Today, I'm talking to you as a producer. An indie producer, who in the past year, made an award-winning short film, a web series, and a feature film - all for less than $30,000.
$10,000 of that money was raised through Indiegogo.
$15,000 of that money was an investor who saw my short and believed in the feature sequel enough to cut me a check.
$5,000+ of that money (and I'm not counting the $6,242 bond that the Screen Actors Guild is STILL holding to...) is MY money.
I'm trying to raise money for X-RATED (the "Porn Brat Pack" biopic) which will cost us $450,000, HELL HOUSE, which is currently budgeted at $650,000 and THE MARKED which was last budgeted at $1.5 million.
I've been on more pitch meetings than I can count. I have jumped on planes and flown to cities all over the country, thinking THIS is the investor that will cut the check. Every single day there is an email that says, "I'm 90% sure this guy is going to fund the entire movie." But until those big checks clear, I will continue to beg, borrow and steal.
Until that day comes, I continue to have to find ways to make films on a nothing budget and beg editors, visual effects people, hair and make-up people, production assistants, musicians, to all work for free or peanuts, because "the talent" are part of a guild that dictates they all get paid a certain rate, plus pension and health.
I get it... I'M the one stupid enough to be making films in California, as opposed to a right to work state like Georgia and that's the way it is. "I can't believe you would ask actors to work for free!" I'VE been working for free and in debt for over a year. I'm the one writing, producing, directing, birthing and raising these beasts. I'm NOT asking talent work for free. I found the money to pay them.
I'M ASKING FOR THE TALENT I PAY TO DO THEIR JOB AND PROMOTE THEMSELVES.
When a producer ASKS you to tweet or Facebook about an upcoming screening at a film festival or "could you tweet about our indiegogo campaign," they aren't really asking you to JUST tweet a link, they are asking you to get involved in the project.
Unless you are a "name" actor with hundreds of television and film credits, there's no excuse for you not supporting the projects you are in.
Case in point: the indiegogo campaign for BIRTHDAY CAKE. We only raised $2,500. I just went back through the "funders" and $2,400 of that money was from MY friends and family. The campaign lasted longer than a month (Indiegogo extended a number of campaigns because of the hurricane).
I shot videos, I posted, I emailed, I begged.
I also swore I would never do indiegogo again.
Very few of my actors actually even posted the link to the campaign and I would say 85% of my actors in GROOM'S CAKE never even post the links to the upcoming film festivals, which BLOWS MY FREAKING MIND because YOU ARE IN THE MOVIE and the movie IS WINNING AWARDS!
I did have a few actors donate money themselves to the campaign. But it's mindblowing to think that I have people who never once posted about it and they were in the videos we shot begging for money.
Alternately: I had one actress who I cast in PROJECT: PHOENIX who emailed me before we started shooting BIRTHDAY CAKE and said, "I believe in the project. I would like to invest (a rather large amount of money) to be on set and watch you produce. I want to learn." Instead of taking her money, I gave her credit and she handled nearly 90% of all of our on-set logistics. She handled our catering, all the purchases... nearly every logistical aspect of the film. When a role opened up, I cast her in it. But we couldn't have done the film without her.
Another actor, who had seen the pilot of PROJECT: PHOENIX (after the Indiegogo campaign had ended) saw a role in the breakdowns that he could not be less appropriate for. The role called for a NSA Agent who was big, beefy soldier. He submitted. I ignored him. He started following me on Twitter. He taped himself AS an NSA Agent doing a monologue. It's not what the role was, but I had already decided I was going to cast him as a different role, simply because he kept writing to me about how he wanted to be a part of the series. Before I even offered it to him, he wrote me and said, "I know this might seem weird, but I really believe in this web series and I want to invest in it." He didn't ask for a role. I didn't take his money. But I gave him the role anyways.
I would much rather work with people who have a vested interest in the project and fight to be a part of it, than people who show up late, I spend five minutes trying to locate ON set, and annoy the living hell out of me.
I am very generous to people that I know when it comes to crowd-sourcing. I just went back through Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns that I helped fund over the past year and I donated A LOT of money to people. A lot of people who in turn, DIDN'T DONATE A DIME TO ME. To me, this is actually a relief, because I know in the future, I don't have to donate to them again.
And what people don't seem to understand that whether you're donating $10 or $1,000, it adds up. You're helping support filmmakers and independent film. And usually there are fun perks that come with that.
But actors need to realize that when you get on board a project, you have to support it. AND WHY WOULDN'T YOU? You're in it!? I don't understand talent that don't self-promote. And if you are an actor who doesn't self-promote, please let me know so I don't ever cast you. Producers need actors to TALK ABOUT THE PROJECTS THEY ARE DOING.
I attended close to a dozen film festivals last year, all on my own dime. At every festival, I would talk up my actors. "So and so is doing this film..." "Next month so and so is in this show..." And it's so frustrating to not have talent even put a status update, "Hey, if you're in Kansas City or have friends out there, tell them to check out my short! It's really great and winning a lot of awards!"
Instead, I feel like Julia Roberts in SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT when she's ranting like a crazy person outside the bar when she sees her husband cheating on her, "I CAN SEE YOU!!" I can see when you are not doing anything to promote your own work because I follow you on Twitter and we're friends on Facebook!
And I'm not talking about professing accolades onto the people that are making the film. You don't have to say, "So much fun on set today with (insert filmmaker here)." But if there IS a campaign, write your friends. Post about it. Tell them why you're doing it. Tell them about how excited you are about doing it.
And this just isn't about crowd-sourcing and tweeting about screenings. It goes to simply SHOWING UP for your fellow artists. Go see their shows. If they host a night of musical numbers, go and support them. If they have a project that you really believe in, TALK ABOUT IT.
This whole post is what makes me miss Atlanta more than anything. When I was doing theatre in Atlanta, everyone supported each other. We shared sets, actors, costumes. We went to each others show. This was before Twitter and Facebook, so we would all meet up at Manuel's Tavern and each theatre had a table. It was about COLLABORATION.
I'm only ever interested in working in collaboration. I don't have time for anything other than collaboration. I only work with good, kind, smart, talented people who know what they are doing and respect me.
Success begets success.
And if you choose not to, that's fine too. It's your prerogative.
Just don't be surprised when that filmmaker chooses to not include you in any upcoming projects. If you're not going to support the filmmaker, the filmmaker is not going to support YOU.