Are you a REAL filmmaker – or just a pretend one ..?

Once again, the concept of the “passion project” and its associated “we-have-no-money-but-we’ll-give-you-credits-and-feed-you” thing has popped up on more occasions than normal.

Maybe its COVID giving too much free time. Maybe its just lack of common sense. Maybe its opportunism. Either way, once again it needs to be called out for what it is…

If you have a “passion” for a project, it is YOUR passion. No-one else’s. And so expecting others to dip into their valuable time (and therefore monetary value, as time IS money) is simply wrong.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again; if a bunch of mates get together and decide to create something for shits and giggles to put in a film festival, or just for the sheer fun of it, all well and good. That is a joint decision. And all power to you. And for publication I’d love to hear about it, how you do it, the successes and the failures.

But if you want to put something together based on your ideas / script / whatever, and actively pursue others via social media or other means to get involved, then you cannot expect to get their resources such as time, equipment and expertise for nothing.

It is immoral and wrong.

I have heard and seen so many excuses (and supposed reasoning) as to why this is OK, and even A Good Thing. And none of them wash with me.

Sure, if you WANT to prostitute yourself, and work for someone else’s ideas for nix on some vague promise or another, go for it. But in over 15 years of publishing Australian Videocamera magazine, and many more years before that as an editor of similar magazines and websites, I can say that in most cases, all the promises of “exposure” and future payments come to nought.

In short, you generally have been used to bolster the ego of someone who has an idea but little sense of how it all works in the real world.

Ergo, a waste of your time and expertise.

Movies, documentaries, sitcoms and the like that make money do so through very careful planning and collaboration with accountants, marketing people, lawyers, expert producers and so on.

Very little risk is taken.

They are not via the whim of someone who wants to make the next zombie movie, LGBTQI heartbreak flick, “noire” piece or other thing they have rustled up in their mind.

(Yeah, yeah I know there are exceptions such as Blair Witch, but I bet even that was not just a backyard idea and had a machine behind it).

As a film writer / producer, if you want folk to contribute, give their all, put their expertise into the pot and have the same passion you do, show YOUR commitment to it by paying them what they are worth. These people have a major investment in their equipment such as cameras, sound gear, lighting, editing software and plugins and other kit. This all has to be amortized and paid for.

Why should they give all that they have sweated to buy to you for nothing?

The same goes for your actors as well as the ones on set who give their skills in directing, makeup, design, costumes, creating sets, electricians, armourers when needed and whatnot.

Some vague notion they’ll get a buck or two back just does not cut it. They too have to pay rent, buy food, but fuel in the car, put kids through school, cough up for medical expenses and more.

They should not have to still do all this and work for you for nuffin’ whilst you play pretend Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, Tarantino or Hitchcock to satisfy your ego.

If your script is actually worth something and can make a serious buck and therefore make a return on investment, then investors, proper investors, will fund you.

Stop playing “pretend” filmmaker and become a real one. Not the alternative which I have seen time and time again, and everyone will benefit.

As against leaving a sour taste in the mouth of your “volunteers” and the feeling of being used. They won’t come back when you might REALLY need them.

Flame away in the comments!


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