Friday, January 04, 2008

Funding the Independent Filmmaker

Last weekend I was having dinner with a student/friend. He asked, "So what do you do during the day?". I get asked this a lot now that I'm freelance. "How do you pay the bills?". Trust me, I've wondered that about a lot of people I know. Especially some of the folks I meet in NY who are filmmakers and don't seem to have day jobs. Rent up there is pretty darn expensive.

So I answer, "Carefully and with a lot of fretting". I wish I could say, I have a trust fund. "Woohoo! I'm rich, I'm rich, I'm rich!" Not so. Never ever so.

Even yesterday I was talking to another student/friend about taking the plunge into the freelance world. It's scary. I was always one to thrive on security and stability. I said goodbye to that and a reliable paycheck back in October. Luckily I have a husband who has a steady job. We both have meager incomes, but they pay the bills and put food on the table. We don't own a house. We live in a one-bedroom apartment with our cat, Pork Chop. We have two functioning cars, some new furniture, but mostly old. Honestly, nothing fancy besides a lot of CDs.

So how do I bring in the cash? That magical mystery. So in 2007 this is how I made my money.
  • I had a "real" part time job until October.
  • I taught classes. Script to Screen, Teen, Advanced, Summer Film Camp for Girls and an after school film club. The money's nothing to write home about.
  • I get paid to do workshops in other cities. They've all been in Texas so far.
  • I get paid to attend screenings of jumping off bridges and do Q&As afterwards.
  • I've gotten paid to judge screenplay competitions.
I can't buy a house or pay a decent mortgage on what I make. But I'm happy. I'm super happy doing what I do. That's the trade off.

I think it's important for folks who are wanting to be "indie filmmakers" to understand that the money's not very good. Even the friends I know who have "made it" are still struggling with the rent. So do it cause you love it. Not cause you want a BMW.

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