Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why I Quit My Film Program

Hey everyone,

I've decided to take advantage of the fact that I already have everything I need to graduate with my B.F.A. in creative writing with film as a minor.

The thesis film I set out to make involved a criminal who's disenfranchised with his own lifestyle and tracking a love interest gone missing into the world of a Lovecraftian-styled cult in the NYC hipster underground (some allusions to Orpheus there).  Production is being fit within a $10k budget which is more or less typical for BC.

The issue regarding me pulling it away from the production program is that
a) I've run out of student loans and I need to work.  The alternative is running a campaign which would include crowd-funding but I have a personal standard I need to hit before asking for funds or more favors and I don't want to break that standard due to academic necessity.  Who knows how many more times I get people to donate on faith?  I believe I need to put more skin in the game and I have to trust that good things take time.
b) I have a transmedia angle on this I want to pursue and if I rush it and expend my resources before the additional designs are in place, any expression of this content will end up premature.
c) I did film two shorts offering distanced insight into the universe this new hero is a part of but the vision I came away with from both filming experiences put me back at the drawing board in terms of style and the higher story arc.  Their post processes have been delayed going on a year now while I figure out if/how I still want to commit them to the bigger design.  The backstory literature is evolving to include a particularly stellar mythos that I hope to convey for people who want to experience something dark, dire and inspiring.

Essentially, I've experienced enough on my 30-some odd thesis crew jobs and producing attempts to know that it's not worth the effort for me personally if I'm not developing something I'm really going to commit to audiences.  The degree has become secondary to the professional and personal purpose and the only way I'm going to prove the merit of this action is to move forward and stop treating my limited finances like they were meant to be tossed away on an assumption of the value of an education that unfortunately exists in a bubble for people at a certain class level.

Practically I'm in the poverty line and risking a lot mostly because I feel like there isn't a whole lot to lose if the price of sustainability outside the career is living forever in depression over what could've been.  Storytelling remains for me a journey of metaphysical implications - deeply personal and self-defining.  If I lose in the struggle it should be to something I care about.  If I find success, it should be on a path to which the resulting responsibilities of success matter to me.  I've always felt this way and this has always felt right to me.

That said, my appreciation of the experiences I've had so far is of the highest value.  It's all about the people.  I've made a ton of awesome acquaintances and a few very solid relationships that I'll never regret.  The student community at BC as, by its own steadfastness, brought me through a lot and given me great conviction for what is possible.  I've also learned a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses are and more importantly how to forgive myself so I have the capacity to move forward, even if slowly.  Everyone can change in small but important ways. Opening up and keeping the ego flexible is essential.  To the same degree you have to be able to like who you are as you are or you're whole process is about self-denial and that's a bitter way to live.  Life is absurd and humanity is absurd and that odd match between our personal and shared absurdity is why anything comes about at all.  It's all irrationality negating itself into rationality and that's why anything is possible and why I pay so little attention when people try to suggest that certain types of progress or change are impossible even while accepting that change isn't always the goal.  Confused?  I'm right there with ya!  It's an adventure.

It's enough to say that passing on the thesis film was a difficult decision.  I'm going on 32 and nervous about so many things.  Even now I question my leap and wonder if I shouldn't have just kept my head down and my analysis contained to the film in question rather than it's potential.  This lifestyle is constantly reintroducing risk and on so many levels.  I have the impression that what makes a player in this industry is somehow embracing and distancing oneself from this truth at the same time.  I sort of have to succeed in the alternative I've made for myself to prove its going to be OK and that means I kind of have to just give myself the benefit of the doubt.  That alone in a world full of ways things can go wrong in spite of an individual's attempts is enough to make me tremble. But it's all OK. It's gotta be.

In the future some folks may wonder why I continue to write on film when my background will officially declare that I'm no longer on the academic film track.  Others will read this and boil it down to being a coward on the precipice.  Time will tell but I had my part to say.  From now until forever I'm no longer a B.C. film student, but rather a film student.

May the film gods bless,
Carlos Sanchez

Connecting the Dots Between Low-Budget Horror and Low-Budget Anything

'Sup Rockstars,

Image Credit: E-how on Low-budget Horror

a) Find various ways to communicate with your audience.  You might need a previous Sundance presence to get a press release on IndieWire but it doesn't hurt to have one prepared and sent out if your Kickstarter pans out anyway.  If you spin it to be more educational than promotion, you're offering new value.

b) They repeatedly go back to the point that embracing one's constraints is what can often make a film worthy.  Horror has a lot to do with the imagined threat.  Real places will contain a greater degree of authentic material than a low-budget production can pull off through design.  And yet a design aesthetic is absolutely necessary to underscore horrific themes.  The theme and the tone are, after all, the selling point more than talent option here.  Unfamiliar characters are more relatable.  That means you have more control through your script and can match your script to your scale.  This can be liberating in that it narrows your options and focuses your goals to crafting a story that is both within reach and absolutely worth telling.  You won't be relying on fluff resources and it will make you stronger.

c) I think the existential concerns we encounter in horror can be appreciated in drama and romance and even comedy - all genres the more typical of low-budget means because you can shoot these stories where available and strip away all the crazy expenses if you work at it.  What we deal with as human beings crosses all these boundaries and will remain interesting as long as you can honor your own assortment of human experiences.  I have to believe that while low-budget horror remains the top of the go-to genres to begin with because fear remains incredibly visceral, love and humor and change can be just as powerful - budget constraints a given.  We don't see it as often being a roller-coaster generation with somewhat lower attention spans, but what I'm saying is don't be tempted into horror just because.  Rather use their insights on efficiency and tension to craft other genres and see where you land.

d) Know your genre.  Know what's expected and respect that anticipation.  Successfully pulling off what's been proven is the first challenging step to owning the license needed to innovate.  Where your originality comes in is with a personal concept or view - not something externally stimulated but an awareness or insight born from within about an experience that you keep returning to in one way or another.  These elements of your persona are capable of proving your premise and giving that spin that helps set your product apart.  Really what I'm saying is that you have to balance your self-awareness against that of the masses.  They want your contribution but probably not your overhaul.

May the film gods bless,
Carlos Sanchez