The path between your day-to-day pain and your filmmaking dream


(Alex Le May) #1

Winter 1999 – I’m sitting in an office talking with a potential investor about a film I want to produce. I’m about ready to ask him for $110,000. Then I realize I only have 15 minutes to convince him to invest because I have to catch a cab so I won’t be late for my waiter job at a mid-priced Italian chain restaurant. At that moment, the realization of that dichotomy hits me like a cartoon anvil and those old, familiar feelings of “He knows I’m a waiter. He knows I’m broke, He knows I need this” come flooding in. That’s when I choked, I lost confidence and I watched the deal implode in front of me. I was controlled, at that moment, by my pain, the pain of knowing I had talent but nobody else did. The pain of working at a dead-end job. The pain of having all this great work inside me with no means of getting it out. The pain of wondering why my world was so small and why I had no power to make choices in my life. I couldn’t create what I wanted to, I couldn’t travel or move where I wanted to, I didn’t have access to anyone who could make a difference in my filmmaking career and so on.

Flash forward to today- I work on projects I choose. I have the time and money to create at will. I sell my projects to meaningful distributors. I travel. I get to work from anywhere. But make no mistake, the path between those two points in my life is one of pain and failure.

I calculated I spent $200,000 and ten years trying to build my career. It was ridiculously hard and emotionally draining. So, a couple of years ago I decided to break down, into its individual parts, how I went from a shitty apartment and a dead-end job to being a fulltime filmmaker and web series creator. Those first ten years were so painful and sometimes so incredibly lonely that I decided three years ago I wanted to help other filmmakers and video creators shorten the distance and lessen the pain between anonymity and creative success (by success, I mean it’s your fulltime job). In order to do that I had to talk to a ton of struggling and/or frustrated filmmakers. I had to find out what pained them, where they were stuck, what angered them and even what humiliated them. Then I had to find out where they wanted to go, what their dream was and what their ultimate day looked like as a filmmaker or video creator. I had to do this so I could get a clear understanding of the best way to help them. It was then that I realized that most filmmakers are cut from the same cloth. I realized they were me. They struggled with the same things and fought the same battles and all needed the same thing. They wanted to have control over their career path. One that didn’t rely on someone tapping them on the shoulder and telling them they were talented and they wanted predictability around money and time.

Below is a list of the top PAINS and DREAMS I hear from frustrated filmmakers:

PAIN:

  • I hate my job

  • My boss is a dick

  • I feel held back

  • I’m living a life I didn’t choose

  • I have no free time to work on my own project

  • The only places I go are work and home

  • I’m trapped in never-ending gig work

  • I get no recognition for the great filmmaking work I do

  • No one watches the films/web series’ I do make

  • I don’t know anyone in the business

  • I don’t know how to get started building a full-time filmmaking/creator career

  • Because I’m unfulfilled, I find I can’t enjoy the free time I do have

ULTIMATE FILMMAKING DREAM:

  • I choose the projects I work on

  • My time is my own

  • I’m surrounded by a great creative team

  • I have the financial resources to make my projects the right way

  • People call me instead of me hustling to find work

  • I can travel or take a vacation when I want to

  • I know people who can buy/pay for my projects

  • I have an engaged audience that watches my work

  • I love getting up and going to work

In the end, I meet so many filmmakers that don’t think this is possible. I meet so many filmmakers that don’t believe their work can be expensive or have real market value. They know it’s great to work, but don’t trust it can make them wealthy. By wealthy, I mean their day-to-day life needs are met, they have choice, and they aren’t creating under financial duress. Now don’t get me wrong, even if one manages to achieve these things, it’s still hard, it’s still a fight, it’s just not suffering… and creating in that kind of day-to-day tension can be mind-numbing at best and get you to quit at its worst.