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Giving Up


Matt Kieley

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I relate a lot to that. Hardly requires a response, but I'm inspired by a lot of the same things and agree that it shouldn't be for anyone other than yourselves (especially if you're making something Cassavetean). I've had some trouble thinking of things to write about lately too, but sometimes I'm still making notes of a situation that gives me crazy anxiety and hoping later they can combine into something. A loose scenario with creative friends is a place i wanna go soon, maybe straight up improv, maybe more like group writing, but that could be a freeing solution or detour while still being significant. Good luck, Baxter! I enjoyed that post a lot :)

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A year later I'm in a great relationship with a woman I'm moving in with in a month. She also has a three year old daughter, and though I thought I never wanted kids, now I can see myself raising this child with my girlfriend, and marrying her. We both see it. She's extremely supportive of my filmmaking, and doesn't want me to give up.

​I'm not qualified to advise you on your career, but as someone who's been married for some time I can tell you this (having someone who loves and supports you) is worth more than everything else you mentioned when it comes to happiness. My suggestion is to recognize and cherish that.

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Before I got "serious" about it, I used to have fun making movies.

​Dude you made a feature film how many people can say that NOT many Nobody likes their work name me one artist director that loves his films or art and say Shit man i am good this is good

No for some HARD CANDY LOVE stop bitching and moaning you wont get any sympathy from me and go have fun by making short films and stop thinking that one day you will be some bog movie director. You think all those directors you mentioned started because they wanted to be big and important at the beginning NO they do what they love. Keep doing what you love and if one day you make it then more power to you my philosophy is if i don't like it if it is giving me stress i don't do it.

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PS I was in a war 4 years at age 14 (Bosnia) lost 2 brother and father to that war escaped to Croatia over the mountain took me 3 weeks  to travel 230k almost got killed in doing it, from there went to Pakistan for 2 years as refugee almost got raped in one of the refugee camps, come to Canada with red cross was homeless for 6 months in Toronto barely spoke any English lived from shelter to shelter could not get work thanks to my English took me 3 months to get welfare got my education went to collage for graphic design and film All that was 15 years ago do i make films NO do i work as Graphics designer NO I fabricate kitchens in a small town make good money have a beautiful family my own place nice SUV car there is clean water coming from my tap i have electricity and this film staff i do it as hobby and threat it as professional hobby why because it makes me happy

 

But i am the happiest when i take my 2 kids to the park every day watching them play while i sip my coffee what i am tying to say don't over think just do what makes you happy if you make it then good

I don't know it any of this makes any sense

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This is another existential filmmaker post spawned by a few recent threads. You've been warned. Also spoilers for a film.

Recently I saw a film that articulated a question I didn't know I was asking. That film was "Frank" the story of a talentless, wannabe songwriter/keyboard player who is recruited to join a band led by a man who wears a fake head at all times. You might have seen it floating around Netflix, and maybe you even disregarded it because it sounds gimmicky, or the poster looked like quirky nonsense, but I decided on a lark to watch it, and it was absolutely devastating. The "protagonist" of the film seems like a nice, sweet guy in the beginning, until he starts exploiting Frank's talent by secretly filming and posting videos of their rehearsals to youtube, eventually earning them a slot at SXSW. He tells Frank "People love us." to which Frank replies "People love us?" The pressure of the show, and pleasing an audience cause Frank to have a nervous breakdown. This film resonated with me in a major way. I watched it once, over a week ago, and I'm still thinking about it. I thought about how fame and success never occurred to Frank. He just created music for the art and expression of it, and when faced with the pressure of a major debut performance at a festival, he creates a terrible song that he thinks is his "most likeable song ever". The entire experience breaks him.

