First Rule of Movie Making: Do Not Make Movies
Sean Cassity is a movie producer and writer living in New York City. He agreed to write a piece about his experiences in the film industry.
In writing this IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m torn between advancing a project IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m actually quite proud of and admitting that it was probably a bad idea to do it. For some reason, I went off and produced a feature film. The film is called IN THE BLOOD and it premieres this Sunday night on LOGO.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the movie site & trailer to give you an idea of what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m talking about:
They paid us an actual amount of money to put our movie on TV, so it must be worth watching on some level. Filmmaking is either a cause or a symptom of delirium, so that kind of outside confirmation is vital.
Walking into the screening of the worst film I have ever seen projected, I saw the director outside thanking his friends and relatives for coming. This movie was technically and creatively incompetent on every level; utterly painful to watch. But I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go into detail without spoiling the plot for you. It was hard not to feel sorry for the director. Less for working so hard on that sad, little mess than for inviting people he cared about to come see it. Now I worry that when I go about telling people to check out IN THE BLOOD, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m seen as a carnie trying to sell photos of my ugly baby.
At the other end of the spectrum, a friend of mine from b-school got involved producing a project for some documentary filmmakers. The film was a big hit. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve probably seen it. It ended up getting great buzz, a successful theatrical release and an Oscar nomination. I warned him that if he won an Oscar for his first film, I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak to him again. Luckily, the film lost and so weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still friends. After all that success, I asked him about his next project. Instead he started talking about the most successful producers in the New York indie scene Ã¢â‚¬â€œ people we read about, people with consistent creative success, people whose stories inspire us. Then he speculated on what they likely make in a normal year. That was less inspiring. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s salient to him, too. So while heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still working on films, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also a tax lawyer and doing quite well with that.
As for me, IN THE BLOOD has consumed 3 years of my life. My wife reminds me that the opportunity cost of doing movies instead of banking is already well into seven figures. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve only go this one movie to show for it. If it had been a huge success out of the gate, large partners would have swarmed in and taken significant weight off my shoulders. With the extra time, reputation and contacts, I might have another film or two behind me. If the film had been a complete failure, I could have taken the experience as war wounds. With the experience and extra time, and I could have another, better film in the can by now. Instead, we were called the first good gay horror movie and won some awards at festivals and were eventually picked up for a broadcast cable premiere by a terrific but young network. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a movie that has always seemed on the verge of breaking out, so I owe it to my team Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the director, our cast, our investors, and our department heads Ã¢â‚¬â€œ to push and shove this rock just a little more; itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just so close to the top.
We could still break out. LOGO is in 30 million homes and we have the DVD to follow. And thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not really any genre content aimed at the gay audience that makes a true effort to be something more than just schlocky good fun Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anything wrong with that.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m reminded of my first feature as a PA, where I could spend all day standing on the street, making sure no hoods raided the unit truck and stole all of craft serviceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Pop Ã¢â‚¬ËœEms. Ah, the glamour of the movie biz, I would think. Today IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m walking up and down 9th Avenue in Manhattan begging businesses to let me lay down some post cards on their counters, because I have a movie playing on TV this weekend and I feel like no on knows about it. Ah, the glamour of the movie biz.
Obviously, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t choose my line of business for the money. But my landlord did. And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s his house IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m living in. So if I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make money, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make movies. And it turns out that even a movie LOGO wants to show on TV 6 times next week wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily make me very much if it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t catch on in DVD.
Which leads me to my first rule of filmmaking: Do not make films.
Anyone who makes a film and finds they canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get into the big festivals or they canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t find a distributor or they canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even get their friends to comment on anything but than the cinematography, their trouble can be traced back to their failure to follow this first rule.
Will I break this rule again? I hope to. But if I was smart, I would get a job and write a book.