Thursday, March 29, 2012

A short essay about Alert2

Hello friends,

How are you today? I hope you're well. For the past 10 days I've been doing my best to drum up support for a film I'd like to make. It's a sequel to a film in made in 2005 called "ALERT!". Alert was basically a 90 minute collection of animated music videos and short cartoons.

It's difficult to see the forest from the trees when you're an "artist". Often when one creates something there is a great feeling of pride which can put on these "blinders" of sorts, making you impervious to outside commentary. Taking that into account over the 7 or so years since I shared the original with the world the support it's received has been astounding to me. This piece which I see full of faults and things I could have done better was the target of a great deal of much appreciated kind comments and words.

When broken down ALERT! is 50+ sections of visuals and 40 songs. Many of these elements have been sampled by visual artists, DJs, amateur and professional filmmakers. Chunks here and bits there have been used as building blocks to create many new visions from other creatives. It's flattering and wonderful.

When I began work on Alert! in 2001 I was the ripe age of 25. I had dreams that it would become the biggest coolest thing ever. I had dreams it would open doors to bigger and better things. I didn't yet know the workings of the world. A couple of years later I thought "Okay! This is it! I'm really going places this time." and made a film called "Onward to Calgary" with the help of a friend who believed in my vision. Nope. 

I never quite hit that sweet spot with a majority of people. Perhaps it's something I've done on purpose. The sweet spot isn't really what's in my heart. I could make films with proven audiences or tried and true subject matter but there are people already making those types of films and they're doing it much better than I possibly could. 

I seem to have hit this strange place. I like to think of my life making art in terms of jazz music. Jazz musicians are like artists, well they are artists. Jazz musicians watch other jazz musicians at work and pay attention to the way they hold their instruments, how they breathe, how they sense when it's their turn to let loose, how it all comes together. The people who listen to jazz music seem to really dig it or think it's total shit. I'm proud to be a jazz musician in that sense. I'm proud the majority has no clue what to make of my work. I'm proud it doesn't click with everyone. That's how I've made sense of my life. Thinking of myself as an obscure jazz musician is what keeps me away from being a greeter at WalMart. I don't believe there is anything wrong with being a greeter at WalMart at all, it's an honest living. If you're a greeter at WalMart I respect you immensely and I'll always say "Hi" back and smile. 

So here I am at age 36. I've explored the paths of "making it" and didn't. I've presented my work to those who can put you on the money path and it hasn't worked out for me. I never wish to make something that's "now" or "hip" or a "best seller". I never want to take orders from anyone telling me what do to with my artwork to the point where I'll fail. I'm doing it my way. You know "My Way" right? The song that will get you fucking murdered if you dare sing it at Karaoke bars in the Philippines.

So at this moment I know that I won't make a profit on Alert2. I'm not trying to be a negative Nancy about it, I'm just putting the past 10 years of my own personal experience into an assumption based on reality. With the world becoming more and more computerized and internetted, a click here, a whirr there and a ripped version of the entire film could be downloaded to someone's iPhone for free in a couple of minutes. I could potentially make the entire film, sell one copy and that's it. It could be everywhere. There is absolutely no security whatsoever. The thing is I don't really want to make a profit on it, I just don't want to be in debt for making it. Over the past 3 days over 3000 people have seen the original on YouTube and from what I can tell not one of those folks has been interested in my idea for the sequel. I cannot blame them. It's just entertainment and on the internet entertainment is free. Things to watch are so abundant you could spend all day and all night clicking links and watching films and the next day thousands more would be available for your perusal.  

The reality is me making another film are slim to none without the support of the people who want to see it. It's a risk I cannot afford to take and it's a real catch 22. I can't spend years making something with the risk that it'll just be instantly stolen. I can't put my girlfriend in financial peril as I "follow my film dreams".

"Oh it'll work this time, baby."
"As soon as (insert name here) hears our band demo things will really take off!"

I have film ideas I'd absolutely pour my heart into to make for the brief possibility that they would bring joy to others. These ideas burn holes in my brain. As one of my most admired artists Robert Williams would say "It's a compulsion to create."

I can no longer just "make it and see what happens". I know exactly what will happen and it's oh so sad. Actually I have no idea what would happen. It would take a year to make and who knows what technology will exist then. Maybe selling things on the internet will become illegal without a license?

Just a couple more things and this will be over. It's in regards to pledge amounts on Kickstarter. On Kickstarter, one will see that I have a pledge amount for $18 which nets you 2 DVDs (+ artwork from the film). The average person may look at this and say "Fuck! $18 for DVDs? No way". Check out the scene this way. 

We'll begin with your $18 dollars. Kickstarter and Amazon payments get a combined 10% of that.
$18 - 10%($1.80) = $16.20
With that $16.20, I manufacture a DVD just for you. With the service I use, the costs change. Last time each DVD cost $1 more than I factored in. With the postage from the company tacked on each DVD cost me $3
$16.20 - $3.00 = $13.20
Now this part comes at the end but I'm going to do it now to better show how reality kicks your ass. The is the part where I mail the DVD out to you. In the U.S. the average cost to mail a DVD is $2.20
$13.20 - $2.20 = $11.00
So here we are with the $11 dollars left over. This $11 will be stretched over the course of 1 year (12 months) which is spent creating the music and animation for the film. 
$11.00 / 12 = $.92

Alert2 would be put into motion for .92 cents a month profit to me which are put towards rent, food and car insurance. The higher pledges offer more wiggle room but a DVD probably being the most common pledge and it's what I did my math with. When releasing this idea upon the world I have no idea which option people will like more, everything is estimated and man oh man it's tough. It's a very difficult thing to gauge. Seeing an amount like $10,000 must have people going "Is this guy fucking crazy or something? How could it take $10,000 to make this abstract movie with swirly shits and bleeps and bloops?"

And if I don't get this job done in a year I'm absolutely screwed. Magical money will not appear to help it move forward. I'm guessing a common dream for people who follow their passions in life is the "Magical money from nowhere" which helps you along your way without requiring anything from you in return. The magical money doesn't exist.

So here we are at the very bottom. When it gets to the point of cost breakdowns I'm guessing the fate of the film is pretty much sealed already. I mean, once it was completed it would just enter the sea of other films that was something every other filmmaker wanted to do. Floating up and down, picked up every once and a while by someone to be enjoyed or dismissed, to pass time, to stare at. 

In the past year artists crowd sourcing their ideas has exploded to the point of commonplace. It's an absolutely fantastic outlet for those trying to connect with like minded people and accomplish their dreams. This means much more competition for everyone which I think is very good. "Only the strong survive!" A glorious concept, very "America". I'll never be able to compete with an iPhone app or a documentary film about (insert name here) that everyone knows. 

I'm not going to stop trying though. As my friend Josh said to me the other day
"Without art, we're already dead"

I'm not ready to be dead yet.


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