Interdependent Filmmaking

Ever since I read this article and discovered this term by Kevin Shah back in 2008, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be not just an independent filmmaker, but an interdependent filmmaker.

We indies all know that there is difficulty in getting an independent film out to audiences, even with the numerous platforms available.

I’ve sat on panels at film festivals to talk about this distribution problem.

Do you go solo? Do you get a distributor? Do you join a cooperative? To find a producer’s rep or to shun producer’s reps?

I don’t think I know the answer to any of these questions, which is fun when you are sitting on a distribution panel in front of a lot of people who sort of expect you to have them.

Sometimes, the answer is yes. And sometimes, the answer is no.

So. Back to the notion of interdependent filmmaking.

I do like that word.

Interdependent sounds less fierce than independent, and it certainly fits better with how I see the human condition.

Before I became a filmmaker, I became a mother.

My husband and I parent four people together, but we can’t do everything for our children. We have other family members, trusted friends, a pediatrician, educators, coaches, physical and occupational therapists…more folks than you can count, really.

I cherish these helpers.

I look at filmmaking in the same way that I look at parenting. I wrote a script, but not alone. I had others reading it and giving me notes. Helping me. And I seek to help them in return, however I can.

Their success is my success. And my success is theirs.

I love when one of Team Paradise calls or writes to tell me that they are working on something new.

Sometimes I hear of friends that I met at film festivals having a launch date or a screening.

I know firsthand how difficult it is to make these things happen.

No, I don’t see other filmmakers as competition. If people only saw one movie in their lifetimes, I might. But people see an average of two movies a week – on television or DVD or at a theatre or (now) on the Internet.

What we are doing represents a tiny sliver of a piece of what is truly unlimited pie.

There is demand for what we filmmakers create.

So I prefer to see other filmmakers as friends. Friends who understand how difficult it is to tell a good story well. Friends who are making films that matter. Friends that are using the technology at their disposal to make those things happen.

And I tell all of my friends about the work of my other friends. Because I am proud to know them. And when they tell a good story, I want other people to know about it.

Yes, we chose to have a producer’s rep to find a distributor.

I don’t see our reps at Circus Road Films as ‘the enemy’; I see them as helpers. As friends. Because they are friends. They make me laugh, and they do good work.

They keep our expectations low that we might be pleasantly surprised. And that’s important to interdependence. Always telling the truth.

Circus Road found us a distributor, but that doesn’t mean that we just hand over the project and walk away.

It means that we treat our distributor, Monarch Home Entertainment, as a partner. And they treat us as a partner. We appreciate the work that we do together.

If finding experienced partners who believe in her story is what it takes for a stay-at-home mom in a hayfield in the middle of Flyover Country to get her film distributed?

Count me in.

Without Monarch, Circus Road, a whole bunch of film festivals, and a strong team of people helping to tell a story, we would not be able to engage the best part of interdependence.

Our amazing audience.

Talk about helpers!

These people Facebook and Tweet and come to screenings and tell their friends about us. They share invites, they write blogs, and they champion us at every turn.

How humbling is that?

And I will always be grateful to them.

For some of them, Paradise Recovered has been a lifeline. They write to me, and I write back. I join their Facebook groups, and I listen.

This segment of our audience inspires me.

The fact that our film exists tells these folks that they can heal from spiritual abuse.

For them, we created a ‘Get Help’ tab on our website.

For them, we donate 10% of our producers’ profits to Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center.

That’s been the best part of this commitment to interdependence.

Not every film would fit our business model, but there are ways to engage your audience and provide customer service that enhances their lives and yours.

There is a way to do business that involves giving, taking, sharing, promoting, and (dare I say it?) loving.

Filmmaking is a very risky business. Part of our business plan has taken into account that we may never see a penny back, and reminded of that, we’ve never spent more than we could afford to lose. We’ve cut corners and done work ourselves and learned new skills and put emphasis on sweat equity.

But we’ve also listed as ‘intangibles’ the relationships fostered along the way.

We’ve launched a few careers with this film. We’ve loved some new babies who were born in our team. We’ve travelled, we’ve laughed, we’ve anguished, and we’ve cried when one of our team left us too soon but went home to her reward.

I believe that interdependent filmmaking takes into account the things that matter. It does for me.

And that is probably why I want to do it again.

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  1. kevin shahkevin shah04-26-2012

    This post is a beautiful, personal testament.

    “There is a way to do business that involves giving, taking, sharing, promoting, and (dare I say it?) loving.
    …we’ve also listed as ‘intangibles’ the relationships fostered along the way…I believe that interdependent filmmaking takes into account the things that matter. It does for me. And that is probably why I want to do it again.”

    And you will I’m confident. Looking forward to your work. Many thanks for helping to spreading the idea about Interdependence in our art and process (and helping others reconceptualize what it means to be an ‘indie’ filmmaker today)!


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