Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Freelancer's Life - When It Rains it Pours

Many things in the indie film world have changed, but some things remain the same, and one of those things is that when it rains it pours.

With short breaks, I've been a freelancer most of my life. I started pretty much as a stage manager in theater, and the minute I said yes to one play, two more offers would come. Often, I was able to juggle two at a time, rehearsing one while running another. During this period, more calls would come

Inevitably, when both would end, the phone calls would stop.

There have been incredibly busy periods in film as well. I can think of stretches of up to a year or a year and half at a time when I would go from one project to the next. For a freelancer, this is just great, and if there is a little voice inside of you that suggests you pass on one, there is a much louder voice that asks that little voice if he likes eating.

Some choices are easy, determined by which comes first. Others are hard and involve passing on projects that excite you, as I've shown here.

There was a busy period where I was offered the chance to work on a unique sci-fi short. At the time, I was ending one short and starting a feature. I talked with the producers about over-seeing the project and having one of my proteges producing, but the reality is that would never have worked. The project went on to garner a good deal of acclaim. Luckily, I am still good friends with the writer and producer, and regardless of the fact that it would have been very little money, part of me still wishes I had been involved with the project.

As line producer on an indie project, where often you are working with a first-time director, you are the guiding hand. This makes it very hard to do what, say, an AC or Best Boy Grip might be able to do, which is switch themselves out with someone else as competent. I am not suggesting that no one else can do what I do; I know way too many talented line producers personally, and even more by reputation, to think that is true.

Each of us has our own style, and we set projects up in a way that works for us, and might not work for another. That director puts himself or herself in your hands, and you can't just walk away.

There was a project I handed off after starting prep because friends, who I had line produced a movie with previously, finally got their financing. I had been with that project for a few years at that point. doing budgets, taking meetings, pitching investors. I had no choice but to stick with that project, and I did make sure the other project had what it needed and found someone good.

Both projects got released.

The best way to attract work is to try to take something steady. When I started teaching at New York Film Academy, I was able to juggle my professional schedule. Then, I was line producing a fantastic US-Tamil project, Achchamundu! Achchamundu! in Edison, NJ, and found that I was deciding between leaving set when I was needed and asking students who paid good money to switch their schedules one more time. Later on, my mother's illness conflicted with my teaching schedule.

I was absolutely ready to leave the freelance world when I took a job as Operations Director at Gun For Hire, and from Day One. I got other freelance offers. It was not hard to pass on them - I liked the job and I liked my boss. By the time Shooting Gallery. Gun For Hire's parent company, shut it's doors (a story for another day), I was off the radar in the freelance world, and gigs were nowhere to be found.

The winter, as it tends to be in New York, was incredibly slow for me. So, as I reached my 100th post here, and was ready to get to my review of Man of the Century and wrap up that series, I found myself getting swamped with requests for my time.

Right now, I have my foot in two worlds: writing, which has always been my source of enjoyment, and line producing, which has mostly been my source of income.

I am producing a short I am very excited about that is scheduled to shoot early April with a talented writer and first-time director. A person with a great project has asked me to do revised budgets for new investors. Then, yesterday, two people, one former client and one referred from a former client, called me about budgets within hours of each other. Both seem like exciting projects.

In the meantime, I am writing a revising a treatment on a horror script that I worked on for the rewrite, consulting on one other script with a novice screenwriter and helping a friend format a web series.

The end result is that I've had to read three new screenplays in the last two days, and all of them are unique, and frankly, all would make powerful movies. I've said in these pages before that I always think back to those days when I was stage managing and someone would hand me a script, and the excitement I had opening the pages and reading it on the subway the way home.

The only difference is now they email me and I'm reading it on my Kindle. Excitement still the same.

All of this means that I have had little time to attend to this blog. No complaints. I decided a while ago I would not rush posts and sacrifice quality for a schedule. This post, as a matter of fact, formed in my head last night as I took a break from the treatment (narrative is so much harder for me than script writing) and I figured if I was going to get that treatment done today, as promised, I needed to clear my head and get this post out.

So, here it is. The final post in the Johnny Twennies series will probably not come until next week. I appreciate those who follow here, and thought you deserved an explanation for the break.

Inevitably, somewhere mid-budget, the numbers will fill my head and I will need to write that post, but work comes first. The Yin and the Yang.

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