The Filmmaker Who Became a Verb

By August 17, 2016Directing, Production

apocalypse-now At the end of the documentary, “Hearts of Darkness”, about the making of “Apocalypse Now”, Francis Coppola said he hoped that the advent of affordable 8 mm film cameras meant that film making would be taken up by the masses and become an art rather than big business. He specifically said “a little fat girl in Ohio” might become a great filmmaker. Sigh. But that’s okay. I love what he meant.

…even though we lack budgets and experience, we indie filmmakers may still know when to Edgar Wright it, David Lynch it, or Catherine Breillat it.

I may not exactly be a little fat girl from Ohio, but I have suffered the twists and turns of fate that many women and men do when their intention was to pursue an art. My confidence has been shaken and my resolve dissolved. The first time I hired a DP is a case in point. I was directing a short film I had written and was paying for. This is what my DP said to me over two days of a short film:

“I don’t care about the story. I just care how it looks.”

“This shot is the only reason I agreed to shoot this movie.”

“I’ll do it your way, but I want you to take my name out of the credits.”

It is hard for me to tell this story, because the immediate assumption a listener might make – or the one that I fear – is that perhaps I am a hack and this DP was drowning in my ineptitude. I suppose only history can answer that question, but I am an autodidact and I have taste, so even though we lack budgets and experience, we indie filmmakers may still know when to Edgar Wright it, David Lynch it, or Catherine Breillat it.

I was gratified to hear Justin Lin make the following argument when talking about making Star Trek:

The thing that I love about film making is that when you do an indie movie, the passion becomes the currency — because nobody signs up to work on that movie unless they really believe in it…and the challenge that I faced when I went into the studio system was that money was the currency, you know? And for me, that’s not really acceptable. If we’re going to show up, let’s have fun. Let’s really push each other. And there has to be a voice. There has to be a point of view. Without it, it’s not really worth going and spending 24/7 for 18 months trying to make this film.

I like to think – oh the daring – that I might have the privilege of Carla Siegle-ing it once in awhile. After all, what is an indie writer/director if not a voice, however small?