Filmmaking is for Warriors: How to afford the good life

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“Why don’t you have Internet?”

I get that question a lot. I mean, I guess it’s valid here in the US. We act as though we’d die tomorrow without wifi. Gotta stay connected.

Let’s talk about dreams, then.

I decided to go to school for film. I did that knowing I probably would never make good money on it. I knew that. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money and I didn’t yet understand what it’s truly like to live as an artist.

When you’re an adult, it’s all well and good to say “I’m an artist.” But when you go to the store to buy groceries for the week or when you get that inevitable rent payment reminder looming from the coffee table you have a choice: work hard and still do art, or live at home/with someone else and mooch for the rest of your life.

I don’t believe the latter choice is an option.

So. What do I do to be an artist and still live?

I work. First I worked in food service. Then in a gardening place. Then in retail. Then last year I found my current job – business writing – which utilizes all of the craft I’ve built up in writing for the past 15 years. I love my job. There’s no complaints about my job. I need this job to pay the bills.

But my job is not art.

Last year I pushed myself to create a film every month. I succeeded in making 11 films, 2 of which are sadly still in post. You can read about why I didn’t succeed in 12 films here.

I didn’t have the ability to pay anybody, I don’t have my own sound equipment, I didn’t always have access to real actors and we mostly made up our own lighting. On top of that; almost every single crew member and actor was either full-time in school or full time working or a mixture of both.

But we all made the time to create art.

How did we afford this good life?

We work hard. We make time. We pay our bills. We create good, solid relationships with other human beings who often help us out along the way.

But this post started with a very specific question – why my husband and I don’t have Internet at home.

A while back this thing happened called college. A decision was made to take out loans to pay for this good schooling. Those loans were a decision, made in full awareness that they would eventually be paid off, even if it took several years. There was never, nor should there be, any expectation that these loans would be paid by someone else or just randomly disappear. You don’t pay for a car and then expect to get the money back. You don’t pay for a Starbucks coffee and expect it for free, not if the coffee makes it to your hand.
A service was rendered, and that service had a price.

In our effort to pay off these loans and the new car that my husband chose, we have dialed back our lifestyle considerably. We’re attempting to continue dialing it back in the near future as well.

Here’s what we already do to save money:

  1. We live in a studio apartment. That’s one room and a restroom.
  2. We do not have Internet or TV at home.
  3. We are part of my family’s phone plan. I use an iPhone 4 that I got for $0.99 when I upgraded my plan in 2013, and my husband downgraded to an iPhone 3 over a year ago (I have no idea how it still works, blame good engineering).
  4. We don’t buy new clothes, or really any clothes, unless something is ripped, stained or necessary for work.
  5. We shop at Aldi. Although I should interject here that I have extensive, debilitating food allergies that prevent me from ingesting gluten, dairy, corn, most soy and some preservatives. If I eat these things I get very sick and am unable to work or function. Because of this we often shop at HyVee and Natural Grocers, which is expensive. I don’t recommend shopping like this if you want to save money and have the ability to eat normal foods (not talking about eating completely unhealthily, please don’t think that I want anyone to make bad food choices).
  6. I have the bare minimum health insurance and car insurance.
  7. My husband leads the way in donating money. This seems like a contradictory statement, but I’ve discovered that the more money you share, the more you suddenly have.

By doing these things, and probably some others I am forgetting, we are able to save a huge portion of our checks every month and work toward paying off debt. Because of these things we can afford to (over) spend on activities with our friends. Because of these things we can afford the good life, which is the artist’s life.

We don’t expect things to be free. We don’t expect things to be easy.

And those two pieces of wisdom, combined with a deep faith in an unfailing God, give me an artist life, the life that I always wanted since before college.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, questions or projects of your own!

Rules, Anyone?

Welcome to 2015.  The Earth is still round.  The USA is still my home.  Gravity still keeps us trapped on the surface of the only habitable rock in nearby space.

Stop that.  What I’m saying is this; a new year has begun, but humanity remains the same.

Last time I posted I told ya’ll of my new goals for this year.  I briefly mentioned something I dubbed “12 Months of Movies.”  I’ll elaborate.

In this illustrious 2015 I shall complete a film every month.  A “film” in this instance is anything motion captured that exceeds a minute in length and tells a story.  Whether the story is true (or a version of truth, called a documentary), or fiction, animated (drawn, generated, stop-motion), or live action, silent or full of diegetic sound, filmed by me or another person, written by me or another person…it’s all an open field.  When I say “I” in this instance I mean that I will be the driving factor behind the film, whether I produce, direct, write, edit or shoot it, I must be either the main reason or the partnering reason the film gets finished.

