As filmmakers we are, by default, ingrained with a sense of passion for the work we do. Both on-set and off, we push ourselves harder than the average working stiff. It is this passion, I believe, which sets us apart from the rest of society. Bump into a fellow filmmaker at an unassuming location and there’s an instant sense camaraderie. If you’re a filmmaker, you’re filled with this sense of passion. If you’re not filled with a sense of passion, you’re not a filmmaker… yet.
With this overabundance of passion comes, what many will call, our “passion projects”. You may have one, you may have many, but they certainly are there. Be it a script, a concept, or an idea, it likely burns in the back of your mind more often than you’d like. What keeps us from completing these passion projects are any number of things. Lack of resources, budget restraints, or just bad timing can cause a filmmaker to push their passion project to one side and move on to something more feasible or which has attracted more interest from producers and investors.
The question of the day, however, is whether we should ever give up on these so-called “passion projects”. One industry professional seems to believe (at length) that we should “Always move forward and [not] cling to that early effort as the one that must be made.” That as writers and filmmakers we should trust that our ideas get better with experience and that if “a script takes a decade to get made, maybe it doesn’t want to [or shouldn’t] be born”.
He offers, as evidence, the example of the box office flop, Toys, starring the late Robin Williams. And, yes, I agree, it failed… miserably. However, in the film’s defense, we should see its failure as an equation; where the end result was a product of the sum of its marketing strategies. It was portrayed early on as a comedy and, upon its release, as a heart-warming children’s film complete with a video game follow-up. (!!!)
I loved the film, even then. Perhaps it was the young film-buff in me that was able to appreciate its cinematic qualities. Like its brilliant use of color to contrast the film’s dark tone. Or its artistic nod to Depero and Dadaism throughout its set and wardrobe design. In the end, after the initial shock and realization that this was not the film any of us had anticipated, I was able to accept and embrace it for what it was – a dark comedy with witty satire. And I did laugh in all the intended places, and feel anger at the scenes of injustice. And I remember leaving the theater thinking… That’s it. It left me thinking. And isn’t that what a well-made film is supposed to do?
All my artsy, film school notions aside, I’d like to reiterate (as one commenter quickly pointed out) that the idea for the award-winning film, Dallas Buyers Club, came to screenwriter, Craig Borten, in 1992. The same year as Toys‘ U.S. release over twenty years ago. If you ask me, working on a single script, pushing for it to get made, doing everything in my power so that its message is finally heard for two decades is absurd. But Borten had, what we all have. Passion, and the desire to tell a story.
My point is this: Whether you’re just starting out or have worked in the industry for decades, you should always stay true to your passion. Listen to that gut feeling inside you that whispers, regardless of all the naysayers and rejection letters, that you simply must Make Your Movie. Because after all, success isn’t measured by box office numbers, critical acclaim, or Academy Awards. The real success is in completing and satisfying that hunger that drives the passion inside us all. Go out and do it! Not because you think it will get you rich or make you famous, but because “it is your life”.