Production never sleeps, Part 1
Editorial scris de James Longshore, un actor american care munceste si traieste in Romania
Ciao! Happy August! Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck feeling dirty and gritty! If you are in Bucharest right now, you know what I’m talking about. One month later, welcome back to my editorial column on life as an American filmmaker in Bucharest.
You have learned about my past. You have learned about my present. Now it’s time to learn about my future here in Romania.
What does the future hold for me here in Romania? Who knows? The filmmakers life is what we call a crapshoot. Noooo, not because it’s so full of shit! It’s a reference to craps, the casino game, dude, and you never know how the dice will roll! Lately, I have been on some auditions and meetings with producers.
Those I have very little control over. Why? More on that in my casting editorial.
I am trying to have some control over my future here. One reason I started my production company and went to film school is because the worst part of being an actor is sitting around waiting to be cast. Boorring! Making your own films gives you work. So, while sitting around on my ass with my Los Angeles medical marijuana card in my wallet, I wrote a feature screenplay called "Sapphire".
To have control, you need a plan. My plan is to film "Sapphire" here in Romania. Vigilante Films first attempt to make independent films for the international market here in Romania. Consult my previous columns for anything else I think I shared with you about it. It will be a challenge. It will be hard. It will be brilliant!
This will be an English-language film, set in Philadelphia, PA, USA with an almost all-Romanian cast playing Americans. I will train them to speak with the neutral American accent using the Linklater "freeing your voice" technique. I will explain more about that in a future editorial.
Another thing we at Vigilante Films think will stimulate the Romanian film industry, that we hope to accomplish and show the value of with this film, is bringing the concepts of independent financing and profit sharing here. One of the problems here is lack of competition, because there are so few financing options that no one can take any chances, and there are no box office stakes here.
Few movies are made with the expectation of profit. Promotion, marketing, content, distribution all need changes for this to happen. But an effective way to raise box office stakes is to start making movies that bring international returns. It can be done.
Which brings me nicely into my little segue, and 420 words later, the real subject of this editorial, on film financing here. People always ask "Where are your production funds coming from?" Or more precisely they ask, "Where’s your money coming from?" Because for domestic films here, most of the money is from the government. It has to do with the history of film as art in Europe, as opposed to film as entertainment in the U.S.
Film cameras were first widely used and developed in Europe to cover the events of World War II, leaving a legacy of documentary and observational style shooting. I personally think they don’t need to be separated, they can peacefully co-exist. They do in many American movies, although fewer and fewer these days because…
Nowadays, getting a film made is not about the content or the art, but about how you will fund the film. This is because it has gotten so expensive to make a movie, because everybody wants a piece of it. So film financing through private investment has become a huge industry. And of course, it is primarily businessmen who are making the decisions. So you have to package the movie so they can see it will be profitable.
That’s why it’s all about attaching talent now, knowing your demographic market, proven track records and having a release strategy sometimes before you even have a script. Naturally this restricts some of the freedom and art of filmmaking. It’s tough to nurture creativity on such an assembly line.
Ok, first of all, I don’t think governments should be involved in filmmaking. They have no business influencing these decisions. Governments have become involved in the film industry because they have seen the value of the positive effects it can have on the economy. So governments started offering budget-saving incentives to lure productions to shoot in their country or state. This has caused what we in Hollywood call "runaway production". It is why "Batman" shoots mostly in England, or a movie set entirely in L.A. shoots in the other LA, Louisiana, like "This Is The End". Government influence also affects me both personally and philosophically.
I’ve just noticed my word count, and it’s a little high. Film financing is very complex. It gets complicated and takes some time to explain. So I will part ways with you now. Next column will be the sequel, Part 2. In this exciting follow-up, I will talk a little about financing in Romania, why it affects me personally, how government involvement affects production here, and the deal with profit sharing. Don’t miss it!