This is Part One of an interview I did with John Gaspard awhile back for his blog Fast Cheap Movie Thoughts (http://fastcheapmoviethoughts.blogspot.com/) It’s a good site, check it out.
Why are you angry?
I’m angry for a lot of reasons. I’m pissed that good films can’t get distributors because they don’t have stars. I am angry that all sorts of Hollywood 5 and 10 million dollar pictures are called “independent” when they’re not. I’m angry because a lot of doors have been closed to Real Independent Filmmakers and very few filmmakers seem to care. I see filmmakers give their movies to distributors for nothing, no advance. If you don’t get an advance you’ll probably never see any money!
I see too many people wanting to be filmmakers for the wrong reasons, to make lots of money and to be famous. And filmmakers aren’t working together to help each other. So many independent filmmakers from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were going to change the system, and now they are part of it. They are more interested in money and being critical darlings then fighting the system the way they once were. They have been sucked in to the system and most went down without a fight.
What’s wrong with independent film today?
The independent film industry is no longer even remotely independent. It’s been mainstreamed by
Hollywood and is now simply another over-hyped product. Like commercial radio, pop music and Starbucks coffee, the industry has become a homogenized mess of conglomerates owned by a
handful of extremely powerful corporations. It begs the question: Independent from what?
We need to take the word “Independent” back!
Indie has become a marketing phrase. I have a tough time sitting through a ten million dollar “indie” movie. I want people to recognize that “indie” doesn’t mean stars and all of that other
crap. WE are Independent Filmmakers” and WE make movies whether WE have a deal or not. I want to see more theaters and media art centers providing places for us to show our work,
instead of just giving us lip service about how they support independent film. I am fed up with these “independent” film festivals that show all these movies with big names in them.
Real Independent Films are still being made; they just don’t have access to audiences. I always say that independent filmmaking is a live and well, it’s independent distribution that is dead. You have to play by the industry’s rules to get your film seen if you want a decent sized audience.
I opt to do things differently. Like early punk bands we have to find our audiences and cultivate them. That’s why I spend half the year on the road touring and showing my films.
I’ve told filmmakers forever to never put their films on credit cards. Give me your best argument against that habit.
I’ll use my own experience for this one.
I spent a ton of money on my first feature, Birddog. A lot of people told me they would help me get distribution when I made my first feature. I believed them and I probably shouldn’t have. I was the Sound Designer on films like Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, Far From Heaven and Finding Forrester. I had my “indie street cred” but that didn’t seem to matter ultimately. I had a screening for friends in LA and everyone liked the movie, then they told me how hard it was to get a distributor and they all walked away.
No one helped. So I arranged screenings for distributors, I screened in LA, New York, Toronto and London. We also had it at the IFFM. The distributors all said the same thing, “We really like this movie but we can’t distribute it because it has no famous stars in it”. I told them it was an independent film and they said that was fine, but if you make an “independent” film you still need a big star in it.
Anyway, I ended up owing a ton of money to the IRS… Since all of these people had said they were going to help me find a distributor I took all of the money I should have paid in taxes and used that to fund the film. When it didn’t get picked up … I still owed the money. It took my lawyer and I seven years of dealing with the IRS to finally get everything straightened out. Ultimately I had to sell my home of twenty years and just about everything I owned. It was hell!
I gambled and I lost. I understand that. I listened to certain people that I shouldn’t have trusted. Ultimately it was my fault. I made the decisions and I paid the price. I don’t want others to go through what I did.
There is no guarantee you will get a distributor, (if you want one), and most people end up paying off their movies working jobs that they hate at 30% interest.
Don’t use credit cards or go way in to debt; if you do you’ll be one of those people.
I’ll post Part 2 later in the week. Check back.