The whole film forced me to think of my goals as a filmmaker. I've wanted to be a filmmaker since I saw the Making Of Jurassic Park on TV when I was six years old. In high school, I got serious about having a career in film after seeing Pulp Fiction and El Mariachi. I then discovered the French New Wave and John Cassavetes, and I wanted to make honest, devastating, achingly truthful and beautiful masterpieces of cinema. I made my first feature at 21...and now I'm almost 28, with not many shorts, and not a single follow-up feature since my first. My first feature was extremely disappointing to me. I was obsessed with it for years, and even tried to make a quasi-remake of it, which was a disaster. I've been struggling to come up with an idea for another film that I like. I haven't been able to finish even a first draft in two and a half years. I used to be able to crank out script after script, draft after draft with all the blind confidence in the world. And since my feature, I've come to the realization that I only really have a few basic themes that I keep going back to, and I keep trying to force myself to think of something different, to be a different filmmaker, but I'm not. And now I'm questioning my goals.

I've wanted a career making indie films so I wouldn't have to work a crappy day job. I've been working the same crappy day job for almost four years straight, except for the nine months where I moved to LA to pursue my career. I could't even find a day job to pay the rent. Toys R Us interviewed me twice and wouldn't hire me to work in the stock room during the holidays. I sold a bunch of my lenses, and the DVX100 I didn't use anymore, for rent money. I moved back to my hometown a year ago, broken and miserable. A year later I'm in a great relationship with a woman I'm moving in with in a month. She also has a three year old daughter, and though I thought I never wanted kids, now I can see myself raising this child with my girlfriend, and marrying her. We both see it. She's extremely supportive of my filmmaking, and doesn't want me to give up. But I just feel discouraged. Discouraged that my films will never look good enough, have good enough acting or be important enough. And I still want to make films, but I'm wondering why I want, or need, to be successful at it. Before I got "serious" about it, I used to have fun making movies. The same group of friends and I would get together and film shorts on the weekends. Most people here I'm sure had the same experience. I think all I want now is to form a troupe of actors/crew members and make cheap movies in our spare time for fun, and perhaps never even show them to anyone else. I'm accepting that I'm nowhere near the level of talent as Francois Truffaut, Paul Thomas Anderson, or David Lynch, and it's okay. I'm giving up on success. I just want to make shit.

Well, there are many aspects to your post, and I can confidently say, that everybody here, at some point of time, has been in your spot. Even if it is for a day or a week. 

 

I will explain my perspective in point:

1. I am sure you have read a book called, "what they don't teach you at harvard business school"? Well, filmmaking instructions and manuals (and film schoold) only teach you certain aspects of filmmaking. People who are super successful would never want to discuss their 'dirty little secrets', like the fact that some of the biggest film stars slept their way to the top, because talent itself is not enough, for many people. Especially for people who don't wanna go back home, and who will not give up, more because that hunger can make them commit many crimes, only one of which is sleeping around. It's like that Ashton Kutcher film "Spread" (1999). I am not suggesting you do any of that, all I am saying is that making a film is only one of the Many things a successful filmmaker needs to do. A lot of directors start getting things right early. Like Nolan found his wife whose produced most (all) of his films, and Wally Pfister after shooting following (and who has moved to direction himself).

2. Most filmmakers would hate to admit it, but most of them are far better as directors than as screenwriters. That is one off the reasons for all the plagiarism. And the films that cannot be watched. 
IMHO Manoj Night Shamalam and the Wachowski duo come within this definition. The warchowski's have some superb perspective with direction. I think of them as the forerunners to great concept films, of the last decade or so. Also, unfortunately, like Night Shamalam, I think they started superbly, and then their films have not really been nailing it. Maybe, they need to admit to themselves, that they just need a good screenwriter. 

3. You said you already made a Feature. I guess everybody around here is curious to see it, and if you could post a url to the same, it would be great. A lot of filmmakers, take very long to make a first feature. Most never really make one. You have been LUCKY to have found a cast and crew, the resources and everything else to make a feature.

4. To run out of ideas, usually means that you have burnt out, because you got too excited and too impatient somewhere on the journey. There is nothing wrong in making short films. As a matter of fact, they help hone your talent, in ways that you most often over-look. 

5. You basically need a break from everything for 2 weeks. Tell everyone around to as not to scare them, and then Switch off your phone, stop checking mails, stop communicating with the world. When your back, think of the perspective you missed.

