Tag Archives: anti-capitalism

STARVING THE ARTIST


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Ok… ok… ok… this is an off the dome rant… One that can be seen as a selfish weak ass piece of shit but it’s how i feel sometimes… A lot of times… Most times… To be honest all the time… For those who give a shit about true politically and artistically radical independent filmmaking the price of my film MACHETERO is dropping on this Grito De Lares from $5.99 for a 48 hour rental to $2… and from $10 to download and own to $5… So now the price should be a smaller hurdle to get over… This is an experiment for me to see if people are actually interested in this kind of filmmaking, story, artistic experimentation, politic, etc… etc…

Maybe the price is a problem… Maybe it’s not… Maybe i’m bad at marketing and promotion… Maybe i need someone who is someone, to say that i am someone, for you to believe that this is something you should watch… Maybe it’s some of those things or a combination of those things or none of those things or all of those things…

If just one person a day rented MACHETERO at the original price of $5.99 i would make $5 a day which is about $150 a month… If one person a day bought MACHETERO at the original price of $10 i would make $9 a day which is about $270 a month… If both those things were to happen a day i would make about $420 a month… $420 a month comes out to about $5000 a year… MACHETERO cost $16,000 to make… A rental and purchase a day at $420 a month comes to about $5000 a year, which means the film can recoup its cost in approximately three years and three months… After another three years at those rates of rentals and purchases i could afford to give $1000 back to all of the key personnel who worked for free to make the film… And none of those people are expecting to get paid… so how nice would it be to get a thousand dollars for a film you worked on six years ago for free…?

Why should i try and make some money off a revolutionary film that calls for the ouster of the us colonial government in Puerto Rico…? Because we live in a capitalist society and as much as i would love to give my film away for free that doesn’t help me survive within this capitalist structure… It doesn’t help me to make another film which i have to make… Why?

Because i didn’t choose to make films or be a filmmaker… Filmmaking chose me… How do i know this…? Because i’ve tried to quit time and time again… Like Michael Corleone said in Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in”, thats me and filmmaking… i love making films… and i could give a shit if anyone likes them or the saw them… But the nature of capitalism is that you need to make money off of what you love and so this is where i fail miserably… And maybe, purposely because i’m an anti-capitalist… So maybe this boo-hoo, woe is me, cry me a fucken river bullshit rant is just all my own fault and has nothing to do with anyone else… i can’t take the blame for it, but i can take the responsibility for it… There’s a difference but i’ll let you tease that out…

Anyway… this is an experiment… Let’s see what happens… It’s obvious i’m not in this for the money… i just dropped the price of the rental and purchase price of the film… No one would do that if i they were in it for the money… Shit with the hours i work making a film i could make more money working minimum wage at Mickey D’s… So let’s see how it all shakes out… Fuck it… if nothing comes of this it won’t be because i tried… and failed… and tired again… and failed… and tried again… and failed… and tried again…

And now a word from our sponsor… This bullshit whine fest is brought to you by MACHETERO on Vimeo On Demand… what’s that mean…? It means Vimeo is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, Playstation, X-Box and Roku if you want to watch on your TV at home (which as a filmmaker i highly suggest since it’s the closest you’ll come to a theatrical experience)… Vimeo is also available on your phone, tablet and computer…

And to those who have rented or purchased MACHETERO already i thank you for your support… It means more than you can know… And it goes further than you can imagine…

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1AF

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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

May Day Agit-Prop


Renew Your Resistance

Over the years i’ve created a lot agit-prop for various struggles for freedom… i thought it would be a good idea to collect some of that work that i felt was in keeping with the spirit of May Day… Here is a collection that is free to use on a non-profit basis… i only ask that you include the credit “vagabond ©”… Consider it an ongoing gift to the struggle…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1mM

John Penley Anarcho Yippie Pt. 1


JOHN PENLEY ANARCHO YIPPIE by vagabond ©
JOHN PENLEY ANARCHO YIPPIE by vagabond ©

John Penley is an Anarcho Yippie is a new web series that i’m launching today with a new episode coming each week for the next few weeks. The story of how John became an Anarcho Yippie and what an Anarcho Yippie is, has everything to do with NYC in the 1980’s… John first moved to the Lower East Side of New York City in 1985 and became a freelance photojournalist. His photos were featured in all the daily newspapers like the The Daily News, The NY Post, The New York Times and many other publications. His archive of some 30,000 images was recently acquired by the Tamimnet Library at NYU.

