Arts & Literature Column
Written by Nathan Mattise
I received the following e-mail in my inbox last week:
It’s nothing new. I’ve donated to Kickstarter projects that have sadly failed before: R.I.P. The Mountain Man Fest in Saratoga or the MLAB Renovations for a NYC trip here in ‘Cuse. This one for one reason or another just hit a little close to home.
Call the folks who wanted to make the All My Friends documentary pretentious if you will (though I’d opt for misguided or over-ambitious perhaps? More on this below…) but they had a musical focus I liked and a D.I.Y. approach I want to one day emulate. Not to mention, their pedigree in multimedia production and storytelling seemed almost attainable (it’s on the Kickstarter bio), making their effort much more inspiring than the latest work from someone like Wes Anderson or Spielberg.
So what does their failure say?Even in a digital landscape where it’s much easier to be a D.I.Y. multimedia storyteller, there are roadblocks to entry let alone success. Finances act as the most obvious one. In this doc’s case, travel must factor into that. All the folks not as far in their professional careers deal with the tools for production as the first financial barrier before even considering further costs. Consider the bare-bones basics…
Cameras that are high-quality enough for real production run at least $1500
That’s about $2500 of overhead cost on equipment alone (and that’s just one purchase in each of those production categories). On top of that, there’s the daunting challenge of creating a project that can stand out amid the clutter. These costs are gigantic for a college student, but there are plenty of independent filmmakers securing the funds and creating content. Not all their projects can’t navigate the critical roadbloacks.
Consider what makes a successful blog now after a boom of newcomers in the past five years. Things with a very unique or specific focus can attract a loyal but perhaps smaller audience while the major outlets can get away with featuring a variety of topics and still attract the masses. A film like “All My Friends” didn’t have the precision, but perhaps could’ve learned from something like “World’s Largest.” It has small overarching theme – the need for people to feel pride in their community – but it’s tightly focused on how towns embrace their quirky landmarks. If “All My Friends” focused on this show and how it brought fans from everywhere this week, it might’ve been more successful and attainable than its overarching “music can break down human barriers” ambition. That’s a lot to ask from a concert doc.
All of these questions run through my head constantly (same for many of my friends), particularly because of how hard it is to break into traditional media these days. When facing the potential for a year or two of unemployment, there’s always the “what if” question pertaining to the pursuit of that creative project you’ve been thinking about for awhile now. For me, I want to write a book or take a chance on a documentary. It’s a chance to prove to yourself your capable if employers are saying no and also a way to keep your skills sharp and relevant when opportunity comes knocking. It’s not the easiest thing to navigate a task like this while working but, if there’s one potential upside to some forced time off, it may be this.
Here’s hoping the “All My Friends” crew found a way to make their film regardless of the obstacles they faced. I hope to one day get the courage, or to be forced to find it, so I can take the challenge.
(Links today from Twitter, Brooklyn Vegan, Google Product and Pop Candy)