6. If your girlfriend/ fiance respects your space, you couldn't ask for anything else. You need to count your blessings. Like Seriously.

7. A lot of filmmakers want to start big, not realising, that the small films that make it Huge, were never made with the intention of being huge (ala Paranormal Activities). As a matter of fact, after Oren Peli struggled for people to watch his film, for the longest. If Spielberg was not sent a copy of the film, and if he did not happen to watch it, Peli would be in exactly the same boat as you. 

8. This is the other part of the point above. MARKET. That is Far more important than just making a film. People need to see it, to appreciate it. Making a film for yourself is like a s#x tape. Hollywood stars make those for others too. So, you have to make sure as many people watch the film as possible. Send it to as many film festivals as possible, and then try and sell it.

9. Keep yourself open to the idea of making wedding videos, advertisements and documentaries and things like that. They make you money, and they are creative expressions as well. As a matter of fact making a great wedding video may be many times more difficult than making a film. You get a single take, and you have to get too many things right, at the right time.

 

But, first start with your 2 week vacation, where you just go enjoy yourself. You don't have to spend thousands of dollars for it, and you don't need to go alone. What is important, though, is that you leave all your baggage at home.

 

Best of Luck !!!

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This is another existential filmmaker post spawned by a few recent threads. You've been warned.

​Your passion for film is highly visible. It seems to me you just found out something about yourself. You question your ambitious goals probably because they were to prove sth. to others. 

Why should one? 

I'm giving up on success. I just want to make shit.

​No, you want to cut the bullshit. See it that way.

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Maybe the way I wrote my post made it seem like a "whoa is me" post, but in fact it's the opposite. I'll be even more honest. When I was 19-20ish, I thought I'd never get married or have kids, and if I failed to be an auteur genius filmmaker with a career in film, I would commit suicide. In retrospect, it wasn't out of serious suicidal feelings, but just a lack of imagination for the future. The film Frank made me realize I just want to be a an artist, and not worry about the career. If I make another feature soon, I'll probably submit it to some festivals, and if no one wants it, I'll put it on vimeo, like my first. I'm done with the doom and gloom of not being successful and now I'm content to just work my day job, have my personal life and make art in my spare time, with no commercial goals. By giving up, I mean giving up on commercial success, or giving a shit about being a "genius" or an "auteur" or even being "good" for that matter. I don't need the validation anymore. My priorities and wants are different now.

And if anyone is really REALLY curious, here's my feature. It's a bit of a mumblecore-y, adolescent mess:

 

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Maybe the way I wrote my post made it seem like a "whoa is me" post, but in fact it's the opposite. I'll be even more honest. When I was 19-20ish, I thought I'd never get married or have kids, and if I failed to be an auteur genius filmmaker with a career in film, I would commit suicide. In retrospect, it wasn't out of serious suicidal feelings, but just a lack of imagination for the future. The film Frank made me realize I just want to be a an artist, and not worry about the career. If I make another feature soon, I'll probably submit it to some festivals, and if no one wants it, I'll put it on vimeo, like my first. I'm done with the doom and gloom of not being successful and now I'm content to just work my day job, have my personal life and make art in my spare time, with no commercial goals. By giving up, I mean giving up on commercial success, or giving a shit about being a "genius" or an "auteur" or even being "good" for that matter. I don't need the validation anymore. My priorities and wants are different now.

And if anyone is really REALLY curious, here's my feature. It's a bit of a mumblecore-y, adolescent mess:

 

Watched the film (quite a bit of it) Things I noticed about the film:

1.    The sound doesn’t assist the film at all. It does not sound too professional. Also, it’s very blaring in a lot of places, where I had to really turn the volume down, and the gadget with which you recorded the dialogues, has some serious humming sound (very high noise floor).

2.    The video is obviously handheld, and I am guessing you used a 50mm lens, because it is reasonably shaky too. Maybe you should have used a tripod. Also, there isn’t any movement like a dolly or something. 