At the end of the summer of 2011 John became homeless. Since then he’s been a part of various Occupy movements in New York, Washington DC, and Asheville NC. In March of 2013 John returned to New York to work on his archive in the library. In true Anarcho Yippie fashion John is also holding a protest against NYU by sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the library that houses his archive to bring attention to NYU’s contribution to the rapid gentrification to the Lower East Side and it’s planned expansion into Greenwich Village. In this episode John talks about his days as a photojournalist and how he came to NYC after serving a federal prison term for jumping bail to join the Yippies on Bleecker Street.

Tune in next week for Part 2 of John Penley Anarcho Yippie…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-12o

Puerto Rican PSA#1


Puerto Rican PSA#1 by  Lisa Gonzalez Sanchez & vagabond ©
Puerto Rican PSA#1 by Lisa Gonzalez Sanchez & vagabond ©

A T-shirt of the DEFIENDE LO TUYO is available from RICANSTRUCTED

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-V6

From Kandahar To Kindergarten


America Opens Pandora's Box
America Opens Pandora’s Box by vagabond

“In defense of humans
Lay down your sticks and stones
Weapons and violence are better off left alone
Cause you don’t rise when people fall

I see you rot this world
I see you ride this world
I see you rape this world
On, off, on, off, on, off
And I don’t like what I see
Greed
You don’t rise when people fall
Fugazi – from the song In Defense Of Humans

From its inception America decided to open Pandora’s box in the name of financial profit… They opened Pandora’s box and out came the genocide of Native people for their land. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade to profit off the lives and labor of others also came out of the box. The flimsy excuses to go to wars that line the pockets of the military industrial complex also came out of that box. The zombie capitalism that allowed profit to be a guiding cultural principal in America also came rushing out of that box.

These ills that came streaming out of Pandora’s box were opened because financial benefit was to be made and to hell with whatever consequences followed… And when the naked horror of the consequences rears up its ugly head we search for ways to close the box without ever trying to put what came out, back in… But there is no closing Pandora’s box… Not without a paradigm shift in thinking from capitalism (which is profit, at any cost) to something humane, something sustainable… Something that works for the many instead of something that works for the few…

While we reflect on the recent tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, and search our souls for some solace i propose that surest way to go about that is to investigate the history of violence that has shaped America into a death culture and it’s connection to making a profit at any cost. This country has a long history of placing financial profit over life. It was founded on that principle with the Native American genocide for land. Built upon with the enslavement of Africans. Expanded with war into imperialistic adventurism from Mexico to Puerto Rico and continues today in places like Afghanistan. i’m not trying to belittle or set side the Newton massacre, on the contrary, i’m trying to expand it, to have it be thought of and included within a larger context of ongoing tragedy’s that we have refused to either connect or recognize.

The occasional outburst of random senseless violence that bursts forth into our consciousness like the recent Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting and the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting and this latest tragedy in Newtown Connecticut should be a wake up call to us. There’s writing on the wall in each of these incidents. A writing on the wall that we’re refusing to read because of the unease it’ll bring. The issue isn’t about gun control or gun laws it’s about placing the desire of financial profit above everything else. The problem is that laws created to control gun ownership curb the profits of gun corporations. Capitalism is God in America and nothing gets in the way of God in America.

Nothing is allowed to get in the way of making a dollar in America, not the delicate balance of the eco-system, not the unlivable wages paid by corporations at the expense of obscene profits, not the homelessness that is created by banks foreclosing on homes, not the maiming or death of soldiers that comes from the profiteering of the military industrial complex, not the privatization of prisons for profit and the link to increased prison population in times of low crime, nothing gets in the way of making a dollar in America. The guiding principle of placing profit above people in America is what makes the culture of America a death culture. The examples of this death culture abound…

The BP oil disaster placed profit above the lives of people. The government can’t afford to oversee these oil rigs properly but it can afford to subsidize the fossil fuel industry at the cost of billions to create record making profits for oil companies. Eleven people died on that BP oil rig, and untold number of wildlife, not to mention the destruction of an entire eco-system.

