“I will never ever again work for a studio. I did it before and it was a nightmare; it almost ruined my career.” — Isabel Coixet, the director of Nobody Wants The Night.
While I have never worked for a studio, I have also never tried. I have, however, tried the “studio” approach to indie filmmaking, by which I mean creating a film based exclusively on the idea of what is supposed to “sell,” that would be “marketable.” My producing partner (and life partner), Writer/Director Ramon Hamilton and I focused our efforts on getting noticed by Hollywood or by a larger production company.
And, of all the films I’ve ever worked on, our “marketable” film was the “nightmare.” It was the one that could have “ruined my career.” We sold the film, but have never seen a dime from that sell (though we were supposed to get a portion of net profits). The film was mentioned by IFC as one of the top indie DVDs to look for in 2009, but today I couldn’t even tell you who owns the rights or why its IMDB rating spikes from time to time. Someone’s watching it, buying it, making money off of it, but not us. And, it’s not our best work. It’s not anything I’m proud of as you probably could guess, since I’m not mentioning the film by name.
In response, Ramon and I formed Think Ten Media Group and stopped creating work with “Hollywood” in mind. We realized that focusing on being discovered by a big studio is not the approach that works for us. Hoping to be discovered and appreciated by “Hollywood” doesn’t connect at all with the reasons we create stories. It’s not why we wanted to make films and media projects in the first place, so we stopped letting it distract us from telling the stories we want to tell. We started focusing on connecting to our audience.
Once we liberated ourselves from that goal — to be discovered, to get someone else to say “yes” to our work — we began creating media that actually mattered to us. Bonus: we began to succeed. Double Bonus: We created partnerships with individuals we admire and trust.
As Coixet articulates in a 2015 Indiewire article, making your media your way is often very challenging — it probably means the budget is on the leaner side, and it probably also means wearing several hats , but it also means you get to make your film. Her words could very well be my own: “I rather make my own mistakes. In this film I had to say it was difficult. Sometimes, we needed more time. But I prefer to make a film like this in the conditions we had, if I have freedom.”
Now more than ever, we need this freedom. We need to remove our talent pool from the Hollywood machine that has rewarded and protected sexual predators. We need to be: Fierce. Independent. Proud. Inspiring.