What are we doing? You, me, all of us moviemakers? Digital or film, writer, director or producer, cast and crew? What are we doing? We must be crazy, each of us going our own way, forging our own trail, all advancing against nearly impossible odds. I am reminded of the scenes in the movie Gallipoli, where the Aussie soldiers climb out of the trenches to face the Turks across open ground, only to be mowed down under withering fire. The next row then climbs out and does the same, with very few making it to the trench beyond. Why? Because that was just how it was done. How stupid.
Are we not perhaps the largest single group of creative and courageous people on the planet? Why in the hell are we not working together? And yet we don’t. The competitiveness is just plain dumb. With the light-speed advance of technology, the ranks of wannabe moviemakers grow exponentially with each passing month… or is that week? And the distribution channels grow just as exponentially. But still, most moviemakers seem to be flailing around, going at it on their own, still trying to beat down the H-wood doors, reinventing wheel after wheel. You feel me?
Come on. There must be a better way, a brighter idea.
Perhaps there is. I have a proposition: Let’s form a co-op production company that is publicly held (thus anyone can invest for a small sum). It will be run almost like a broad partnership, where moviemakers submit their concepts and a rotating board of fellow moviemakers/actors/crew decides on a series of films and produces them for each other. You are either in the group, or you aren’t. Your choice. Think of it as a virtual studio that is international in scope. Or perhaps think of it like a civic theater troupe, but on a global/virtual scale.
But this will not be a union by any means. No one will be exclusive to the group, but any film the group produces must first offer its jobs to shareholders. That goes for everyone above and below the line. As a member, you will get first priority to be hired for the cast or crew of the co-op’s films. Owning more shares won’t give you a greater chance of being hired, but it will get you a larger return on investment and a more meaningful vote for the management of the group. Once you are in the group, you are in, but from then on you must win gigs based on talent.
Your pay? Going rates, but perhaps not the top dollars. But you will get your films made, and you get to be working as crew and/or acting in a produced film. For many, payment in stock will be better than payment in cash and vice versa. Budgets will be done in house and money will be saved considerably. State sales tax rebates and other tradeable incentives can be packaged and leveraged much more efficiently in this co-op scenario. Financing will be arranged in bulk and through the public markets. The biggest gift: You, as a moviemaker, won’t be forced to spend your time chasing financing.
Here’s the kicker: For most of the films, we will distribute ourselves, all through the Web and on demand; no DVD (it will be dead soon anyway) and little theatrical consideration. For those seeking festival or theatrical releases, we can figure that out on a case-by-case basis.
I know how to do this, and can. I was an attorney/CPA before I was a full-time moviemaker. I can get the company trading on the public markets. I know many who would consider doing this. But we need 200 across all the departments to kick-start it. Who is with me?
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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 upcoming Summer 2009 issue of MovieMaker, hitting newsstands in early August, features his latest installment of his print column, Marlett & Me.