3.    The lighting isn’t helping, especially in the dark scenes, and the night shots (outside the house etc). I was barely able to make out that someone was in the frame. I am guessing you had a slow lens and no onboard light. Also, the indoor lighting only uses practicals in many frames, which makes the contrast very sharp. Maybe too sharp.

4.    There is a strange kind of lack of energy in the film. It seems like a very lazy film. It’s like the cast and crew were made to run 10kms before each day’s shoot began. They seem tired, throughout, till the last 20-30 mins of the film. 

5.    You need to assist someone on a shoot. It doesn’t have to be a feature, it could be an AD, a wedding video, or even a short film. Something that has good production value. It will help you get better perspective. 

6.    I think the premise of the story is interesting. It just lacks a little pace.

7.    The best critic is yourself. Watch this film again, and then, after a week, try shooting any single scene from it, with a look that exhibits much higher production value, much better sound, better video and more pace. And try using a tripod or a dolly. Add a few good laughs/ jokes. Don’t do the Sound and Camera yourself. Get someone to do it. You concentrate only on the direction. And add some energy to it.

My two cents. Best of Luck

 

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What I would like to see more focus on, on various blogs, are the tools that complement the cameras.... Dollies, gimbals, cranes, lights etc

The cameras are hitting saturation point, but there are some really interesting tools that can help with the cinematic look, every bit as much as DR, resolution etc.

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I appreciate people's advice, but what I'm saying is that I want to create films for the sake of art an expression, without an end game of distribution or "success" (which is a subjective term--completing a film is a success in and of itself) and I can see why it seems crazy. I thought it was crazy too until recently.

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Seems that's the mindset you should begin with in the first place and should continue to have going forward in any future endeavour.

If you're not init for the sake of having fun and doing what you love... then you're doing it for the wrong reasons. And what's the use in that?

You know how many people in the music industry or doing comedy for example out there have mad talent but don't get the recognition they deserve? Kind of the same thing. You shouldn't expect to be the next big thing just overnight like that. Just stick with what you love and try to find some ways to get the bills paid. For these artists I just mentioned that means accepting the little gigs in pubs that don't pay very well. They might get their big break one day (and perhaps first have to sell their soul and identity to get there)... they might not (it's hard to get noticed in a world so big and with so many others). But atleast they're not working late cranking out those quarterly figures that need to be on the bosses desk first thing in the morning I guess and doing something they're passionate about. And you don't need to walk red carpets to have a fulfilling life. So just stick with what makes you happy. And if anything... you just doing your thing is exactly the thing what will bring you success in the end. It's not chasing after that magic formula, but staying true to yourself.

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Hey baxterquinn - saw your post and it hit a nerve with me, mostly because I think everybody has gone through that depressions at some point or another. The idea that you "just make it" is film school bullshit fed to us in order to jack up tuition (although we do actually learn some stuff).  Here's my short advice.

1. Keep making stuff. Something. Anything. Shoot it with your iPhone. But make it a story or a documentary. Challenge yourself to make a short 1 minute film every month about whatever. And then put it up on Facebook/youtube/etc whatever. Submit it to short film festivals with no entry fee if you are proud of it. This forces you to stay creative and unblock yourself. Don't worry if you only have 1 story to say, many creative people only have 1 story and they tell it over and over again (Christopher Nolan=Puzzle Movies, Michael Crighton=Science destroys man, etc). But think about who has an interesting story and capture it. For me, documentaries are easier since I don't have to write it out ahead of time. I can find the story after. It helps me then unblock myself for narrative projects. Anyway, keep creating stuff because everybody only wants one thing: to work with people who make content and make a lot of it. Not everything has to be awesome, but you'll get better with each project.

2. Find your braintrust. Who are your allies? You mention your girlfriend, which is awesome. My wife is my biggest supporter and I couldn't do anything without her, but I also have others that I send stuff to for constructive feedback. Your braintrust are people you get a long with, who aren't afraid to tell you the truth about your work, but also with a mutual understanding that harsh critiques aren't personal. My braintrust also includes some DP's, sound guys, actors, writers and directors that I can also make stuff with, because there is nothing better than working with friends.