The company with the most employees on federal assistance programs in the US, like Food Stamps, is the low wage, part-time employment machine known as Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart pays its employees a substandard wage forcing them to seek federal assistance to survive. In essence, the federal government is subsidizing the billions of dollars in profits made by Wal-Mart by helping to feed its low wage employees.

The banks who became to big to fail capitalize their profits and socialize their risks. Their failures become our responsibility, we absorb their risk and bail them out. Our reward for that, is to be turned out of our homes in foreclosures and made homeless so that the bank ledger turns from red to black. Our misery quickly becomes their profit.

Nobody loves a war like the military industrial complex because it means multi-billion dollar profits. For the soldiers who are fighting that war it means asking their families for money to get the body armor they lack. In the meantime the federal money used for war that could have been spent on domestic needs like education or infrastructure or health care is fattening the pockets of private military contractors who seem to never lack for body armor or anything else…

The privatization of prisons all across the country for profit has seen an explosion in prison construction and in the prison population. The fact that the crime rate all across the country is at an all time statistical low is of no consequence. Crime statistics are ignored in order to fill the coffers of the prison industrial complex.

There’s money to be made at every turn in this death culture, even in these shootings that take place from time to time. In 1999 at Columbine thirteen were shot and killed, in 2007 thirty-two were shot and killed at Virginia Tech, in 2008 five were shot and killed at Northern Illinois University, in that same year thirteen were shot and killed in an immigrant center in Binghamton NY. In 2011 in Arizona a congress woman and six others were shot and killed, including a child. In April of 2012 seven were shot and killed at Oikos University, in July of 2012 twelve were shot and killed in a movie theater in Aurora and in August of 2012, six were shot and killed in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Each time there is a massacre there’s talk of gun control but no talk of the death culture that permeates American society… No discussion on limiting the ability to procure profits that are built on tragedy, in massacre, in war, in prison, in homelessness, in unsustainable wages, in hunger… Meanwhile there are 310 million guns in America and 312 million Americans… There’s money to be made in guns and the price we pay for these massacres could just be the price of doing business for gun manufacturers…

When the US sends out drones to “surgically” drop a bomb in order to kill a terrorist hiding in a village in Kandahar and a few others die in the process this is called “collateral damage” by the war machine profiteers and their lackeys in the media… In Kandahar they call that “collateral damage” mother, father, son, daughter, grandfather, grandmother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend… The fallout of the slaughter that takes place in Columbine and Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, and in Binghamton NY and in Arizona and in Okios University, and in Aurora and in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and yes even in a school in Newtown Connecticut is also called mother, father, son, daughter, grandfather, grandmother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend… But on the balance sheets of the military industrial complex and the gun manufacturers, the victims of these massacres is listed as “collateral damage” to the profits of a death culture…

And this may be why the questions that are posed by these massacres are so difficult to answer… When you are forced to look for an answer within the current paradigm of American death culture, where profits trump life, then there is no answer to be found… Pandora’s box can’t be closed again and what has escaped can never be put back in the box within the current paradigm of thinking… If you’re looking for an answer within the system as it’s currently designed you’ll only find it in more dead bodies… Until there is a radical shift in the legal profiting off of the misfortune and misery of others, there will be no answer that will prevent another massacre. Until there isn’t a profit in America’s death culture the body count will continue to climb from Kandahar to Kindergarten…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-Ti

Threats Become Promises


Now That There's Justice There Can Be Peace by vagabond ©
Now That There’s Justice There Can Be Peace by vagabond ©

threats become promises
you still have time
to lay down your greed
and raise your hands
to surrender
and assume the position
of the guilty
consider this
your last warning
your final notice
you were duly warned
when we marched and screamed
no justice without peace

but you believe too much
in your hubris
and now slogans
must become threats
and threats
must become promises
that fill the nostrils
with gasoline and smoke
to be laid out
like victory wreaths
on the smoldering ruins
of the foundations
where your excess once stood

– vagabond

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-SA