All of making ALGORITHM to this point, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to change until we actually release the movie, feels like building a giant machine. Every aspect of its construction must be done with precision, on purpose, according to a larger plan. Some part of it are dangerous. Other parts of it are risky. As the machine takes shape, there are moments I feel elated.
In his Foundation series, Isaac Asimov argues that the more complex a system becomes, the less stable it gets. He uses the entire human civilization to illustrate his point.
That lesson, that complexity is inversely proportional to stability is a lesson Hollywood has yet to learn, best demonstrated by how many people are listed in the credits of almost every movie that they produce. Sometimes those credits take 5 minutes or more to scroll fast and it’s not because they’re going slow. I can’t even read them all fast enough.
For that reason, and many others, I’m following another model. Apple Inc, under Steve Jobs, without the cruelty Jobs showed to almost all of his employees. Having one person at the top, who makes all the decisions radically simplifies a machine that tends to want to become complex.
Of course, the downside, for me, as that central decision maker is that if ALGORITHM fails at any point, I’m to blame. And, rightfully so.
Getting back to that machine metaphor, it also means that I have to manage a lot of moving parts.
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A subset of ALGORITHM’s business architecture is the profit-share agreement. To make that happen, I need everyone’s physical address, so I can send them contracts and checks. It’s something I didn’t pay a lot of attention to during production, when it would have been relatively easy to collect. As a result, I have to deal with it now.
I have some help gathering the addresses and totaling everyone’s days. It’s kind of interesting to watch the information slowly trickle in. I’ve gotten less than 10 of the 49 contracts I need. But, each day, one of them comes in the mail. I’ve got probably half of the physical addresses, but each week, 10+ show up, thanks to the help of the other producers.
In other words, it’s nice to watch the machine run.
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And then, there’s the soundtrack.
I’ve written a lot of about the soundtrack. Without repeating myself, I’m just going to assume you read the rest of this journal and didn’t skip ahead.
The original soundtrack was comprised of classical pieces I had hoped to license. But, dealing with major record labels quickly became unappealing. They have bureaucracies and rules and won’t be nearly as open to the profit-share model as an independent artist would be.
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Up until this point in the journal, I’ve been posting each of the entries on my production company’s website www.spiritusvult.com. The fact that they were going to be seen by everyone who cared to read it made me watch the kinds of things I would say. There is this belief that if something isn’t working, and people know about it, that it’s going to fail. That may or may not be true, but enough people believe it that I filtered what I said and gave everything a positive spin.
However, this, and every other subsequent entry, will not be posted online until after ALGORITHM has been released. Moreover, this is probably only going to be read by either other filmmakers, or people who are already fans of the movie.
What I’m getting at is this, I’m going to remove the filter. I’m doing this for several reasons:
1) It’s not going to negatively affect publicity, so it’s original usefulness is gone;
2) I am a person, not very different from you. If you read that I go through struggles to make something that you think is a big deal, maybe you’ll see those struggles and recognize that, should you decide to overcome them, you too might make something you think is a big deal.
In other words, it’s about to get real.
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I’ve submitted ALGORITHM to the Cannes Film Festival, and to the Seattle International Film Festival. Both of those festivals take place in May, around the same time.
That means, I now have a very real, externally imposed deadline to get things done. ALGORITHM needs to be as good as I can make it, by mid-May.
And, I don’t have a composer for the soundtrack secured. It’s mid-february right now. I discovered a composer named Zoe Keating. She’s brilliant. She’s perfect. She’s also an independent artist. She’s very good which means she’s also very busy. Right now she’s in the middle of composing for a stage play.
She’s not responding to my emails. It’s freaking me out. I wake up in the middle of the night, usually around 2:00am nauseated, my heart pounding. Some nights, I can’t get to sleep. Some days the anxiety is so intense that I can’t do any work creating the sound bed, the foley, cleaning up the mix, etc. I can’t do anything but take a hot bath, listen to Miles Davis’s Blue in Green, and cry, waiting for the emotions to subside.
Some nights, like last night, I couldn’t get to sleep until about 1:00am, despite the fact that I drank enough moonshine to kill a medium-sized dog. Alcohol is usually the only thing that can calm my nerves when I’m feeling that anxious. I’ve tried the prescribed drugs. They don’t work on me. I don’t know why.
I know it’s cliche for an artist to drink. I don’t drink alcohol unless I’m totally chilled out, and it’s just something to brighten up the mood, or I’m nearly crippled with anxiety. It’s usually only 1 bottle of wine/sake/moonshine a month, at most. Most months I don’t drink at all. Alcohol kinda scares me because my family history is littered with the destruction alcohol can do, if used unchecked. It’s not something I recommend.
This morning, in the bath, again with Blue in Green playing the background, I realized I have to focus on the things I can change and wait for Zoe to respond. It’s only been about a week. I admit, it’s a very time-sensitive time, but that doesn’t mean anything to Zoe. She’s got her own life she needs to live.
So, I try and resist sending a 3rd email, or a 2nd tweet, or pressing her in any way. If I don’t hear back from her close to the end of this month, I’ll have to tweet/email her and let her know that I’m out of time and have to look for someone else. It’s something I really don’t want to do, not because I don’t know other competent composers. In fact, I know exactly who I’m going to ask next. But, Zoe’s cello compositions are perfect for ALGORITHM.
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Zoe saying yes, no, or nothing at all is not going to stop me from finishing ALGORITHM. I’ve spent over two years making it. That’s 1/50th of my life, if I live to be 100. I value my life. I value my time. I’m not going to throw it away simply because one piece of the machine doesn’t work. I’ll simply find a replacement part. It won’t be the vision I have in my head and heart now, but then, so many other aspects of ALGORITHM are different from what I originally intended. That’s what making a giant machine the size of a good movie is. It’s polymorphic. It won’t be in its final shape until it’s released.
Being the CPU of this machine means I have to be okay with that, or I have to cope with not being okay with it and not stop production.
That’s what I tell myself… as I keep working.
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[insert 20 minute pause]
* * *
Zoe responded via Twitter. She hasn’t confirmed her working on ALGORITHM yet, but at least we’re communicating. So, that’s a bit of stress removed.