So:

  1. I shall complete a film exceeding the length of 1 minute each month.
  2. The film can be any genre and any medium.
  3. I must be the driving force behind it’s completion.
  4. I must post it here, whether it succeeds or utterly fails.  We learn more from our failures than our successes anyway.

(Joss Whedon)

You may be asking me why I am doing this.  After all, I had a fairly successful year last year with 52 creative projects.  Why trouble my life by seeking out a new way to suck my time and energy away?

There is a terrible burden in being an artist.  It is this:  does my work, my life, my soul and heart and time mean anything?  Is this art actually worth anything?

I don’t know yet.  I don’t know what kind of stories I should be telling.  I know what kinds I like to see, but I don’t always make those kinds of stories real.

What I can tell you is that I shall make some comedies.  I shall make some dramas.  I will hopefully make an action film or two, since I enjoy those greatly.  And I shall want, desire and ask for your feedback.

Tell me what works.  Tell me what doesn’t.  Give me your opinion.  Even if it’s “I hated this movie a lot”, tell me.  And when I ask you why, please be specific.

That’s the only way I’ll ever really know if it means anything.

Following that line, what story or genre or type of film would you like to see, if anything could be made?  A vampire movie?  An epic?  A drama about a big family?  An action movie?

Next time I post, it will be a film.  Talk to you then.

The New Year of 2015: Day 1

Last year at this time I posted this:

1. My goal is to create and finish something “creative” every week. That’s 52 things. This is a super loose goal, I realize, but I’ll refine it more in later posts.

2. My goal is to live as if I am burdened with glorious purpose, like Loki of Asgard.

3. My goal is to be unashamed.

4. My goal is to learn to longboard, well.

5. My goal is to tell YOU all about it.

How did my year turn out?

1. I finished something creative every week.  Yep, 52 creative things.

2. I don’t know if all of my purposes were glorious, but I certainly dressed as well as Loki at times.

3. I met a man who let me see myself without shame.  Someone who saw the good in all the darkness.

4. Longboarding happened, but it happens less frequently now, which is terrible, I know.

5. DID YOU READ ALL THOSE STINKIN’ POSTS??? (it’s totally okay if you didn’t.  Just the good ones, read those.)

I promised I’d give a rundown of my favorite projects from this year:

My top 6 in chronological order:

Week 3:

This was my favorite filming shoot of all time.  So much fun working with these people.  We learned a lot.

Week 9:

I just really like coffee.

Week 15:

This was just super fun to make.  A lot easier and harder than expected.  I would do it again.

Week 22:

I can’t help it, this was just like playing.  Seriously.  Good friends, good boarding, gorgeous park…GOPRO…I guess it couldn’t have been better unless we got to use a RED camera or something.

Week 44:

This story shocked me.  I don’t know where it came from, but I enjoyed writing it and it freaked me out.

Week 49:

Writing a sonnet for the first time was like learning to write all over again.  I liked the challenge.

Onward into goals for this new year!

  1. My resolutions:
    1. See the good in all situations.
    2. Forgive. Everything.
    3. Laugh at myself more.
    4. Create a film every month.
    5. Start my greeting card line.
    6. Post here every other week.
  2. So 2015 shall be called: 12 Months of Movies

More next time.

Until then, HAPPY DAY 1!  May this year be the year you find the joy for which you long.  Keep looking–you’ll never find it with your eyes closed.

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 26

Today I was granted free lunch and free dinner.

It wasn’t pizza.

It wasn’t whatever that is and technically this is Monday.  But I’m kinda interested in whatever that is…. *salivating at computer screen*

My managers grilled burgers for everyone–about a hundred people.  Yeah, I know, great job, right?  And THEN a customer gave me 2 coupons for FREE SANDWICHES from Chik-Fil-A.

So.  Wow.  Lots of awesome.  I think I actually fulfilled my protein quota for today.

My project this week had to do with bottles.  Yep.  I saw this on Pinterest (Yes, I know, but the site has so many good ideas floating around):

And I thought, “huh, how do I make that my own?”

This is how:

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I messed up one of them, but I fixed it the next day when everything was dry.  I used acrylic paint…Not sure if that was a great choice, but that’s what I had and I liked the color.

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These are itty bitty bottles.  I’ve had them for a while–been saving ’em.  I knew they would turn out to be a great future project.

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As always, feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 25

I hope you don’t hate me, at this point, for subjecting you to yet another week of creative.  I hate myself a little for making me do this, but I’ve learned something new every time, whether it had to do with art or creativity or patience or perseverance or just relaxation.

