Being a producer for your own film is really hard. I like producing but most of the time I find it very uncomfortable. You troll networking events, film festival parties, and workshops searching for one thing.
A yes. In an OCEAN of no’s.
It’s funny. You really have to be completely insane to make a film, because the mountain of rejections is so mammoth. There is no logic for continuing to pursue it. After working on my film for many years starting in 2005, in 2009, I took a much needed but actually universe-enforced break. My grandmother died, my car died, and my film project was dead on departure when I left New Orleans. It wasn’t until a year or more later than someone told me that I was depressed. That was why I also wasn’t writing. So I did write a new script, a romcom, and spent a good year promoting that and then discovered that was just as hard and not nearly as heartfelt as The Repass. It took me a few years to head back.
In 2012 I recommitted to The Repass.
I prayed a lot because I didn’t know. Maybe I was wrong. Was I supposed to be listening to my family members living in the real world (not the idealistic mountains of the California fringe) who told me to forget about it and move on. My friends weren’t taking me seriously anymore either. I even had doubts. Perhaps pursuing this one project was an excuse to not pursue others. Was the film a catapult to my career or a convenient obstacle to it? Was I simply meant to struggle forever?
I think the thing that probably drives most filmmakers to the brink of despair is when they look around and discover there’s just really nothing else they want to do.
So I got back on the pitch bandwagon. However I did decide to do something different. I decided that instead of waiting for some other producer to come to my rescue, I would become my own producer. I stopped complaining, and committed to discovering as much as I could about the process. I stopped making excuses for not applying to all these contests, competitions, and fellowships. Because I had become tired. I was worn down by the mass of rejections that I had had to bear between 2006 and 2009. Admittedly, there were a few glimmers of appreciation, but they just paled in comparison no matter how desperately I clung to them. Every filmmaker has been there. Most writers have too.
Worse is the universe of non-answers that I would discover in 2012.
The film business is full of these. I rose to the point where I was knowledgable enough to know what I was talking about, but still not experienced to know about the conversations happening on the inside. People took me seriously enough to consider my work, but either didn’t respond or responded with a charming reply that says everything but “I do.” I went to AFM and I did the worst thing imaginable. You knock on the doors of every sales agent or company who has a poster that looks remotely like your film, and you ask them to consider working with you on a film that has no budget, no talent, no money and only the passion and perseverance of a filmmaker who is committed to making it happen. From the top of the heap to the bottom, I must’ve knocked on 50 doors that year. Some were polite. Many were cruel. And one listened.
I cannot impress enough on any new and aspiring filmmakers how much a role the persistence of your voice plays in the making of your film.
You have to be willing to keep going, to keep talking even when you think no one is listening, to keep moving when your friends are all standing still. Say the words aloud alone in your room, your car, the shower so you can say them again in front of other people. Because in the end, someone will hear you. It may not feel like it. You may not see it. The hard fact is that you may never know.
But the truth is your voice, even a small one, has the power to change everything.
Just imagine the power of a human being saying the same thing every day that is completely unbelievable. If they say it to you everyday, you will come to doubt even if your eyes tell you it can’t be true. That kind of determination and dedication is daunting… and cannot be ignored. Two months ago something changed. It changed when I made a trailer for the film. I wrote once that I love directing because when I am doing that, its as if I become another person. This assured, problem solving, simultaneously practical, intuitive and articulate being steps forward.
I stop trying to prove that I am a filmmaker, and I just AM. And I am GOOD.
I make decisions with a deep knowledge of the consequences and I look risk in the eye and give her the finger. I gamble everything because fear takes a walk and doesn’t come back. When I am directing I return to my pure unadulterated, unapologetic self and I commit 110% to birthing this child that is my film.
In the months that have followed, I have been running. Running to keep up with time that brings us ever closer to the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the same 10 year anniversary I was speaking about 6,7 or 8 years ago. But now it is here. It is months away and we have to make this film. We have to make it now before we miss the window. That is what I told the one sales agent in 2012. It is going to happen. The tenth year anniversary of Katrina will come and all 70 countries that contributed aid will turn their heads back to Katrina and wonder, where are they now? It will be a small window but it will open. This is why we need to be in production by spring 2015. And this man with a company believed me.
There will not be another time like this [for The Repass] again. Ever.
I don’t know if that’s why he said yes. But he said it. He said. Yes. Sitting in the hotel room with the new producer I had brought on board I was full. I hadn’t felt full like that in so long it was a drunken feeling. My new producer fell back in a stupored sweat after pitching all he had, and I sat there beaming. Despite the fact that the words “I hate technology,” were initiating payback with me and not playing my trailer for the director of sales, he had said yes. He still believed in me. Because I had kept going. I kept emailing even when I heard nothing. Even after he had seen me the year before. I was so different when I had seen him then because I had felt so empty. I had lost so much. I felt like I had so little to bring to the table. After a full year of working contacts at Brillstein Grey, the now defunct Firm, and my contacts at LionsGate, I was back to a big fat zero. But I came to AFM in 2013 and met Ron. Because that was what I was supposed to do. That’s what real filmmakers do. They show up. Even when it doesn’t feel good. Even when you have nothing to show. Because it counts. Even when I had nothing except an amazing script, I had my voice. And it was priceless.
No one can ever take that [your voice] away from you. Unless you let them.
I know that in this blog now I should be writing the ten steps I took, but its just not like that. If you want to make a film, there is only one road. You may fall, you may get lost, you may even stop for a moment or a long time. But there is only one road for each film. And if you leave it, someone else will be there to take it from you.
There is only one road. There is only one rule. Persist.
When I think about who I am making this film for, it seems like it should be for me. Perhaps it should be for my audience? To be honest, I don’t know. All I know, is that I have a burning fire within me that demands I tell this story of what happened to a very special city in 2005, a city that by all accounts should not even exist because it’s under sea level. I must tell THIS story. I still remember that August when my stomach curled into my throat when I heard the shrill acrid screams of people in the dome that shot through my radio and through my apartment like they were right there beside me.
No one should have to go through something like that. No one. Not now. Not ever. Not again.
I would like to say that my film is a statement or an answer. It’s not. It’s a story. It’s fiction. It’s entertainment. But its also an imprint that we won’t forget because the stories of real people in Hurricane Katrina will be memorialized in film. I find myself sometimes compelled to speak about injustice in the world. To tell stories about the things that people want to forget. But we can’t forget.
When we forget, we allow them to happen again. That’s why I made the hashtag #neverforget.
If this yes is for anyone, it is for those who perished and survived in Katrina. My heart and soul goes out to all of you. We should always remember and we should never forget.
He said yes. Now I hope those of you who read this will too. We are well below our crowd funding goal, but every dollar counts and can bring us up to the very top. It’s like your voice, no matter how large or small, it counts.
The time we need your help is now.
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