If everything is free and nobody makes money, what is an artist to do?
In our film “Monetized” a hassled, battle-weary filmmaker (Vivian Davidson) comedically turns the tables on her stay-at-home mom friend (Lauren Donnelly) by asking “What’s the point of having babies if you can’t make money off them?” Sure, it’s a joke, but it’s also that one thing nobody really wants to talk about. What if we artists actually CAN'T monetize our work anymore? What if there is just too much free product chasing too few disposable dollars? What if the success stories of the past - like making it big, selling that script, getting discovered by Hollywood, inking a huge distribution deal for our indie film - are just that, in the past?
It’s true that the filmmaking community is wonderfully supportive of its practitioners, and I’m sure we all do what we can to support our peers, renting their latest short off their VOD channel, kicking in a few bucks to their crowdfunding campaigns and so on. But in the end, it’s a pretty small community, and we are, in effect, just passing the same ten dollars back and forth, rather than creating new economic value. As we look around and see fewer and fewer mainstream people with full time jobs, or benefit plans, or even enough work hours to make ends meet, things don’t look great for filmmakers and other artists either.
It can become a cycle of defeat to keep expecting to make money directly from our art. We can feel like failures when we fail to earn money for our craft. That can leave us too discouraged to start new projects. And let’s face it: needing and not having money is the best excuse ever for not starting. So what to do? Well, we can sit around and wait for the good old days to come back, or we can make some positive changes that let us take our power back and stop putting too much economic pressure on ourselves. Here are some ideas for us, and I encourage you to contribute your own ideas to this list!
I would love it if we could anticipate tons of funding for new projects, but assuming that may not happen, we can still be very supportive of each other. A “like” or a share goes a long way in helping out a colleague. Pitching in to help out with a project can make the difference in its success. By using some of the ideas above, we can be making films for less money that still please audiences, which is the name of the game!
Robert David Duncan, award-winning director, actor, writer and producer with a passionate interest in art, storytelling and the whole amazing journey called life. Founder of Fat Punk Productions and Festival Director of the Miniature Film Festival.