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Saturday, May 18, 2013

••◊ Stuck in the Middle

For those readers looking for pictures to tell the story, sorry, this isn't that type of post.  I've been feeling stuck in the middle lately.  I'm at a point in my filmmaker career where I've chosen a craft (cinematography) and I'm serious about becoming a professionally skilled crafts person.  Unfortunately there comes a point when you realize that the people you started with aren't as motivated as you are and the people who have made a life of the industry won't recognize you as one of them yet.  You're stuck in the middle.

I was talking with Tommy Friedman on the phone this week about feeling stuck.  Tommy is the director of a feature I'm working on.  He felt the same way.  His career in feature films is finally starting to take off after years of web videos and lame corporate gigs.  Despite having a crew around, this is a lonely endeavor.  No one is there to encourage you.  No one will suddenly recognize your skills and declare you a professional.  There's no graduation ceremony.  Everyone has an opinion that doesn't necessarily benefit you.  At least Tommy has Lindsey to support him.  The development path is just work and you hope that someday all that work and time dedicated to development, instead of personal relationships, pays off.  Someday.

I talked with my mom about it this week as well.  She went through the same experience with a number of activities.  She said at some point she had to leave some of her friends behind that she knew were dragging her back to mediocrity.  I know exactly what she means.  Every month there's a local filmmaker meeting in San Diego...and every meeting I see people show up saying they are going to do a short film or episodic web series.  How many of those get made?  My unscientific poll says about 1/5th of them.  Most people talk about doing something grand, but given the opportunity most people fall back into their comfort zone, which is mediocrity, and don't complete their projects.  I tell the newbies, I know the dozen or so people who REALLY make films in San Diego.  If you want to develop into a professional you need to know those dozen people because they are trying to do the same.  It's almost like a support group. 

My friends call me up and still want to make one-off comedy clips for funnyordie.com, which I know won't take my development anywhere.  These are my friends and I want to see them succeed in whatever they do, but at the same time I need to concentrate on jobs that build my portfolio and provide growth or else I'll remain stuck in the middle.  When I read others' blogs I hear about them being ten year overnight successes; maybe fifteen year overnight successes.  That takes dedication, determination, and a smart attitude towards business.  The best I can do for my friends now is to recommend someone else who is just learning .  Most of the time they are happy if somebody just has a camera so they don't have to pay for equipment.  The craft isn't as important to them as sharing their brilliant comedy sketch on Facebook or counting their Youtube hits.  If I really wanted Youtube hits I would just kick somebody in the balls (1M views) or dope up a kid at the dentist and cruelly film him in the back seat of a car (120M views).

So what am I doing to get un-stuck?  First, I write a blog for Video Gear that allows me access to lighting and camera equipment that freebie jobs wouldn't afford.  It allows me to development technical know-how.  Second, I volunteer for professionals.  Let me be on big budget sets.  All you have to do is give me access to craft services.  I'll work for free.  It allows me to develop contacts with professionals and learn how to work with professionals.  Think of it as the poor mans' film school.  Third, I go to as many professional events as my time can afford and network.  You never know.  Maybe someday I'll get that elusive job as Roger Deakins' second AC while at an ASC function.  Someday.


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