See this video with the dude running with the football? That’s what film producing is like.
I have never liked football. But watching someone race to the finish line while flaying off obstacles left and right is inspiring and life-giving.
Today, I have a meeting with a music composer. I don’t like to discuss who it is unless we’re going to collaborate. As I do my homework to prepare everything for the meeting, I began to have flashbacks of this football thing.
Filmmaking is scary. From an entrepreneurial perspective, it is a very serious business investment. Every businessperson that goes into a new investment carries with him a lot of risks. There’s always an impasse that an investor hits when they’ve gone so deep into the deal that they can no longer turn around. They have to finish it out, and that is what producing is like.
There are moments during production where I felt myself getting deeper into something I wasn’t sure I could handle. All the obstacles I was encountering hinged upon basically losing almost everything. And despite the rings of fire and feeling like the cold hands of death had grazed the nape of my neck once or twice, I somehow found the power to keep forging.
As you get deeper into the project, you realize that all the knots had been tied with relationships, contracts and deals along the way. And you have to fulfill it, you have to pull through: you have to make that “touchdown.” You have only one direction, and that’s toward the finish line.
My production of NUNE fell through about three times. The first time it happened, I had told some people that filmmaking is like getting married. I noticed a strange pattern: two weeks into moving toward principal photography, the actors would freak out. They go MIA. They stop talking to me. I have no idea why. The first time it happened, I fired both actors. That was the first falling out. When production was moving closer, I saw them acting weird. Then I compared the situation to getting married. This is the unconscious thing that happens:
Couples that are engaged plan their marriage a year ahead of time. They’re very cool and happy the first time they announce it. Six months into it, they’re OK. Three months into it, they’re so-so. A month into it, they’re a wreck. Two weeks toward the wedding, the couple picks a fight and begins sabotaging the whole thing. Marriage is a big thing. It was becoming REAL…and they’re in the deep.
Every businessperson goes in too deep. The moment they sign that big check, spend all their savings or cash that loan—they are like the couple that freaks out two weeks before marriage. They’re just not themselves anymore. They can’t relax because it’s not fun and games. There’s too much at stake. It’s strictly business and it’s time to focus and get serious, because there’s no turning around. And of course, nobody understands what they’re going through; their friends, family and employees think they’re too uptight.
But that’s how producing is. When you have to wear the business hat, everyone around you thinks you’re taking things way too seriously. They don’t understand that you’re in deep shit. They don’t realize that you’re holding commitments to at least 50 to 70 people (for a small film); contracts, promises, deals, and payroll. They don’t know that if anything falls apart, you’re fucked because with a large collaboration—it’s a major assembly. Dance ensembles know this. They have no idea that when you’re making a film: you’re on a tightrope.
For the most part, I consider myself an artist. But in making a movie, you’re no longer in the dream state; the creative state. You’re functioning as an investor. And investors don’t have friends. It’s strictly business. Film is 20% creative and 80% business.
During the first phase of pre-production, I sat everyone down and told them that “Ji is not going to be herself anymore. Filmmaking is war, and boot camp is over. So don’t be offended if she’s not herself.” Most of the people who were there were old cast members. But I remember vividly Baker Chase (“Vaunt”) sitting beside me. And he was so sweet and calm when he heard my spiel.
After I filmed NUNE, I realized that I never want to produce and direct at the same time again. I understand that they are like oil and water. Although I can do both roles, they don’t mix. So I don’t know why some people do both. I have learned that it is the hardest thing ever. Logistically, it is bad business and I saw all the pitfalls and potholes in working that way. It is like the cartoon of a dam breaking and you’re trying put each finger into the holes to plug the water—but you only have ten fingers.
When I look back at the NUNE production, I had grown from being an artist to a professional. I never planned to become a Hollywood filmmaker. By this, I mean, an industry professional. I did this out of necessity. I woke up one day, and suddenly realized that I had become a professional. I reached a plateau in my state of consciousness that I can’t turn back to be who I was before. I can’t limit myself. I had transcended self-limitation on many levels.
I ended up escalating in the field and collaborating with other professionals. The concept of six degrees of separation became very true: any well-known person that you ever respected is suddenly connected by merely one person in this town. It’s wild.
As I prepared for my meeting today with a music composer today, I began to think about football. I visualized the image of a player running across the field, tossing off obstacles and he’s simply unstoppable. I realize that I have to keep going forward. And as I focus toward the finish line, I feel exhilarated, and I look forward to everything.
I think to myself, “You know what? There’s no reason to turn around.”
Here’s a link to the football touchdown hall of fame. Watch it and get pumped. Run with me;)