Perhaps you’ve heard the “funny,” awful story of the idiot who went ice fishing with dynamite, his new truck and old faithful dog? He parks on the ice, throws the lit dynamite, the dog retrieves the stick while the fuse is burning… then hides under the truck when the guy screams at the dog not to bring it back! You can imagine what follows.
Staying on the analogy… everyone who’s tossed a stick or ball for a dog, has, at some point, thought it would be fun to throw multiple sticks/balls at once, to see what the dog does. It never really works. The dog simply goes for either the first one he sees land or his favorite. To him, one is enough. He keeps it simple. (Yes, I know, you’ve trained your dog to pick up several, but you get my point.) This is important to remember in the film biz, too. More is not necessarily better. In fact, too many projects is more than often a detriment; a sign of weakness, not strength—especially for us smaller operators.
And sometimes there are unexpected problems that only become apparent once you’ve “bitten down” on a project. There are legal obligations, expectant investors, testy agents and pushy original writers. All worth it for the right project, but it just means they require management. If you have too many, it is likely one will blow up on you because you weren’t able to give it the attention it requires.
For example, yesterday I saw two fantastic projects that somebody should be making: On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart interviewed Frank Partnoy, author of The Match King. (See it yourself at www.TheDailyShow.com.) That book will make a fantastic film. Someone should do it. And having a fascination with history, and 20 years of financial experience, the thought rushed to me, “I am the perfect guy to do that!” (If you option it, you gotta bring me on board for giving you the idea!) Then, on “60 Minutes” this Sunday, there was the story of the double agent spy for the Egyptians and the Israelis. Both countries honor him as their own greatest spy! He was recently murdered in London. Click on this to see it: Was the Perfect Spy a Double Agent? A truly amazing film there. (Again, if you do it… ehmmm.)
But I already have three films and one TV show in development and early pre-production, am building an equestrian brand and have two of my own historical dramas waiting in the wings. What am I going to do, chase these other balls, too? Very tempting, but no. (Even as I write this, I keep thinking… ‘Hmmmm… maybe one of them?’)
Now, of course, we all know what the bigger producers do. They option these projects just to get them off the street, to be sure no one else gets them. But frankly, I don’t have the resources to do that, and as a fellow indie hyphenate (writer-producer-director), I doubt you do either. And I don’t just mean financial resources, but time and emotional energy. Perhaps the last two are more important than the first.
Besides, after years of writing and having my work optioned (for street-removal) but not made, I kinda got a sore-spot for that stuff. If you option it, DO IT… or let it go to someone who can/will. Can I get an Amen on that?
So, concluding: Do what works for you. But the key phrase there is “what works.” Less is more in acting and in your slate of active projects. Be selective and careful. Focus on building a body of work—a brand. Otherwise you can quickly get overloaded and torn into multiple directions (or pieces… if one blows up on you).
David Marlett is a writer and director currently producing and directing the feature film, Of Kings & Cowboys. Marlett’s desire to direct and control his own work led him to create BlueRun Productions in 2007. He’s been acting for most of his life, and is also a non-practicing (“recovering”) attorney and CPA, with 20-plus years experience consulting and managing a wide assortment of companies in industries spanning from healthcare to entertainment. The Spring 2009 issue features his latest installment of his print column, Marlett & Me, with this sister blog on MovieMaker.com.