My life at this point isn’t as open as it was when the year began.  I have a new job I started in January.  I have a fiancé, and a wedding to sorta coordinate.  I have a group of good friends who meet every week–what an amazing idea.  I started long boarding, and oil painting.  I’ve now seen all of Veronica Mars, including the new film, and am almost through seeing it all for a 2nd time.

Every week something crazy happens, I swear, like a schedule change or a sick person or a dude shows up at my house before anyone else has a right to in the morning and proposes beside a fluttering cloud of balloon asteroids.

And I love it.  (And him, just in case you were wondering.)

So sometimes I forget that I have this blog and this commitment.  Sometimes I get to Saturday and FREAK OUT.  But I’m not giving up.  Nope.

(That’s the dad from Veronica Mars, just in case you were wondering.)

This week I filmed my dog.  I got a new lens and I thought, hey, I’m gonna go film outside.  The thing about being outside by my house?  Rory is there.

So Rory is my actor.  Rory’s telling a story.  Everything you see and hear is purposeful, in case you were wondering.  Let Rory tell you this story.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or projects of your own!

p.s. yes, Rory is named for the Doctor Who character.

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 15

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Saturday we had a 14 hour film shoot.  We’re in the midst of a month-long film contest, called The Fiery Wheel-O-Rama.  Basically, we pulled a specific genre, a prime location and 5 elements that needed to be included in a film that’s less than 10 minutes long.  Technically we only needed to use 3 of the elements.

Sounds easy, right?

We pulled vampire film.  Yeah.  And let me tell you, we made a vampire film.  There was blood.  There was biting.  There were…vampires.

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The next day, I found this on Pinterest:

I decided to emulate this with some of the Highlights magazines from my childhood.

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It was fun, really.  I would do this again.  It was especially therapuetic considering my crazy week and weekend.  Art is…calming.  You should try it, and let me know what it is to you.

As always, feel free to comment with thoughts, ideas or projects of your own!

52 Weeks of Creative: Week 13

The Example Image From Pinterest

EDIT:  Here’s who drew it.

This is a gorgeous picture.  I want to know who drew it or where it came from, but sometimes people pin things to Pinterest…and they lead back to Tumblr…and Tumblr is a BLACK HOLE.

*this is me not downing the horrible devastation that is Tumblr*

This is the inevitable week 13.  And, inevitably, I’m posting a day late.  I’m sorry.

We all fail sometimes.

I did finish by Sunday.  I intended to post by last night.  But I worked both my jobs yesterday and by the time I got home I was focused on something else.  I wish I remembered…and I will definitely try not to forget again.  I know next week will be easier already. 🙂

I haven’t done a mixed medium picture before…that I know of.  I’ve always liked the idea of multiple kinds of drawing utensils.  I have even more than I actually ended up using, too.  Here’s my step-by-step process:

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Pencil.

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Pastels.

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Colored pencil.

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Marker.

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And pen.

Feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or your own creative projects!

Introversion and Art

Some people draw energy from being around other people.  And some people draw energy from being by themselves.

These people don’t hate people.  No, they just hate to be forced into parties and large groups and social events on a regular basis.  It drains the life out of them.

Let’s repeat that, please.  Attending big social events regularly drains ALL LIFE from people the public calls INTROVERTS.

Some artists…maybe a lot of artists…are introverts.  Why?  They spend a lot of time thinking and creating art from their thoughts, while alone.  Writers and film editors tend to be introverts.  Actors, dancers, painters….Lots of people.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because it seems like in Western culture that there’s some kind of misconception that introverts are a tiny part of the populace.  Like they are some kind of rare blood disorder or albino bat.  Ya’ll, introverts run half the world.  They’re not new or extraordinary or unique or unusual.

Don’t freak out when you meet one or when someone tells you they don’t like parties.  Don’t force them to hang out with people more often, because they won’t like it or forget it.

But mainly…Please keep asking him or her to hang out.  Please keep him or her in mind when you need someone to talk to or help you move.  Hold on to your introverted friend–it’s easy to be ignored when you dislike large groups.

Introverts aren’t special.  I repeat, introverts aren’t this magical brand of human being.  They are just human.  Just as lovable or unlovable as an extrovert.  They just need a different schedule sometimes.

I know this is a weird post.  I know I normally write about movies and technology and Kansas City.  I just found this subject very important this past week, since I am an extremely introverted person.  I didn’t know how introverted until the last few weeks.

We exist.  Be aware.