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Marlett & Me: Whoa to Woe! Get off the Effect/Affect Merry-Go-Round

Marlett & Me: Whoa to Woe! Get off the Effect/Affect Merry-Go-Round

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Okay, everyone is all aflutter about the economic situation and what its “effects” are on the film biz, especially the indie film biz. Like a damn bunch of swooning Scarletts. What most don’t realize is that they themselves, their very reactions, are a big part of the problem.

To parse this, let’s look at what affects the economic situation seem to be producing in the film biz. But to do that, we first need to know the difference. A quick glance at will tell you that an effect is something produced by a cause (i.e. a result, a consequence), while an affect is a feeling or an emotion.

So, the effect of the economic situation is the dried up credit, the hunkered investors, the layoffs and the suspended or shut-down productions. Yes? But what are the affects? The affects are the insidious fuel of this fire. The affectations produced—the emotions, the fears, the feelings of insecurity and doubt—those are irrational, yet highly effective in perpetuating the true effects of this meltdown.

Now, you say, “So what, Marlett? What’s your point?” Well, the key is that we forget to separate the two. And even worse, those whom might otherwise invest in your film are often bogged down in the effect/affect mire from which there “appears” no recovery. But you need to see the difference, if for no other reason as to not despair, and not lose hope… but rather to hang on.

One of my undergraduate degrees is in economics, and another is finance. I say this only as prelude to the following: Economics, either micro or macro, is driven heavily by expectations. It is a gamble, a numbers game of what might happen three to 18 months (on average) out into the future. If you feel strongly about the prospects, you buy now, anticipating or expecting the effect of time and the economy to drive up the value of what you buy (stocks, etc.). The affect (feeling or emotion) of this expectation is hopefulness, encouragement, “postiveness.” But on the other hand, if you’re harboring opposite emotions or affectations, the effect on the economy is dour. You sell now. You take your money out of risky investments. You stuff your mattress and hunker down.

But the key is to understand the effect/affect relationship. The film business, as we all know, is a long-term (meaning greater than 12-month) turnaround industry. The average indie film takes two years from script to screen. Two years! What will the market be like in two years? Or if you are already in development, then maybe 18 months. That is the point in time when the economy will truly matter. And either way, good or bad, you win. Why? Because study after study has shown that in good times or bad, ticket sales stay strong. In fact, as the economy declines, ticket sales actually go up. (See the ABC News story referenced on my other blog at So, the affect (dour, woe is me, boo hiss) is sorely misplaced when it comes to the film business.


Is this starting to make more sense? Affectations drive expectations. There is an effect on the economy due to those expectations. The economy thus drives more emotions/feelings (affects). It is a cyclical behavior pattern. The economy is not some cold, inert thing. It is a living, breathing, growing, dying, flexing, pulsing organism that is inextricably tied to the humans which inhabit it. We didn’t get into this economic sludge pit in a vacuum and we don’t stay here due to some forces beyond our control. We are on the affect/effect/affect/effect merry-go-round that we must break free from.

So, how might you apply this in your search for funding for your film? Be sure first that you strip yourself from the illogical affects that burden your thinking. Time to be Spockian. Cold reason. Your film will not be seeing economic returns until after this whole tsunami has passed and the sun has returned. Focus on that point in time. It truly is what matters. Keep your business plan, your team, your own mind so focused. Realize in yourself that the fear you feel is, in large part, transient, an affect created from the daily pissing you are getting from the media. Yes, you are out of work and not sure how to pay rent this month. Those are the real effects of this economic situation. But try like hell to focus on the facts, not the emotions. The effects, not the affects.

Only when you have a better grasp of this, and have a better control of it within yourself, can you begin to help your potential investor understand as well. Be a voice of positive energy in the storm. You won’t be lying or even exaggerating. You are in a long-term industry. The rewards/returns you are offering your investor will not occur til after the storm has passed. Focus there. Make it a discipline in yourself and those around you.

Break the cycle of despair in your own life, your own crew, and you will go a long way toward improving your odds of success. Trust me.

Next entry: Translating this into a business plan.

Oh, one last thought. We all need a good laugh, and I encourage you to jump over to Anne Norda’s latest blog entry here at called ”Notes from Movieland: How Not to Make a Movie in 17 Steps.” I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know my fellow blogger and moviemaker and her in-the-trenches journeys are as humorous as they are informative.

Ride on,


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 Winter 2009 issue features his first installment of a new print column, Marlett & Me, with this sister blog on

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