Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On Inventing the Job

On Inventing the Job,

For more information, visit NY Times - Need a Job? Invent It

Let's take this notion to task. From the entry-point it appears that there are three spheres of operation within the film industry: The majors, mini-majors and indie-houses, and everyone else. I currently operate in the "everyone-else" category. This includes students, new LLCs without real capital, enthusiastic innovators without an effective network, property owners without significant marketing strategies and so on; the dud factory.

The message of this article above is pretty important for those who work in one sphere of operation according to the rules of another. That is to say, if you are a growin indie-house and you try to compete with the majors, you'll likely lose. They extend extreme amounts of capital afforded by conglomerate parents who have extensive means of revenue - many of which support the type of marketing that is necessary to carry the property to a wide audience. So indie-houses ofload risk and reward or constrain their operation to limited releases. But because they have alternatives that work for them they can continue to grow. They simply have to avoid greed despite any trends of success and take bigger risks at a much slower rate.

Likewise the "everybody else" category looks to the operations of the other two spheres but seeks to gain entry by compromising itself through its own capacity and set of risks in order to garner favor [see "no pay"]. We create and throw our stuff up the latter hoping gravity doesn't bring it back down on our faces. WHY? The average student grip wants in a union that is prohibitive. They have their reasons, some good, some greedy. So if he starts as early as 20 it's possible he can gain entry in his late 20s after years of networking and hustling. Then he's in the union and must still hunt for work and this is the type of work that doesn't get easier with age unless he pushes himself into management. The 50 year old boom-guy, the 60 year-old AD, the ancient DP, geniuses all. But what does that mean for the capable 35 year old who wants the income and benefits necessary to provide for his home. Why should the industry of dreams sacrifice the American one? Does it just suck for him because it's the only game in town? And as for growing through the unions: one lesson that's been sold to me is that once you're resume says you are one thing and proficient in it, it's very hard to be seen as anything else. Much more so if you depend on the income from that original position to support yourself and/or your family. You can get stuck. Bright potential in the early years with your college mates and no one cares when you're in the industry, as if spending and managing money for creative ends didn't have the core elements expressing the capability of a working professional. The difference is regular access to a paying audience and that is not beyond the "everybody else" sphere. In fact, a few considerations can change the language altogether.

From the creative angle, writers and producers try to sell their product to players within the more powerful spheres when they should be selling their product straight to the audience. You're on the ground floor, take advantage. Obviously there are middle-men that we know as distributors and there are deals out there. But unless you are starting out with a significant budget (in which case you likely already have the interest from high-stakes players) containing your production and limiting expense is probably a habit formed from necessity. Such should be the case in the approach to marketing. Local venues for private screenings can be encouraged in such places as NYC where black-box one-man shows, open-mics and live-bands perform. Short-form entertainment that represents the vibrancy of an urban or metropolitan culture can be a place where one reasonably expects to see up-and-coming artists perform. Promoting the event, collecting at the door, these are all grassroots methods that only require a few hours from friends and a bar willing to trade the liquor for the door if the expected visitation is moderately high.

On the digital end there isn't yet a pay-per stream option outside of iTunes or Netflix but I have seen my fare share of awkward films on Netflix to know that while they may not be doling out large sums of money to films with little public interest, it may not be particularly hard to have a place for the film in their library. Again, this isn't to say we need to play the game supported by the established facilitators in their arena, mearly to observe that online distribution may not be as complicated as we think it is. If a dollar or two can be afforded by an established audience for the right to see your film online, you may only need a few thousand views to host the site, recoup finances and begin your next project. Consider the power of web technology and go straight to the people.

On that last point, straight to the people, never underestimate the necessity for community outreach to replace the passive dependency on commercial advertising. Sure, make a trailer. But if you don't have the money to engage your market on a national scale, a limited release in local venues and online pay-per streaming can be supported by engaging the people in the stores and neighborhoods around your screening locales. Sell the underdog story, the up and comer. Learn to talk about your strengths and weaknesses, your history and your logic behind the film. Talk about raising the culture of your city and state with a group of talented people and how the support won't cost much. Inspire others with your story and build your audience one connection at a time and don't forget to make a mailing list that pulls all this together. By the time you've gone through 3 or 4 short films lets say, you should hope to have more than a few thousand followers and in the lucky event where one of these works hits a notable film festival, you already have traction to make distributors think twice about offering you a shitty deal. At least that's the hope. You've taken the risk upon yourself, you've gone out and invested time and energy where there wasn't money to afford the work for you. You've done some of the marketing research and the advertising in a way that you can measure results from directly. You've educated yourself about what happens when your material greets the world. And if you can't do it because you're too close to it, then find someone in the "everybody else" category that can.

One thing about "everybody else" is that we're hungrier. We need more, can fight for more, are more inventive, can do more with less by definition. There is a quantitative strength in our numbers and in our effort per capita and our only weakness is organization. But the tools are right here. So take it one day at a time. Constrain your delivery methods to the same scale as your production methods and learn how to work it. Invent rules that our sphere can live and survive by so that we don't suffer and become obsolete trying to engage a sphere that only looks over when it needs to widen the talent pool to control wages. Essentially, if you need a job, invent it. The audience is everywhere you just need to know why they should pay attention to you. If you can't think of one reason, if you're DVD isn't the most evident idea, then perhaps you should reconsider the parameters under which you enter production.


Lets get what we came for,

C. M. Sanchez III

Translate