August 24th, 2016
Three weeks ago, I wrapped post-production on my first feature film, The Wasting. A half hour later, when it was at last safe to, I got sick. Sprawl-on-the-couch-for-weeks, hack-up-a-lung sick. The doctor called it a bacterial sinus infection. I call it giving everything you have to a film for years, so there’s nothing left to hold you up when it’s over.
Some people like to talk about having skin in the game. I have skin in this game. And bones. And other assorted body parts, or their metaphorical equivalents. That’s how important it was for me to make The Wasting.
Back a few Septembers ago, when I decided to stop waiting for permission to make my film, and just make it, I wasn’t even sure why I’d waited so long, except that it was The Way Things Are Done. Suddenly, that seemed dumb. The Way Things Are Done isn’t a good model for a lot of people – filmmakers or otherwise - and it definitely wasn’t working for me.
People, including the permission-givers, liked my script. But between the hemming and the hawing over this being my first crack at directing a feature (despite all the related stuff I’d done) it looked like it might take 400 years to get the cameras rolling. Who has 400 years? Not me. I’d already put in the time upfront to create a solid script with the principles of low-budget filmmaking in mind. It was time to pull the trigger.
So I did. I’m happy I did, because now I have a finished film, and it’s quite beautiful and we are all very proud of it. But I’ll tell you, I had to put so much skin in this game that I’m holding myself together with binder twine and tight dresses.
I sold half my worldly goods to pay to shoot a trailer that helped to raise private financing. I can’t say enough good things about those investors/exec producers. I ran a crowdfunding campaign, a job that consumed four months of my life. I can’t say enough good things about our supporters, but man, I hope I never have to crowdfund again. What a tough slog! I spent two years giving 18-hour days to this film. If you do the maths, you’ll know that left six hours for sleep. I gave up other work to focus on this, I gave up my house, I slept on couches for months, all to make this work.
This isn’t particularly unusual, by the way. This is how indie films get made. (Useful knowledge to have if you are right now 20 years old and trying to choose between film school and accounting.)
I wasn’t alone. I had two super producing partners, a crew that went to the wall for this film, an editor that dug in and dug in and dug in till we had it right, an online post team that worked overtime to make it look and sound gorgeous. Without them, I’d likely be dead, rather than just skinless.
And you know what? I would do it all again. And when you see The Wasting, you’ll know why. It was worth every scraped-away dermal layer. And I can’t wait to start my next film. It's called Island West, and I think you're going to like it.
Now, somebody hand me the potato peeler.
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Writer, director, storyteller, animal lover, defender of the downtrodden, night swimmer, cookie baker, hopeless wanderer