Last shot photo by Omar

Death Art And Taxes


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“We have art in order not to die.”
– Nietzsche

i’ve come to understand that filmmaking for me is not something i do or something that i want to do… It’s not some hobby or a means to making a living (i definitely am not making money with filmmaking).. Filmmaking for me is survival… If i go long periods where i don’t make a film my soul literally gets sick… i feel uneasy with myself and with the world…

For a long time i was afraid of admitting to myself that this was the case because being a filmmaker reeks of privilege… It’s an expensive art and to say that you need it to live seemed pretentious, seemed abusive in some way… Abusive because filmmaking requires so much of me and by making demands on my time and energy and finances and it also has the potential to take away from those who love and support me in the form of time and energy and finances… And if they are to continue loving and supporting me they have to accept that i need to make films…

It seems completely unfair… Having me in your life means understanding that i need to make films in order to be sane… That understanding carries with it some level of time and energy and sacrifice on that persons part… In some cases it may even require you to understand that i may hit you up financially to get my next film fix on…

That seems to me to be completely unfair to loved ones… i feel as though my whole life is going to be lived in debt… Not just a financial debt… (i’m an anti-capitalist… i don’t give a fuck about money…) But a physical debt, a spiritual debt, a debt of time and energy that i feel can never be repaid in full… i’m always surprised when friends and family continue to stand by me while i go off into the next project… i live in a kind of low-level constant fear that if i don’t “make it” (whatever that means) that they will abandon me…

To make matters worse the films i make are probably not commercially viable… i’m not in control of my filmmaking… i didn’t choose to be a filmmaker… When i was younger i thought i had chosen to do film… But i didn’t… Filmmaking chose me… i know this because i’ve tried to quit and painfully realized over the years that quitting it means quitting on a huge part of myself… Letting go of that large a part of myself would just mean being someone else… And how can you be someone else…?

Not being in control of my filmmaking means that the films take hold of me and use me to bring them into creation… More often than not that means i’m not making a film that has some financial reward attached to it… Which means that i’m forced to try to find some other value for those who contribute their time and energy and life force to my films… They need something in return, after all it’s only fair…

“Nobody rides for free… motherfucker.”
– King Of New York

The 800 pound gorilla that lives in a room inside my head is the financial hardships my filmmaking brings not just on me but on the ones who love and support me and it’s something i don’t take lightly because it wears on me more than i can ever express… The financial burden of it all envelopes my existence on a daily basis… There’s not a single day that goes by that i am not searching in my mind for a way to lift the friends and family who have donated their time and energy (and yes even money) to my films with some kind of financial remuneration…

It’s gotten to the point where i feel like that 800 pound gorilla has taken my head as collateral and is demanding payment for every film i want to make… Demanding some kind of potential financial reward for every project i embark on… The more i try to put it off the more collateral it takes in the form of space in my head… The more it tries to crowd out any other thoughts, the more it demands a larger sum for the space it claims in my thought process… The financial aspects of filmmaking are like a virus that’s overtaking my system and only “making it”, only making money will cure the disease… My mind is literally being colonized by the idea that i must monetize the thing that helps keep me sane, that keeps me able to deal with the world…

Capitalism sucks… The problem with living within a capitalist society is that everything must be monetized… Including art…  Its taken me all these years to become mildly comfortable with the idea that art and money are two separate things. If i said i was a writer and i needed to write in order to stay sane and alive it would be understood. If i said i was a painter and i needed to paint in order to stay sane and alive it would be understood. If i was a singer or a musician and needed to my make music in order to keep me sane and alive it would be understood.

However when it comes to filmmaking the idea of needing to make a film in order to stay sane and alive seems a harder concept to grasp because it requires so much capital to make a film… And that idea isn’t just harder to grasp for everyone else but for me as well… Becoming comfortable with the idea that my sanity and my life depends on making films is difficult for me to process, difficult for me to swallow… Even a no budget film requires some capital even if that capital is the time and energy it takes to make it. And if that capital of time and energy is being spent on making a film then it’s not being spent on creating capital for myself or others… And so i have struggled with the elitism of needing to make a film in order to stay sane and alive…

“And to all my friends
who’ve been the best to me
Soon will be the day
I’ll repay you handsomely”
– Big Audio Dynamite

It’s all coming to a head though… i’m maturing enough to understand that being an anti-capitalist in this capitalist world means being forced into living the contradiction… It means learning to balance the idea of doing something for love without abusing the ones who support you… It means learning to weigh your idealism against your reality… It means walking the tight rope of keeping your options open to selling your art to keep your soul and your self intact and in doing so maybe on a certain level keeping the soul and self of everyone who supported you along the way intact as well…

They say only two things in life are unavoidable – death and taxes… But for artist’s it’s much more complicated… For artists it’s death, art and taxes… Usually when people say taxes they mean paying the state a portion of your “earned” wages… But it’s all taxes to me… The concern for me as to how i will make a living is taxing… The concern of my friends and how they will make “a living” is taxing… The idea of “making it” so that my friends and my family don’t ever have to explain why they stand by me (not that i know if they do have to explain or not but i imagine that they do) is taxing… The 800 pound gorilla in my head collateralizing more and more of my thoughts and energies is a tax…

i’m finding it hard to find a way to end this little essay of self-indulgence… It was not my intent when i started writing this to say any of what i have said… My intent was to write about the joy of making another film with a new camera and how much it pushed away all the sorrow and hurt and depression and bad feelings i have been living with for so long since i was last shooting a film… i guess it’s difficult to write about the joy filmmaking brings me without talking about the pain it also brings…

Look at the picture at the top… That smile is me at my happiest… me at my most joyful… Look at the crew… Jeff “AK” my DP with the long board that double as our dolly, Omar’s daughter Mo, on my right shoulder (who is the star of this latest short film) seeing her work for the first time that night… Joe my producer who doubled as the sound man with his daughter Soliann finally seeing the fruits of our insanity… And Omar who is also a filmmaker and took the production stills, who i know is feeling good because he has a camera in his hands… Even the strangers – the woman looking over my head and the young girl in the background with the baseball hat on – are curious about what could be so important and what could be making so many people happy to on that little screen…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1pz

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