me sheet metal and blueprints for a cruise ship, I am ready to begin.

Walk down to the ship yard with that kind of attitude and see how far it gets you. It takes a long time to get good at being a welder–it’s a tough job and can be much more technical than you would think. In some ways, being a film maker is much more difficult than being a welder. It’s certainly a much more complicated trade. It takes a good ten years to  become a master welder, but you think you can do one shitty short film and be a genius film maker?

Puh-lease.

Whatever it is that you think you are doing or wanting to be, there are ten thousand people just like you who are doing exactly the same thing, except they’ve been doing it much longer. Oh, and they are  more talented,  more driven, harder working, better connected, better looking, and better in the sack than you. These people do their job day-in and day-out for years on end, honing their skills and building their careers and reputations. Many of them make a fair living at it. Granted, the occasional person springs from obscurity to great fame and wealth in an instant,  but it’s a one-in-a-million shot. You will never be this person. I mean, really, who the fuck do you think you are?

But back to why Seattle is the best place in the world for a beginning film maker to live. There are scads of small independent film projects going on at all times. Too many to keep track of. Whatever you want to do on a film, you can do it here. Want to be an actor? Yep, we got you covered. Write a screen play? Sure, someone will produce it for you, no problem. Want to run a camera? You can do that. Tomorrow, in fact.

If Seattle Indie is the karaoke of film, then local producers are the KJ’s (karaoke disc jockeys, for those of you out of the karaoke loop). Making even a small film is a monumental, expensive task, so any help a film maker can get is greatly appreciated. There are a number of local producers that do a fine job of facilitating other film makers so that they can get their products made and distributed. I’m going to call out a couple of them: Collin and Erin Neal of Faith Vs. Fate Productions. The few times I’ve spoken to Collin and Erin they have been in the midst of helping one indie film maker or another produce a film. In fact, they had their own miniature short film festival where they facilitated the making of several shorts by different local film makers. Are all of the shorts gems? Certainly not, this is Seattle, after all.  However, there’s some good stuff in there–but that is not the point. The point is that these people were able to make their films and get experience because people like Collin and Erin stepped up to assist them. We need more of that. If you want help getting a film produced, get to know Collin and Erin, and others like them who will be glad to facilitate your learning process.

One more plug for a local production company: Corwood Productions. Granted, I know these people, so you may feel free to accuse me of nepotism, but I have personally experienced their willingness to welcome new people onto their sets to play and learn.

The great thing about karaoke is that you don’t have to be a good singer or performer to have a good time and entertain people. You just have to have attitude and own the room when you get up there and take the mic. I once saw a grown man do an extremely off-key Celine Dion ballad complete with dance moves and stage blocking. He worked the entire room and had the audience in the palm of his hand. I want to see that kind of fearlessness in indie film makers. What is at stake really? The people who see your film will likely be your immediate friends and family, and they are rooting for you, so what’s the big deal? Pull out all of the stops, take chances, dare to be outrageous. Knock our socks off. Even if it sucks, we will love you for your sheer balls.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sing “Sweet Transvestite” at my friend’s birthday karaoke party. My goodness, these fishnets are tight.

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

  1. This reminds me of NDAs that people use in Seattle short film. It’s like ‘really’? I recently had a couple of LA ‘producers’, who I’m sure wanted to laugh at me when I brought it up

    Does anyone still use them? If so, why?

  2. It’s because they don’t anyone to steal their brilliant, highly-sought-after intellectual property, silly!

    • Oohhh… I get it.

      That’s right, I remember hearing something about Hollywood stealing a lot of Seattle short film ideas and making huge movies out of them.

  3. Samuel Laseke

    Good article. It was not long ago that I was trying to find a movie set just to learn anything. With a lot of hard work and several failures I am now helping new film makers and good actors practice their craft. What always holds true is for every failure I learn something important. It’s also a fact that No matter how good an actor or film maker you are your still going to have projects that are less than great or completely suck. I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes both in welding and film making.

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