If you are reading this, you either know a filmmaker and can't wait for the juicy details on what really goes on behind their glamorous veneer, or you are a filmmaker yourself, and you're waiting for someone to finally write an article that empathizes with what you're going through.
Now if you're not sure you know an actual filmmaker, I posted a few helpful tips, " 8 signs Your Co-worker Is an Undercover Filmmaker".
Keep in mind that I am mostly talking about independent filmmakers here, although I'm sure some of this applies to the Spielbergs and Bigelows of the bunch (or it did at some point in their careers).
To begin, here's the first thing you should know when you attend a screening or premier of our work. We haven't slept for days. We are completely delirious and have only an inkling of an idea of where our car is parked. We've been editing all night, and just handed over an almost-finished version of our work to the projectionist. We've just promised our celibacy to the glitch Gods so that they don't rear their ugly serpent heads during the screening. This never works.
While we watch the movie with you, we anticipate every single frame we are dissatisfied with. The botched color correction, the not-so-perfect cut we had to resort to in order to make the scene work, and undoubtedly, the audio flaw that burns our ears every time we hear it. No one else will have a clue about any of this of course, but we do. And it drives us mad. Filmmakers are perfectionists down to the nerve. We don't relax. About anything.
How about those photos posted of us with celebs in front of the familiar photo op banners, with either the name of the festival, or the alcohol sponsor plastered in multiplicity? The photos make it seem like those banners wrap around the whole place, enveloping everyone in the fun and fantasy of the red carpet. They don't. Those banners are small, and usually placed in a corner against an unused wall, or on a garage door, or even next to a bathroom area.
Afterwards, when we take a look at the photos, we say to ourselves, "oh yeah, look at me with that awesome banner behind me, I guess I am having fun!"
During the screening itself, we look out into the crowd and see familiar faces. The ones who have been with us through thick and thin. The ones who have funded our dreams. The ones who knew us when we screened our crappy short films to an empty crowd in a rented out theater, and pretended they've just discovered the next Fellini.
The ones who let us use their homes for locations, who let us borrow their car, or sleep in their bed when we couldn't pay rent. They've known us at our most desperate, and now they are here to celebrate. The amount of gratitude we feel is something we will never be able to fully express, and that responsibility to them stays with us throughout our career.
You would think that as filmmakers, most of our time is spent shooting films. You might envision us going to luncheons with our cast, rubbing elbows with stars and celebrities. The truth is, most of our is time spent alone. Writing. We're writing grants, film scripts, press releases, wardrobe breakdowns (because we can't afford to hire someone to do it for us), emails begging for funding, Tweet, blogs, posts, offer letters to talent agents that you know will reject you, and submitting to film festivals you know you'll never get into.
And for those film festival laurels, we will do anything. We are so used to rejection that when we do receive a festival acceptance, no matter how small, we celebrate like the Mayans in 2013. The rush is unimaginable, and it lasts for a day or two, until we remember that unless we're lucky, we have to fly ourselves out to the festival town, put ourselves up, and commence trying to convince people you don't know to go to a theater and watch your movie.
We are dreamers, we are drained, but we are fearless, and even if our energy is depleted, our ambition is unrivaled. And in the end, if we have an audience, no matter how small, we will always strive to do better.
So if you are friends with a filmmaker, give them a hug, and let them know you can't wait to take that photo against that small backdrop, just to make their hearts swell big for a night. We love you. This one's for you.