I can't shrivel up and die. I can't kill myself. I can't quit making movies, or at least being creative in some way. To paraphrase The Matrix, I've been down that path. I know where it leads. It leads nowhere. It leads me to feeling like I'm going out of my mind and that my life is meaningless. I know time is the only thing I have in this phase of my existence. It's limited and I value it and I can't sell it or trade it for more melancholy.
Yes, ALGORITHM's sales are crap so far. Yes, I haven't heard anything from Shoreline. Yes, I'm scared that I'll spend more energy marketing ALGORITHM and that people will ignore it and still choose to pirate it. What choice have I got?
* * *
I now have to consider the very real possibility that filmmaking isn't going to make me money, not enough to continue. And there's a lot of irony in that.
Let me explain.
I used to write novels. I wasn't very good at it but that takes time and I was getting better. I went to World Fantasy to get some interviews for my friend Shawn Farrell who has a podcast called Adventures in Sci-fi Publishing. While there I talked to quite a few authors, names you would know if I said them. Almost all of them have day jobs because their writing didn't make enough money to sustain them.
When I saw that, I was done.
It's not that I'm a money-grubbing whore. It's that I have to be practical. What do I want to spend my life doing? Do I want to partition my life? Spend half doing something I hate to facilitate the half I love?
Well, it looks like I may not have a choice there. It's not that ALGORITHM is bad. Most people love it. The complaints are either invalid (they're invalid because people who have a more refined artistic taste than the commenter has said as much to me) or are so specific about their complaint as to be functionally dismissible.
* * *
I've been staying up late silently bemoaning the current state of ALGORITHM. The function of this entry is me formalizing my thoughts. It may seem a bit more ADD than previous entries, or sad, logical, thing-you-don't-like. That's why. This one's specifically for me.
* * *
Here's my current plan of action. Shoreline buys the rights to ALGORITHM and I go on to other creative endeavors. I'm going to call them on Thursday because this email ping-pong is nerve-racking. I'll have my answer then.
If Shoreline doesn't buy it, I go to Jason, my friend who owns a marketing company and ask him. His clients include Disney, the NFL, and Nokia. He's good at what he does. And, he's seen ALGORITHM and likes it. I'll ask him if he'll market it for a back-end percentage of the sales.
If Jason doesn't want it, I'll market it myself. I suck at marketing. I'm fairly sure nothing will come of this, but I have to try.
If my marketing doesn't work it will represent the financial failure of ALGORITHM's business model. I will continue to occasionally promote it as I have been, and move on to other creative endeavors. The question then becomes, "How do I fund my creative life?"
* * *
ALGORITHM is good. I know that. Too many talented people have told me so. And they like/respect me enough to not lie. I have the option of taking ALGORITHM into an agency and showing them what I can do. That could lead to an agent which could eventually lead to my absorption into the Hollywood machine. This is sad, but I've got to eat and be creative.
My older brother Paul is a producer. He and I don't really get along all that well, but I have skills he can use and sell. It will be much less money than working in Hollywood and the work will be even less fulfilling than being an industry whore. But, it's money and… I've got to eat and be creative.
There is another company I occasionally work for. They pay well and they're great people. But, the work is totally unrelated to what I want to do. It's good money and since it's not related, it doesn't sap my creativity. After all… I've got to eat and be creative.
I could movie to Detroit, buy a house for $300, which is what many of them are going for now, and return to writing novels/short-stories. It's not a lot of money, as I learned at World Fantasy. But, living in Detroit doesn't require a lot of money. That's why it's one possibility. That insanely low cost-of-living will allow my wife and I to enjoy our time on Earth and give us enough savings for her to eventually retire. Detroit will allow me to eat and be creative.
* * *
So, that's my complete plan of action, in descending order of desirability. If one fails, I move on to the next. If the next fails, I move on to the one after that. I find a solution, because, like I said, I can't shrivel up and die. I can't kill myself. And, I can't quit being creative.
* * *
The funny part of all of this is that when I started making movies, money wasn't much of a concern. I was thinking/bemoaning last night, wondering where this desire/hope for money came from. I didn't have it when I made HUNGER or any of those short films. All I wanted was to be creative. It didn't take much money and I didn't make much. It pretty much only paid for itself.
The money concern came when I iterated the business plan, when The Root Kit became ALGORITHM, when I set the fund-raising goal to $30k (I never actually expected more than $9K) instead of The Root Kit's $50k. The $50k would have paid everyone on set for their time. $9k only covers actual, real production costs.
And something Gio Kendall said to me keeps coming up in my mind: the cast & crew of ALGORITHM never expected to get any money. It was only me who had any hopes there. I wonder why that is? I hope it's just the business model.
Maybe they were right. Maybe the money doesn't matter, as long as there's enough to keep going. If I continue to have very limited money, then my creative dreams must conform themselves to that budget. No large-scale sci-fi. No epic fantasy. But, movies that matter.
* * *
I said on Twitter that I hate pre-roll advertising. Those are those crappy commercials you have to wait through before you can actually watch the video you want. I hate advertising in all forms. (If I work with Paul, it will mean I'll be making various commercials.) My release of ALGORITHM has shown me that people are unwilling to pay for things anymore. And, things still cost money, so they're subjected to ads because companies are willing to pay to reach them. So, another option is that I post ALGORITHM to Youtube and allow advertising. It will be a trickle, but that's money that's not otherwise coming in. That model may actually allow me to compete with the piracy.
There's a part of me that will lose a little of my faith in humanity if I have to put ads on the movie because no one is willing to pay for it. Again, it's not about the quality. It's good. People are pirating it. Just Google "ALGORITHM The Hacker Movie" to see all the site that are pirating it. People like it. They're just choosing to steal it. That makes me sad.
Time to iterate again, after every other model fail.