Fundraising. Story 2.

What is driving an artist to betray his/her creature comforts and set out to do tedious, backbreaking work at his/her own expense, receiving an acknowledgment and rarely a recognition by only a very limited audience?
It took me three years to fill this cultural gap and to make my first film on American soil on my own, hard earned money
to fully understand the psychology behind self-finance.
First, in capitalism (what an old fashioned word, the last time I used it was to pass an exam on history of Marxism-Leninism) there are people who believe that their project/film will make them loads of money and make then instantly famous. It had happened before to other people, and it can happen to them. Never mind that out of 1000 projects only one makes it to the top. One dies trying, and it’s an honorable death – that’s of the basic teachings of the free market philosophy. The other teaching is – be brave and take risks, because only the brave drink the champagne at the end of the story. Never mind that the 2 brave who drink champagne are standing on a pile of 998 dead bodies of the filmmakers who didn’t make it.
Then, there are people who are more pragmatic and they make their short animated film as a pilot for TV. They invest their own money, they produce it and then they take it around the festivals and studious trying to sell it. Because the other teaching of free market is – get your investment back (tripled or zillioned, if you can). It sounds reasonable, doesnt it?
The short film produced this way looks like, smells like and sounds like a bad TV. Rarely original ideas and design fly off such sample pilot.
Because when people play it safe, they like to use ideas that are safe. They recycle character design they have seen on TV, and try to imitate successful TV shows.
Do these sample pilots succeed? I dont know. I dont have a TV.
Then, there are the truly crazy. They had seen one Bill Plympton short, found out how successful he is (not a millionaire, but famous and able to afford to make film after film) and decided that they can do just as good or even better than the Plympton. Well, 2 films later they are not anywhere near Plympton’s success but they are hooked on animated storytelling and now they crank out film after film with no other apparent reason as the joy they get from making the films and showing them to a very small festival public interested in short animation.
I admit, I belong to the crazy.
But to my defense, I have a very elaborate system of justifications of what I do and why.
I understand what disease makes me to get up in the morning and make films.
The disease is combined of 3 separate syndromes, each of which is named after one of my favorite female heroines:
1) Jean d’Arc syndrome. I feel the need to serve a higher purpose.
If I made films to gratify my narcissism, or to make money, or become famous  i’d have stopped making them long time ago. I actually believe that my films are serving as an antidote to Hollywood generic ideas, I believe that my films train people to think for themselves, to resist to commercialization of the inner realm. Call me crazy. Some people called Jean d’Arc crazy but she saved France, didnt she?
2)  Scheherezade syndrome. I have a need to tell a story, otherwise I die.
This is a basic entertainer’s syndrome. Look up the wonderful “1001 Nights”!
3) Cinderella syndrome. I have a need to work, and be in bed before Midnight so I can work more the next day. As to the Prince she gets? who wants the Prince when you have your work?

Oh, and before I forget – it is so much easier to be a woman independent animator than a man.
No one expects from a woman to make loads of money, while men have a lot of pressure. I was able to fall between the cracks of those expectations and save money on dinners paid by many wonderful men, then invest that saved money in yet another film!
(to be continued…)

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
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5 Responses to Fundraising. Story 2.

  1. jaystern says:

    Signe – thank you for writing about this! No one else talks about it!

  2. mayshing says:

    great points.
    I think I belong to the crazy, too… I just have a need to share stories, whether I get help, or no help, I’m doing it, anyway. I went to SVA so that I have that skill, now I know I still have much to learn, but at least SVA got me started, and meet a lot of like-minded film makers, even if they are greatly different from each other, they all have the same drive. I like that kind of dreamers.

    My goal is recording what I see to ensure the people, the lives around me, including my own… live longer than me, and hope that my sharing inspire someone else. That’s my drive.

  3. Jonas Raeber says:

    What, dear Signe, do you mean by saying “nobody” talks about fundraising? EVERYBODY around us animation filmmakers in Europe is CONSTANTLY talking about financing, money and the value of our creative labour.
    I’m actually writing a book about this very subject right now (sorry, no blog, at least not yet) with as a working title “Low budget, no brain”. Anyone know of an editor that might be interested to publish it? Because: I WANT TO MAKE MONEY with it… and then a new film 😉
    Best wishes, Jonas

  4. Well, in Europe maybe they talk about fundraising… I haven’t heard much about it here.
    Except, on the panels with clever people who say: – oh and then I fundraised 10 million dollars and made my movie. And when you ask where the money came from, they move to the next subject.

  5. You’re right, only 1 out of 1000 (conservative estaimate!) projects makes money. The lesson is, do it because you love it (or at least because you’re neurotically compelled to do it)! If you have a low chance of breaking through anyway, you might as well follow your own vision rather than trying to copy someone else’s succesful formula. I can admire an original failure, I can only despise a derivative failure. Keep following your muse!

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