Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dreams Shmeams

Filmmaking is terrifying.

And the moment that's scariest - at least for Shiloh and I - is the moment when you actually say, "Screw it, we're doing this." Because then...well, you really have to do it.

Spielberg is always quoted for how he "dreams for a living" - hence the uh, clever name, Dreamworks - and while I love him and all, I think he's putting the wrong emphasis (em-PHA-sis) out there for budding filmmakers.

There are plenty of film dreamers in the world - people with really original ideas and visions. I don't think filmmakers talk publicly enough about the more grueling part: convincing yourself, and then other people, that you can actually see a project through. That's not just dreaming. And that's more than work. You have to fight on a daily basis for your random, mushy, little vision; you have to die for it. Spielberg should have called the company DreamWars, because that's what it is - you have a dream and then you go to war for it.

That's why I like reading a book like My First Movie. When you read about the Coen brothers literally trekking door-to-door with a projector, begging strangers for money to make Blood Simple, their struggle is more inspiring than the typical "overnight success" story Hollywood likes to churn out. They were plagued with self doubt every single day from the moment they decided to make a movie.

Being an artist of any kind requires a kind of desperate perseverance and unflagging self-confidence (or masochism). As far as I know, there's no video game where you play an artist: beating the Boss at the end of Level 4 with your Painting Skills - now you've made it!

It just doesn't work like that. There's no right or wrong way, no linear progression - there's just the thing you want to make, and hopefully other people like it, too.

But the tougher aspect of filmmaking, as opposed to most art forms, is that the very process of production requires so many people...and so much money. It's not just about your own commitment to your dream, it's about convincing other people to commit too. Filmmaking is as much a social skill as it is an art form. You gotta spread your self-delusion around.

Which is probably why there are so many brother filmmaker teams. I mean, it's a little weird, isn't it? More bros than husband-wife teams. I think the key ingredient is that brotherly balance between unconditional support and inter-team scrutiny. If my girlfriend tells me that something I did sucks, I kind of fall to pieces. If Shiloh tells me the same thing, I can tell him to go fuck himself and simultaneously know he's right. The way that brothers are internally critical of one another and yet socially unified is pretty unique. Has there ever been a father-son directing team? Mother-daughter? Sisters?

Shiloh and I sit around and dream a lot (I've even called Shiloh after waking up because I thought an actual dream would make a perfect film: he listened to me, very respectfully, and then was like, "Dude, I'm sure it made sense when you were sleeping, but that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard"). The real work begins after we've attacked one of our ideas from every angle, and it survives. When we've been over and over something, criticizing, revising, arguing. Then we put it out to our community - either in conversation or by actually sending our friends the script. And after all those opinions swirl a bit, we inevitably reach the moment where it's one way or the other. We either say, "Yeah, this one's dead," or "I don't care anymore, I just love this one too much."

And I imagine making that decision by yourself is really hard. Not because you'd want it any less or because your idea is any worse, but because you don't say it aloud and make it a pact between you and another person. A family member, at that. After you've made the decision to make a film, if you don't stick to it no matter what happens - weather changes, actors dropping out, budgets skyrocketing, people telling you it's such a stupid project to begin with you must be an idiot to like it - you'll never get it done.

Shiloh and I get to decide aloud, and together, that a dream is worth it. Then - as our very tiny Band of Brothers - we go to war.

5 days till we shoot.


  1. "weather changes, actors dropping out, budgets skyrocketing" This sounds like a very quaint way of describing AL's BEEF. Luckily know one told me it was a stupid project, just a stupid title.

    Good luck, buddy!

  2. I really love what you wrote here. It really is a war to get something you love into the works. I am a writer too...well I like to think of myself as one. You are lucky you have your brother by your side. No one in my family (except my Mom) really supports my dream of being a published author but I won't let that stop me. I think you and Shiloh are awesome. "Keep on, keeping on." Yeah, I just quoted the Brady's. Wow.