As usual, the readjustment to life in South Pasadenie always takes some easing into until it finally feels “normal” again. My inner clock has been wildly out of whack this week, due partially to a lingering cold that’s traveled with me to SoCal and also my recent tendency to have that first cup of morning coffee at three o’clock in the afternoon. Subsequently, my nights have extended into owl territory and while I’m still productive in the mornings, I find a blanket of fatigue shrouds me right around lunch time. I must pull myself together! (And, of course, by the time I do I’ll be heading right back to Wisconsin.)
I took a moment to look over some of my previous posts as I reflect on the state of Deliberate a year into this adventure. I confess there are times when I begrudgingly blog, desperately hoping that something mildly entertaining or interesting will fly from fingertips to keyboard. Yet, I’m ultimately satisfied to be chronicling this process because it not only forces me to write and reflect on a regular basis, but it’s also providing a record of what is proving to be a pivotal chapter in my life.
That said, I figure I’ll just spew out some more of my not-so-deep observations regarding the journey so far, what I’ve learned, and what I’d do differently:
1) PLAN AHEAD: One of my early posts discussed the importance of having a business plan and I can only emphasize that TEN-FOLD again. I am very grateful to my friend and fellow filmmaker Athena Lobit for offering me early pointers and advice on this part of the process. And Executive Producer Dad sent me a book that became invaluable: Filmmakers and Financing: Business Plans for Independents by Louise Levison. Doing your homework about the different facets of the business and solidifying your investment plan to the point where you can articulate it to a variety of people only increases your credibility. And when you’re a first-time filmmaker like me, you need all of the credibility you can get.
2) LOVE YOUR LAWYER: I dragged my feet a bit on bringing on a lawyer, which is one thing I would do differently. For lawyers are an inevitable part of this business and you may as well get them on board sooner rather than later. While my LA Lawyer (Stuart Markowitz) was initially helpful, a stroke of serendipity landed me an AWESOME Wisconsin lawyer. And since I’m planning to shoot Beneath the Surface in Wisconsin with Wisconsin money, it was essential that I have an attorney based in the state. I believe it was over the holidays that Dad and I were having coffee with a friend at the neighborhood Panera when a woman – let’s call her Lawyer Lady – introduced herself. She had overheard our conversation about my film and a potential investor (whom she happened to know) and wanted to simply say hello. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that she was an attorney who specialized in entertainment and the arts. What luck! In a matter of weeks, she was drafting an operating agreement for me that would serve as the document committing investors to the funding of the film. Now I know it’s not breaking news that lawyers aren’t cheap, so you must be prepared to spend some dough. But good lawyers like LL are worth every penny. While I may have lovely, lofty ideas about “creating cinema” and “making art,” the bottom line is that my film is a business partnership with a group of investors and the goal is to make it profitable. A knowledgable attorney will draft the documents that protect and inform both the filmmaker and the investors.
3) FESTIVAL AND FORUM FUN: Yes, film festivals and filmmaking forums are fun. And they’re also informative. So go to them. Be a sponge. Absorb. You’ll meet some talented, like-minded people, too, who may become future collaborators.
4) CONNECTIVITY: I find that the majority of my time over the past year has been spent on relationship building – with investors, advisors, fellow filmmakers, future ambassadors (i.e. friends/family/former colleagues), etc. You have to be social and you must be politely persistent. If a setback occurs, allow yourself a little time to wallow and then shake it off and send that e-mail to that potential investor. One of the speakers at the Producer forum I attended last October talked about how critical it is to power through the rejection. Because rejection is the rule, not the exception. Learn from it and move onward.
5) OWN THE THE TITLE: And that leads me to the emotional side of this whole experience – EMOTIONAL being the operative word. Accept that you’re going to be on a roller coaster that offers excitement and terror in equal measures. So do yourself a favor and own the title of being an independent filmmaker. The early days were the toughest for me because there was still so much to be learned. I knew I had the ability and passion to do this, but I had to figure out how to go about it and sometimes worried that my compass was faulty. Obviously, I’m still figuring it out but the more I learn, the more empowered I become. It reminds me of when I bought my first car. I did so much research beforehand and knew just what to expect when it came time to negotiate with the salesman that I felt invincible. I was armed with information (not to mention Kevin and Monique as my muscle). I ended up with a beautiful Ford Escort at a very fair price.
But even beyond the data, stay surrounded by positive people (and pets, of course!). Feed your soul with the family, friends, and experiences that make you happy. Because there will be anxious times. And lonely times. And deeply frustrating times. And it is only through your genuine advocates and, corny though it sounds, belief in yourself that you will find the mettle to continue.
NEXT UP: Cracking the Code