KNOWLEDGE IS POWER?
When we started Filmmaker, one of the key lines in our mission statement was that we were “demystifying” the process of feature film production. It’s still a key tenet of the magazine and the philosophy behind it has remained unchanged: by giving filmmakers the information on how films are financed, produced, sold and distributed, we’re helping enable newcomers to enter the filmmaking process and realize their visions.
But is it really necessary for first-time filmmakers to know all about these things? By that I mean, isn’t a healthy amount of denial and willful ignorance essential to the process of getting a film made? From experience, I can say that it certainly is when it comes to no-budget production. When you make a film for no money, it’s helpful for the producers to not know that people are hired to do those things.
I know and have worked with directors who read the trades, analyze every deal and try to figure out where they sit on the crest of the market. And then I’ve worked with directors who remain, by either deliberate choice or a simple inability to grasp the bigger picture, clueless about the rhythms and rules of the marketplace. And while I don’t think it’s fruitful for a director to sit on either extreme, I’m also not sure what the best ratio of utopic optimism and reality-based pessimism is for a director. How much of each helps a director get a film made? And how much of either is needed to survive the process afterwards with ego and self-respect intact?