Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sacrificing to the Film Gods

I've been talking to a lot of people lately as I prepare to go into production on Predatory Moon. Some I've never met before while others have known me for years. A subject that has come up frequently in these conversations is the kind of dedication that is required to "make it" in film, and the many sacrifices one has to make.

Earlier this week I posted an update on my Facebook page mentioning that the most time I've spent with my husband since Christmas was when I had a meeting with him in regard to the stunts for my film. I wasn't kidding. When I'm working on a production, we could go days or even weeks without seeing each other (unless we are both working on the same project.) And mind you, this includes the time while I'm working in my home studio.

Sounds terrible, right? Well, that's just one of the many little sacrifices that people are very serious about getting into "the biz" often have to make.

When I started in theatre, I didn't land my first paying job until I was in my twenties. Prior to that I spent many years doing high school dramas, weekend performing shows, seasonal haunted houses, and community theatre productions. The portfolio I built up as a costume designer on all those small productions was what eventually landed me a job with a steady paycheck.

When I decided to go into film primarily as an FX artist, I literally had to start from Square One. After all, theatrical work doesn't show up on the IMDB and it's a very different ballgame anyway. So I worked on short films and video projects. Some actually gave me an IMDB credit, some didn't, and quite a few I don't think ever made it out of post.

I didn't start getting paid work as an FX artist until a few years later. Prior to that, I was literally paying to work... taking on the expense of traveling and lodging which easily ran me an upwards of $100/day, and I often paid for most of my own supplies because the production didn't know how to budget for special effects.

And, like it was in the theatre, it eventually paid off as my demo reel expanded and people started talking about my work. But I'm still not rolling in the big bucks regularly and with the volunteer work I still put in there are some months that I sweat over the bills because my expenses end up being higher than I expected.

Yes, you read that right. I still volunteer for small projects sometimes when I think that I can afford to.

I am very fortunate to have a family who is very supportive of my career goals. I can't imagine being able to accomplish as much as I do if they were nagging me about spending too much money or spending too much time on my work and away from home.

I know a lot of people who are trying to get their careers going who are not as fortunate as I.

Most of them have spouses or families who aren't involved in the field themselves and just don't understand "the bug" or don't like being left alone. Others opted to take a demanding job outside of "the biz" and thought that they could advance their dream careers as "weekend warriors".

I really can't offer my infamous brutal honesty to these people without sounding like a horrible person.

Truth is, I wouldn't be married if my husband was the type who would get angry or upset at me for putting so much time into pursuing my dreams. As it is, he shares the bug so that's never been an issue. However, I have dated people who had the typical White Picket Fence dreams and I knew that I wasn't the right person to be cast there and told them so.

I also know a few actors who have really long work resumes because they pick up temporary jobs between films (regardless of if it is paid filmwork or not.) Others, like myself, found ways to cash in on their other skills to become self-employed and literally make their own schedules in order to work around film gigs. Granted, they aren't driving the nicest cars or living in the best neighborhoods, but they are in fact building their careers in film-making.

I am by no means saying that if you put 125% of your time, money, and effort into a career in film-making that you'll be a success. There just aren't any guarantees. However, your chances do improve significantly if you're willing to make those sacrifices unto the Film Gods*.

Hitchcock willing, praise be unto him.**

*I'm not exactly sure who the "Film Gods" are or what the tenets to the general religion of film-makers are, but I've been on quite a few sets where the "Film Gods" were mentioned. Furthermore, there seems to be some dispute within the various factions as to whether or not there is only one true Film God and his identity. Some say Spielberg, others swear by Coppola, and the purists insist that it is Orson Wells.

** Well, if I must choose a famous director. But Tom Savini is still my patron saint.

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