Being an indie filmmaker is hard.
The Barack Obama Owes Me Money project is stalled due to a lack of funding. And resources. And time.
Renting equipment and people who know how to use it is really expensive. I have a new…something, I’m not sure what…a new awareness, I guess, for publicity and media desperate “stars” who hire crews to follow them around for a day. It ain't cheap. Or easy. Getting equipment is very expensive, hiring a crew to use it is even more expensive. If you're down, and out, and desperate enough to want or "need" to resort to that sort of publicity you can't be on your last $20. You have to at least have some goods to pawn to hire the crew.
I’ve always admired the pioneering and creative spirits who toil away at their project, driven by creativity, integrity and a diet of Ramen noodles. The ones who see it through to the end and make great, well, okay, good, films on shoestring budgets with no studio or commercial or trust fund financial backing. Real independents. Not the faux independents. The real independents who have day jobs, a second weekend/night job, crappy apartments and barely running cars because every penny they earn goes toward The Project.
The internet is a boon to those filmmakers. (Thanks, Al Gore.) Remember The Blair Witch Project? All internet. Minimal investment compared to studio films. It looks cheesy and stupid, now, but, back then it was huge. And heck yes, I paid money to see it – and heck, yes, I got a couple good scares. YouTube gives those types of filmmakers a free venue to showcase or premier their films. There are a ton of “film in progress” YouTubers who post segments of their film as they are able to shoot it. Beware: Some of those “indie” filmmakers are actually backed by studios or commercial sponsors. Not a big deal unless you don’t like being taken in by gimmicks. If you were a) surprised and b) bothered to learn that LonelyGirl was actually a paid actress, then the faux indie films aren’t for you. YouTube is a buyer beware, swim at your own risk zone.
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I actually tried to make Barack Obama Owes Me Money?” After a couple glasses of wine with MAF it started to sound like a really funny idea. It also sounded viable, what with YouTube and everything. Make it super cheap and cheesy. Which isn’t a problem for me. I’m the real deal. I’m authentic. I have no money. I have no choice but to make it cheap and cheesy. Authentically cheap and cheesy.
MAF and I outlined a to-do list.
1) Procure video recording equipment.
2) Send Barack Obama a copy of my $20 assessment fee for security during election night.
3) Wait for the check to arrive.
4) Video the glorious day the check arrives.
5) Find out where the election campaign financial headquarters is.
6) Call them and ask if they received my request for reimbursement.
7) Wait for response.
8) Request a meeting with Obama.
9) Wait for response.
That's as far as we got.
Yes. There’s a lot of waiting in this film. A lot of downtime. I figure I can fill in with all the ways the financial hardship of having to pay an extra $20 assessment effects my life, play out the what-if scenarios. A friend calls and wants to go to dinner. I can’t go because I had to pay an extra $20 assessment. I miss the opportunity to meet the friend’s husband’s brother-in-law who’s looking to hire someone exactly like me for a great job. Or, my online dating profile expires because I had to pay an extra $20, and finally, a great guy, Mr. Right, tries online dating and I miss the opportunity to meet him because my membership expired. Or, there’s a charity raffle for a new car but because I had to pay an extra $20 assessment I could only buy one raffle ticket. Had I bought two I would have won the car – the ticket sold after mine was the winner. Or, I’m $20 shy of the rental fee for decent video equipment and so I can’t shoot my indie movie and someone else takes my idea, launches a website, gets some buzz, shows it at Cannes and Sundance, makes enough money to quit their miserable day job and starts a charitable organization doing good all over the world and lives a life of a charitable, at times eccentric and sometimes reclusive philanthropist.
It’s not only a study in the bureaucratic process, it’s the age-old story telling technique of exploring: What if I hadn’t done this? What might have happened? Or not? What if being a day late and a dollar short (or $20 short) really does give someone else the opportunity to live the life you want, and could have had…if you weren’t a day late and a dollar short (or $20). It’s not about blame, it’s about choices. It’s not about fate, it’s about time. It’s not about failure, it’s about consequences. It’s not about Obama, it’s about the ramifications of unfulfilled promises.
No, you won’t find a lot of hope in this film And sure, it’s formulaic. But c’mon. It’s all been done. Ask Sylvester Stallone, George Lucas or the makers of the Saw movies if they are concerned about being formulaic.
So. Here’s my first hurdle. #1 on the list. Procuring video recording equipment. I have two cameras with video functionality. But. The sound is worse than cheap – and not in a cool indie film kind of way. In an annoying, “Huh? What did she say?” kind of way.
I have my dad’s 12-year-old video camera. In its day it was a good camera. But. Its day was 12 years ago. It’s not digital. Okay. Sure. That hurdle can be overcome, but not without more equipment and work and time. Equipment and time that I do not have.
I thought, briefly, about animating it.
Ahhhh, now, see, that would be something, wouldn’t it? An animated mockumentary. I’ve dabbled with animation software. I don’t actually own any, but I have access to it. And I’ve dabbled. Way back when, in the olden days when I was in college, I made an animated short feature. It was a long, labor intensive project which took an entire semester, all the school’s editing resources and resulted in a 3 minute clip. Times have changed and I’ve tried to at least read articles about animation developments, but I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of knowledge in that area. Nor do I have access to cutting edge technology. I only have access to dull edged technology.
And I dunno. It might lose some of its gritty punch.
So here I am, back where I started. Or, actually, I never really started. Which I guess means I’m just back. Way back. End of the line.
I could “shop” my idea. Write it up and send it out to all those studio execs who are always looking for something new and different…but…then…whoops, there goes the integrity.
And, har har, slight challenge there…I don’t actually know any studio execs who are looking for an indie mockumentary idea about Obama’s election night party promises and one citizen's literal interpretation and her attempt to get $20 from Barack Obama.
So, using my college animation short as an equation model, in 25 years (if I’m diligent and pursue this with dogged determination and single-minded focus) I might have a 30 minute mockumentary. You might want to set your fare watchers to France and Utah for the year 2033. It’ll be cool to be at the premier and say, “I remember reading about this on Trillian’s blog 25 years ago.”
MAF thinks I should make t-shirts, coffee mugs and tote bags and give them away as donation premiums, like on PBS. And sure, there is a certain “Frankie Says Relax”-ness to “Barack Obama Owes Me Money.” But people are so in love with him I’m not sure they’d be willing to risk the possible controversy. No one will say anything funny or remotely negative about Obama, let alone wear a t-shirt or sport a tote bag or coffee mug which could be construed as critical of Obama.
So. I dunno. Maybe I’ll test the market. Watch this space.