American Messiah

Three in the morning is always a great time to think.
No distractions. It’s you and your thoughts… mano a mano.

Right now I am thinking about this movie and what
will happen to it, and to those involved. I stare at the darkened
ceiling and try to predict the outcome, a charming but futile exercise.
We are in the editing stage right now, probably the best time to
be philosophical. Probably the only time to be philosophical.

Editing is the process of sitting down and watching
your own film, even though it doesn’t feel like you actually did
it. Was I really involved in this American Messiah production?

So we log tapes and start doing a video edit- just
to see what we’ve got and also because we don’t have the money-
not yet- to do any serious editing on film. That’s a $50,000 proposition.
To us, that’s a lot of money; to Bill Gates, probably the cost of
the flower arrangements at his wedding. Fair is not life.

I’m still staring at the ceiling and it doesn’t give
me back any answers. Is there a realistic chance that we have a
good film here? What are the odds that anybody will see it? Will
Messiah really boost people’s careers?

As we edit, I am thinking about marketing- getting
the finished tape into distributors’ hands. Selling. Selling. Selling.
I’m good at that, but I don’t relish having to put on the thick
skin suit to withstand all the rejection.

Making an "indie" feature
can be bloody difficult. (On the set of American Messiah)

Selling will actually be tougher than making the movie.
Few realize this. The hard work is in marketing, because the task
demands so much of our nerves. The physical aspects of making a
movie are strenuous and severe; but the body can relax once it is
over. With marketing, your brain never stops overworking. There
is no time to relax. The next call might be the big sale.

And what kind of sale are we talking about? Let’s
talk hard numbers. A halfway decent movie can generate around $500,000
for video, foreign theatrical and TV rights. If you can make a movie
for less than that, you stand to make some money. But the trick
is to get this sale. Hundreds, if not thousands of films are floating
around out there looking for buyers; many of these purchasers are
ma and pa operations in L. A. who promise you the Titanic but give
you the Minnow.

So marketing requires careful wordof- mouth build-up,
or some kind of promotion that puts it above the rest of the floater
films. In our case, we are selling it as a provocative satire on
religion and Hollywood. This strategy is geared more to the art-house
market, which has limited commercial potential, but which is our
only real releasing venue. Ours is not an overtly commercial piece,
so we are realistic about its box office potential. The ceiling
tells me not to wont’. We’ve gotten this far; this isn’t going to
be the end.

But alas, I am broke. Art is a sustainer of life,
but unless it also helps pay for the food and rent, it is just a
smokescreen. We cannot live on smokescreens alone.

Maybe something will come through. Meanwhile, in our
editing cave, we spend our days staring at the monitor for endless
hours. Politicians might be losing face, Russia embroiled in another
crisis- but in our safe little wombs, our worst headache is to choose
between take one and take three.

Maybe in the next months column I’ll have a better
idea of what will happen with Messiah. For now it’s editing
and waking up at 3 a.m. to think about it all. MM

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