Filmmaking is for Warriors: How to afford the good life

Filmmaking is for Warriors 3_2

“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!