This weekend, I began the coloring and mastering process for the proof-of-concept portion of the feature I'm shooting, tentatively called "Huckleberry." This production began last October and will continue into August and then October of this year (fingers crossed). To many, this is the production that never ends! Or The Great Race! Or How Many Punches Can One Take? Reflecting on the project sparked a lot of questions about the future of filmmaking, a film's social, cultural, and financial relevance, and the people masochistic enough to take the journey.
I'll tell it truthfully and say this has indeed been a generally confusing ride. This is the first time I've shot a film this way, with so many variables completely up in the air (including the budget). More and more projects I sign onto function this way, and the trend grows across all budget ranges in cinema. Even studio productions have not been, historically, safe from hiatus, postponement, or even a complete shutdown after weeks or months of production. It seems that the film industry, self-conscious as ever, will see yet another production methodology overhaul in dramatic attempts to stay relevant to the public as well as tap new sources of capital--like making "fans" pay the bills via crowd-based fundraisers. It's new territory based on tried-and-true investment-seeking methods from the past, but with risky twists.
The question on the minds of workers in low to micro-budget filmmaking--how secure is my job? Any freelancer understands the sheer terror of finding those next couple of "gigs" to make ends meet every month. But the problem compounds when larger-scale productions (such as features) stretch over multiple shoots, over multiple months, or even multiple years in some cases. These aren't weekend photo shoots--these are complex, messy, overlong, and grueling film shoots with killer deadlines and no monetary room for error. Even the coffee tends to suffer.
Many stories have been told about maverick filmmakers getting their start every weekend with their friends, when they saved enough money to rent a camera and buy/process some film. You know, back in the early 60s and again in the 90s. It would seem that either the equally "maverick" investors pushing in their chips on young talent have disappeared or moved on to other things. Perhaps cinema's place in high art no longer exists? Many might argue that the ballooning of the studio system has something to do with that. Do investors still exist today, and how can younger generations of filmmakers reach them? Well, I think all of these questions leap ahead of something urgent--a film's relevance.
Films can be made anywhere and any time, as long as the ingredients are right and the story is worth telling, but how does one determine the value of each project? Is your film worth the arduous process of making? Is it worth fighting tooth-and-nail for distribution and exhibition? In the end, I suppose it's best to keep the pedal to the metal and continue down that old dirt road so many others have traveled before you. Because, hey, you never know who might be looking for your project.