HowTo:Survival Tips for the Aging Independent Filmmaker

via Cinematical by Chris Ullrich on 10/15/06

Filed under: Classics, Drama, Independent, DIY/Filmmaking

sayles.jpgNo one likes to be called “aging” or, God forbid, “old,” but it happens to the best of us eventually. The years go by and your mind gets a little fuzzy, the music gets a little too loud from those darn kids next door and if your an independent filmmaker, you might start to wonder why you struggle each year, barely making a living, producing or directing films most people may never see. At some point it has to hit you that doing this for the rest of your life is a much shorter trip than it used to be.

A recent New York Times story takes a good look at the “aging” independent filmmakers out there who, with their work, and struggle to find work, help define exactly what it means to be an independent filmmaker. As the article states, many of them toil in virtual obscurity, producing films that are lucky to find a home on the festival circuit, let alone a place at the local multiplex or in your DVD player. Even the ones that have achieved some measure of success in the past are having a much harder time of it in the modern filmmaking world.

People like Hal Hartley, Mary Harron, Todd Solondz, Lisa Cholodenko, Jim Jarmusch and even indie-godfather John Sayles (his Lone Star and Matewan, both featuring the fantastic Chris Cooper, are two of my favorite films of all time) are having to make films for far less money than before, take jobs doctoring scripts for others (in Sayles’ case) or they are forced to leave the business completely. Some directors, like Cholodenko and Harron, are even resorting to — gasp — directing TV to make ends meet. It’s not exactly in keeping with their indie film street cred but heck, it pays the bills. And according to Harron, directing TV is also a great “corrective” for a director’s ego. Something that many directors could probably use every so often.

Hopefully this article can serve as a guide to independent filmmakers on how to make it into their 40’s, 50’s and beyond with some semblance of the career they wanted to have intact. In the article, director John Curran gives some pretty good advice to his fellow filmmakers: “As you get older, your definition of selling out changes. It’s nobody’s ambition to remain independent. It’s to work with a major studio while keeping your project intact.” Smart man.

How about you? What indie films and filmmakers do you like and why?


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