Money & Artists

Money. As many impoverished people will remind you (and apparently only us poor folks), money is the root of all evil. But, since our way of life revolves around it, I felt like discussing it.

In the world, there are really two types of people:

  1. Those who have money
    – and –
  2. Those who seek money

In filmmaking, especially indie filmmaking, we are the latter group. We are always looking for ways to find money in order to fund our next project, or show, or endeavor. Which brings me to artistic type people. No, I didn’t say AUTISTIC, I said ARTISTIC, although sometimes it might seem like the same thing. Artists are commonly divided among two types of people, as well:

  1. Those who believe that their time is worth everything, their shit don’t stink, and they should be paid for everything that they do.
    – or –
  2. People who KNOW that they have a talent, explore mightily their talent (to which they might be exploited or ridiculed), and are willing to work on a project for free.

Neither is a good thing, technically. The people who are money-grubby lose out on projects that, while they are not paying, might provide more exposure to the world or provide some kind of stardom. The other type works for free, at their own costs (gas, food, traveling, accommodations, etc.), and usually tends to put much effort into something that they didn’t consider long and hard about doing. Many projects are just crap. The writing is bad, the story line is bad, the other actors are bad, and the project, while looking great on paper or coming from the mouths of experienced producers (salespeople), has no possibility of going anywhere or doing anything. These same people see some kind of merit in making the thing, believing all the time that they’re doing something good for their resume, or at best, just gathering experience. One day they will be blind-sided by the reality that, while they think they have talent, they will continue to spin their wheels in the mud, so to say, and going nowhere.

While I have listed the two, most predominant types of artistic people, there are those who have a good mind and have a real clue as to what is going on. They do not fall into these two, stereotypical factions of artists, mostly because they have a great, balanced approach. And I am going to explain that balance right here, right now.

First, a nice little list of things to consider when it comes to an artist’s project of any kind:

  • BE RELIABLE. If you say you’re going to do something, do it when you’re asked to do it.
  • Don’t be an arrogant prick. You CANNOT act like your shit doesn’t stink, because I’m here to tell you, it does. And I like to cite something to those people new to the business who want to have a lavish lifestyle and a status well above everyone around them: Everybody sits on a toilet and poops. Even the President of the United States is prone to having a bad chili dog once in a while. So while he seems elegant and powerful all of the times you see him, just picture him on the throne, dropping a deuce.
  • Don’t be a greedy prick. If you’re not doing something now, don’t expect that you deserve to be paid for something keeping you completely unemployable. In other words, if you’re not doing something for money now, HONE YOUR CRAFT FOR FREE. (But read on…)
  • If you’re looking to join a project, make sure the project has a good team of EXPERIENCED people (professionals, I like to call them). That means one person to worry about each thing that could happen. If you’re asked to be a sculptor for a bronze statue that has no outlet for sale yet, find out who the people are on the team you’ll be working with and ask the important questions. If you’re an actor, you should be making sure that there is a team of people working on the production at every possible position to make things flow smoothly. If you’re looking to become part of that crew, you need to consider what people you’ll be working with and make sure that they’re in abundance. The more people working on something, the more that the project has a good following, has serious potential, and could possibly be the right one for you. If the team isn’t there, don’t be afraid of declining the position. But WEIGH THE POSSIBILITIES. Maybe you’re first on the team…
  • DON’T BE LAZY. This is one of the hardest things for artistic types to comprehend. I’ve seen writers that write whatever. I’ve seen directors that are barely there, or even worse, have no idea what is going on. I’ve met (MANY) actors that get a script and read it two days before the filming date, and then they don’t actually memorize it but just skim it. I’ve met artists (drawing and painting) who get an assignment and work on it half-heartedly or don’t put effort into what they’re doing, making their work look sloppy. This is what you need to know right here: IF YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST OF ANY TYPE, DO THAT THING AND DO IT WELL! Pretend the assignment is an exam… If you don’t pass the exam, you’ll be executed. And if you’re still going to be lazy or not have enough time and effort to put into the thing, you need to STOP DOING IT!
  • Read EVERYTHING! I’m serious. If you’re about to paint a portrait, do research and see who has done portraits of what you’re doing your portrait on. If you’re an actor or crew person, you need to sit down, find out everything you can about the people making the movie/show, including their past works, and decide for yourself if this is right for your CAREER. That’s right, it’s supposed to be your career, not a hobby. So, if you get “stuck” in doing something down the line, you probably didn’t weigh the material you could find out about the project or people working on it. And don’t be afraid to ask (politely), “What have you worked on/done before?” KNOW what you’re getting yourself into!
  • Weigh all of your decisions carefully! I once had a great actress turn down a role as a prostitute because she didn’t want it to negatively impact her career. I still know her, talk to her, and most importantly RESPECT her for her decision. Things like this should be a major consideration for your career. If you’re not willing to sit down and weigh the options/considerations, don’t complain later on when you’re wondering why you’re working so hard and getting nowhere in your chosen profession!
  • Always be thankful for what you have, what you’ve been given, and the opportunities you have. A good example is a friend of mine who treated everyone fairly and with respect, did what he was asked (even when he wasn’t paid), performed his job quite well, and went on to become a spokesman for a large company. When they came to me and asked about him, I told them everything I could, especially how he STOOD OUT IN MY MIND as one of the nicest people to work with; always courteous and friendly. That kind of stuff pays off.
  • Can you afford doing this work? Many times, while working on a project that has little or no pay, I will have to weigh whether or not I can afford it. Seeing that I don’t have tons of money, I have to weigh that decision very carefully. So, when something else comes along where I can make a decent living, I need to concentrate on that project even more. That puts stress on the other projects, in that, they don’t clearly get the attention that they deserve or require.
  • BE SERIOUS. Even if you’re a comedian or comedy actor, you need to take everything seriously! Everything above, what people ask you to do, where you’re headed… The list is endless. But you need to take everything seriously.
  • And finally, THE HARDEST ONE OF ALL, be not afraid to tell people the deal. EVERY SINGLE DAY I meet people who are afraid of confronting those things that cross their path! If you’re unable or unwilling to do something, you need to tell the right people that you cannot or will not do something that they are requiring of you. If you think the script sucks, or the design of the sculpture is ridiculous, TELL SOMEONE. You don’t have to be rude about it. As a matter of fact, the more you’re willing to “negotiate” the emotions behind the talk, the more people are willing to listen. A really great example is when someone read a script that a novice writer wrote and objected to the passion behind a scene, and the dialog. They made their objections known. Now, they could have just done it, not given 100%, and turned out a piss-poor performance. But instead, they decided to talk with the Director and Writer about the situation. And since they did it in such a way (and the revisions made the story better), both of the creative heads reworked the writing and emotions behind the scene. And it turned out great.