Moving Into Films: Part 5


Making some hard decisions

The first thing that I needed to scratch off my initial plan was hiring a production company. They were charging union fees (even the ones who belong to no unions) and this was out of the question. I wanted to make a small independent film not a Hollywood blockbuster. But it seems to me that even the amateurs thought they were Hollywood –not Cleveland. It was time for a reality check. They had to go and I had to find a better way to make my film. My solution was simple: I would create a production company.

Once this decision was made, I followed it with another: my first movie production would be non-union. Sure I would prefer the skill and experience of union professionals anyday. But they were out my league. So, a non-union outfit was my one and only option. And so, if that excluded the professionals, some of the amateurs, and other potential talent, so be it.

What's more, given that I was producing and directing the movie, and in view of the fact that I was also the writer, I could further reduce expenses by taking a pay cut. Nevertheless, moviemaking is a collaborative art and I needed a competent crew. But were to find then? The answer was obvious: in the colleges and universities in Cleveland. I would do what Washington politicians do best: get the willing and the brightest college students around to work as interns. That I could do too.

Interest in filmmaking has never been greater. Film schools have long waiting lists of eager applicants waiting to enroll, and most local colleges and universities have departments of communications and dramatic arts offering a variety of movie making courses. Cleveland is no exception. I had helped a senior class of Cleveland State University students film a few scenes from Death of a Mercenary as their final project. They were delighted with the opportunity to put theory into practice. So I had first hand knowledge of how good they were and how much they wanted to work in films.

However, what would happen to them upon graduation? They would probably leave Cleveland. Once the students completed the required coursework to graduate they expected to move on to their chosen career. Sadly, they were confronted with a sobering reality: getting that big break into movie making isn’t easy. Most individuals seeking positions in the film industry find themselves excluded because they possess no experience, and lack of experience is one of the many filters the motion picture industry has always used to let some people in and exclude others.

This practice is necessary because the business of movie making is business. Today there are more channels of distribution and a greater demand for content (motion pictures, documentaries, television programming, news, music, advertising, training, educational, and industrial videos), but there is also less money to create it. The people who can create content cost-effectively will have a clear-cut advantage. This was pretty much the situation in Cleveland. With no opportunities for employment most of the brightest talent left the city for greener pastures.

Being aware of the situation provided to me with a window of opportunity. If I were to put together a working crew of college interns, we could both benefit. This decision would help keep production costs down and still allow the option to hire a few indispensable experienced professionals for training and guidance. And, in exchange for their work, the interns would receive a stipend, free food, and hands-on training on movie-making technology; the use of specific equipment and résumé credentials. In the end we would all benefit from each other’s collaboration.

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