3. Don't equate success with happiness, but also don't be dumb when it comes to filmmaking. If you want to have a career making commercial movies, then you need to think about your audience and you need to balance writing what you want to express with something audiences will tune in for. There is a lot of competition out there. If you just want a place to express your art, then that's ok too, but you'll need to have a day job for a while. So get one that has flexible hours and access to interesting people so you have access to interesting stories. Drive an Uber car, work at a nightclub. Do you have a technical skill? Use it for a high paying job that gives you flexibility to create your small projects so you can grow as a filmmaker and storyteller.

Mostly, the advice of other people on this board is pretty good. Don't give up. Most directors didn't find their stride until later in life. I'm 30 and no further along than you. Made 1 feature, trying to find what that next thing is, frustrated I can't seem to "break in". Patience and determination will get you there. Good luck.

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(I'm in no way an authority in this area)

I thought Carte Blanche has some nice dialogue and complicated emotions and relationships. Enjoyed the oddities. I honestly understand where you're coming from with some of your own criticism of it, but that's you learning or developing your own style. and I think in some ways people really aren't supposed to be corrected when they make something artistic with a vision. we only really get amazing films when someone breaks all the rules and ignores the authorities or doesn't know what they're doing anyway. I'll have to check out more of your stuff

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Absolutely agree, Liam. It's horrible how the forums burst with self-proclaimed master critics who have to get their word out about almost everything. The movie is several years old, don't you think Matt would have noticed shortcomings by himself by now? I don't believe in criticism in general, I can answer questions about something critically when asked, but I doubt people can be taught anything. They have to see and want to change it for themselves. I liked the film as well, sure it has flaws, but it's highly personal and individualistic, not some shiny 'I'ma do it like da pros' shit. I could really relate. And I liked the chubby girls. :D Geekdom is on the decline, nowadays everyone is a nerd, if you know what I mean. I pity that.

Kudos, Matt, don't get discouraged, just do your thing, you don't need any forum's approval for that.

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Thanks, guys. I shot Carte Blanche from February-March 2009, and there aren't indeed any criticisms I hadn't already heard or thought of myself, even before I finished it. I don't think it's very good, but I had fun making it, and it's like a time capsule of my life at that time. Most of the film is deadpan, with a mostly static camera because I was heavily into Jim Jarmusch at the time. I often think of what Scorsese said on the commentary track for his first film Who's That Knocking At My Door. I'm paraphrasing, but it was basically this: "Watching this film is like looking at my old high school yearbook photo." I've occasionally attempted to re-edit the film, but when I look at the footage and think of the story, I realize I can't edit out the adolescence, and I'm not the person I was when I made it.

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Thanks, guys. I shot Carte Blanche from February-March 2009, and there aren't indeed any criticisms I hadn't already heard or thought of myself, even before I finished it. I don't think it's very good, but I had fun making it, and it's like a time capsule of my life at that time. Most of the film is deadpan, with a mostly static camera because I was heavily into Jim Jarmusch at the time. I often think of what Scorsese said on the commentary track for his first film Who's That Knocking At My Door. I'm paraphrasing, but it was basically this: "Watching this film is like looking at my old high school yearbook photo." I've occasionally attempted to re-edit the film, but when I look at the footage and think of the story, I realize I can't edit out the adolescence, and I'm not the person I was when I made it.

Matt, as someone still making corporates and commercials every day, and dreaming to have my own film (let alone feature film), I have to say that I wish I could make a feature like this. Time is passing every second and everyone is growing and gaining experiences. If your film has its style and it's the style you wanted in 2009, why don't you watch it in the heart of that time? The best thing about films is that they can capture what the director wanted to express at that moment when he created it. So when we watch old films, we can certainly feel the passing trail of time. Recently I'm also having the dark moments and worries for my career, but I told myself that just keep on going with the big plan. Maybe opportunity would hit me if lucky enough but if not, I have to work harder to create the opportunities myself. I'm not rich and I'm not super talented, but I learn fast and work hard. That will help a lot in both the job and the dream.

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