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My Thoughts and Ramblings.

"Filmmaker Says" : Week One

There is a great book of filmmaker quotes called, THE FILMMAKER SAYS. Every now and then, I’ll pick a quote and just ramble on about the first thing that comes to my mind. 

“No saint, no pope, no general, no sultan has ever had the power that a filmmaker has: the power to talk to hundreds of millions of people for two hours in the dark.” - Frank Capra

When asked “what drives me to do what I do” I usually suffer through long pauses of silence trying to grasp at some humble explanation that would define my passion for storytelling. This question usually comes up right after I drop a bomb on someone about how un-glamourous show business actually is. The second you describe the nuances of daily life on a set, or in pre production, you see the glossy, hopeful, dreamy eyes of the person in front of you begin to fade away. But, every time I search for this elusive reason, I come to the hard realization that I crave the attention that comes with telling a story. This makes perfect sense to me. I started in this crazy business in front of the audience. There is a feeling of purpose and accomplishment when I can make an audience laugh, cry, or scream. This feeling is euphoric and flows like designer smack through my veins. That one taste and you are hooked for life. The only way to pull yourself from the desire to perform or tell stories is to just die. No other distraction is enough to keep you occupied.

Now, I’m not so sure if its power. I never get the feeling of conquest or control over the audience. Just the give and take. I enjoy that relationship with the temporary audience. I see them as nameless faces of a social collective, buried beneath the flicker of a screen or the heat of the stage lights. The experience and euphoria ends the moment the show is over and the audience departs, and I find myself already hungry for the next fix.

20 years ago this addiction transferred from stage to screen and I abandoned my dreams of being the next Robin Williams and pursued the 90’s pipe dream of chasing the independent filmmaker’s success. I was fed the stories and lies of publicists for a good decade, and I relentlessly pursued these efforts from outside of Los Angeles and New York. But, I didn’t care. I pulled down 40 plus hours a week at a managerial “day job” and tacked on 30 plus more hours in the same week reading, educating myself, and practicing the crafts of screenwriting and film producing. Those ten years hardened me into a motion picture prize fighter who could hop in the ring with the slickest of agents and brightest of studio execs. Ten years of pushing myself to accomplish what fewer than 1000 people a year will do. I didn’t know the odds. All I knew was that it had been done before, and their was no reason I couldn’t. It helps being blind to the realities of a business. 

The blindness cleared as I embedded myself into a production career in advertising and trips to the west coast to test my metal. For another decade everyone pushed me to move, “you belong there” they said, “in ten years you’re calling the shots there”, they pressed. And although it was flattering, the idea of having to prove myself all over again just wasn’t appealing. 

Do I have regrets?  Sure, who doesn’t, but I’m glad I didn’t go. Staying in Richmond, I had surrounded myself with an AMAZING group of creative people who also belonged elsewhere punching with the heavy weights, and together we forged ahead, created some amazing content, won some awards and eventually started Mad Box, a fast growing content shop. These people continue to impress me and our clients, and provide world class results in whatever they are tasked to accomplish. At the same time, after my film, I was able to step back and focus on Mad Box and my career as a director.

But this is where the outlook has changed. As just a commercial director you become a gun for hire. And how well you handle the side arm isn’t always what gets you the work. You have to have this skill or that... this on your reel or that… it becomes basically a numbers game. You are a new car on a sales lot, and people show up and take you all for a test drive. And you may be the best, most reliable, but you’re a metallic silver and they really want a red car this go around. So, you just sit on the lot and wait your turn. Your production company, or rep, becomes the car salesman. They sell the car they think is best for the job instead of fighting for them to own the car that will work out in the long run. Now, they don’t do this on purpose. Its just the nature of the beast, and your perception, while you sit rusting out on the car lot, becomes quite jaded. 

What are you to do? With a background in performance, award winning screenwriting, directing a film, over a hundred commercials, and a post production company at your disposal? You have mouths to feed, both at home and at work. You can’t just give it all up and try to make movies again! 

You evolve. You take the now 20 plus years of absorbing the movie, TV, ad, and content businesses and you put it to use. Turn your passion and skills into a growing career. You partner with the same creative people who have supported you every step of the way and collectively you become a master of your own destiny.

You dust off the busy work and look in the mirror. You realize that if you wait around for the creative work to find you, you are wasting time. You remember you got into this line of work to entertain, to tell stories, and to CREATE STORIES. 

You flip the business model on it’s head. Instead of production companies putting you on their roster, you put production companies on yours. You’re the content king, so now all you have to do is math and make phone calls. You have the skills to pull it off, your input is factored in every step of the way. You pick who does what and when.

So thats what you do. You create it. And that becomes #madboxmade

chris williamsComment