Of Money and Honor

You gotta sing it. “Money, money, muuuuunay.” What does it do in film and what doesn’t it do? As a film producer I rarely take on a job just for the money. So I have hard time seeing money as anything more than a means to an end. I mean, a lot of us in the film businessare in this not so much out of choice, but out of need. We need to make films, the same way that police need to protect and serve, or the way firemen need to fight flames. Astronauts need to look to the heavens in wonder. We are film makers we needto make stories. There’s a great line from a good movie called “Romeois Bleeding.” In it Gary Oldman plays a cop playing both sides of thefence who keeps his money in a hole out in his backyard. It becomes anobsession of his to “Feed the hole.” I related to that line. I needto make movies. I tried “normal” life and you know it just didn’tstick. I need to be working, reading, researching, scheduling, bidding,budgeting, calling, talking, and listening. The fact that I get paidto do is a bonus and it makes me feel like one of the luckiest guys onthe planet.

Not to o long ago I was post producing on a nonprof movie project. It was a good cause, and I signed on to oversee the color timing. It was a labor of love so it was long late night sessions in darkened rooms. It was a lot of work. It was film making. As we were plowingthrough I talked to the CG artist and they said to me “You know if thiswas a paying gig I could do a much better job. “ And I heard thatsound in my head again. It’s the sound of heavy metal doors slammingshut. And so I asked…”Really? How would that work out?”

And really, that’s the question I still ask. When you’re doing a project, no matter how much money is involved, beyond getting more equipment, which equals more people to run said equipment, how is money is going to make the production better. How is money going to make youdo a better ?

When I’m doing a job, I rarely think of the money. I never sit there and say…”Oh man, I’m gonna give this my all because I’m getting paid to.” No, I give it everything I’ve got because that’s the kind of man I am. Someone has trusted me to make a film happen and that’s not aboutmoney, that’s about my sense of honor. Call me an idealist but my wordis my bond. THAT’s why I’m SO picky about the projects I sign on for.Because when you get me, you get my sense of honor and integrity. I’vedone this long enough now that I know it’s a long haul. Aside from thedirector, the producer is the only other guy who’s in it from idea tocompletion. There’s a reason why the best picture Oscar goes to theproducer. If someone can tell me that their integrity is for sale,well that’s gonna be a short conversation.

“If we only had more money.”

This past weekend I produced a music video shoot for a local band. And I gotta say it’s one of the best shooting experiences I ever had. It was a really small crew, really limited sets, and the band was a duo. But here’s the deal, the band was SO into it. They broughteverything they had in front of the camera. Would they have somehowbeen MORE talented if they were getting paid?

At 4am, when we were having issues with the lighting, the director rethought, reframed, and what we got was better than what we had originally planned. Would he have somehow been more ingenious if the Benjamins had been invited?

The band brought it hard and we watched as they gave it their all. And because they were giving it their all it made us, the crew want to do it justice. They brought it hard. We brought hard. It was on. And the video footage is bad ass. Bad Ass! Everyone on the shoot did agreat job because they SAID they would. We were able to see thatsomething great was happening. It was about commitment and having pridein being part of it. In for a penny, in for a pound. Oh yeah. It’son.

So the next time you’re in the midst, and you hit those bumps that all jobs hit, and you’re wondering why you’re giving your all for something you’re not getting paid for, the answer is pretty simple. It’s because you said you would.

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  • Jason, Thank you so much for your comments. I write and post these things in a bubble. In the middle of the night, when no one is looking I get to thinking and than get to typing. So thank you. It's a big boost to receive such thoughtful and concise feed back.

    It's interesting because what I am finding at this point in my career is that I'm redefining the type of producer I am. Having been trained in a galaxy not too far away the division between "creative" and "production" was devout. But what I've found in recent years has been pretty obvious to everyone else. With the only exception being the director no other member of the crew follows the project from inception to completion save the producer. What we do is not easy by anyone's standards, so the consideration HAS to be beyond money if I'm going to dedicate the time, the resources and the sacrifice of life. There is not enough money in the world to make me miss a loved one's birthday, or a party, or a BBQ with family. However if we're measuring passion than that is a whole nutha story.

    My long range goal is to the change the industry one person at a time. The best way for us to dispel preconceptions of what producers are is to simply to not live up to them. Show me a producer who's ripping someone off and I'll show you an amateur.

    Thank you again for your kind words. They keep me goin.

  • Awesome Blog David. This is probably the best thing I have read on this sight since joining. I feel exactly where you're coming from. It's nice to know that there are still people (or a person) out there who care more about bringing their vision to life than worrying about money. A producer who isn't concerned with the money?Are you sure you're a producer? ; ) Sure we'd like to keep the free jobs to a minimum, but if your heart is truly into a project then you work on it and hope that if it ever does something that leads to monetary gain, that whoever is producing it would disperse the wealth among all of the contributors. I'm an idealist also, maybe more so a realist, knowing that filmmakers would not likely be that honest and caring to do something like this. If i wrote anymore of what I wanted to say, I would just be summarizing your blog back to you. You put it down spot on!Great Job.

    Jason Borroel
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