If you made a film….

I spend my days making films and feel extremely fortunate to be able to participate in such an amazing art form.  While driving to Park City today I started to think, what would each person in the world make a film about if they could?   Everyone has a unique perspective and that shines through clearly onto the screen.

It’s just something to think about.  That’s how I got started 10 years ago.  What would you make your film about?  Or maybe the question should be, what WILL you make your film about?

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What comes first, money or passion?

ImageThe world is vicious, brutal, and unforgiving; if you choose to see it that way.  On the contrary, you could view it as exciting, challenging, and rewarding.  Regardless of how you perceive the world, what comes first, passion or money?

Does an artist create art because they see a business opportunity in making a living by selling it, or does the artist follow his or her passion so adamantly that it shows in the product, and people buy it?

Does a business man or women make money simply to make money, or does he or she have a passion for the art of business, which the money is a benefit of?

Does the musician write music to make money, or is it their undying love of music that allows them to create a living by selling it?

The question now arises; would these people stop doing what they are doing if they didn’t make money doing it?

Of course not, but the scale must remain in balance in order to survive.

If you’re busy doing what you love, you’ve succeeded

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately about “successful” people.  One that I would recommend is “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead” by Jerry Weintraub.  The reason I like this book is because he points out a major factor in achieving success.  It’s not about being a celebrity or reaching a certain level of income.  Success is only achieved when you are content with your standard of living, AND when you’re busy doing what you love.  He shares some examples of how 30 million dollars isn’t a success because money is completely different measurement.  When you’re occupying your time with purposeful and fulfilling actions that you love, then you’ve succeeded.

Thanks for Watching

It seems that filmmaking and self-promotion often go hand in hand, and I don’t like this.  Making films is not about popularity, but rather providing people with something they can enjoy.  The only problem is that in order to allow others to see your product, you often have to fight your way through a swamp of other content.  Everyone is making movies about everything these days.  It’s getting harder and harder to get your material seen.  Is this a bad thing though?  If I said it was bad, it would be hypocritical because I just said that my goal is for the audience to see pictures that they enjoy.  So what if these pictures aren’t mine?  At the end of the day, I love being a part of the experience of film, whether it’s making the movies or watching them.

One of the benefits of the saturated modern film atmosphere is the amount of incredible films being made.  There was a time when only certain people could create media.  With computer and camera prices dropping and the quality rising, it’s easier than ever to shoot and edit a film.  Now more than ever, filmmaking is accessible to a huge number of people, and this is great.  There’s something unexplainable about the power of a great film that transcends the filmmaker behind it.  The only time I would ever want one of my films to be seen over another is if it has that indefinable power to captivate the audience and allow them to experience something.  I would never make a film just because I enjoy it.  I would always make a film that I believe has the potential to offer something to others that they don’t already have.

Self-promotion can easily fall into the question of, “what can I get from these people?”  My question is, “what can I give these people?’, and that’s what’s important to me.  As soon as I have nothing more to offer my audience, I will stop making films.     A film is more than moving pictures of a screen.  You can’t separate the audience’s experience from the art of film.

The reason I am writing today is to tell everyone thanks for being an audience, and I hope to continue giving you what you want in a film.  The future is a very uncertain place for a filmmaker, but as long as I have an audience that cares, I’ll still be here making movies.  The short film “Western Wandering” is doing very well in the Wyoming Short Film Contest, which is due to each one of you.  There are some amazing films in the contest this year and it’s been a privilege to compete at the same level as them.  At the time of writing this, there is still one more week to vote.  Thank you so much for all of your comments, votes, and support.  If you haven’t seen any of the films, you’re in for a treat.  And as far as the motive behind the competition, it couldn’t be better.   The $25,000 must be put towards making another film in Wyoming.  It seems like a win-win for film gurus.   You get to see all of the amazing competition films and then the best of the best gets the opportunity to make another film for us to enjoy.  Click here to watch and vote for this years entries.

Western Wandering Short Film

From the desert to the runway

From the desert to the runway.  I tried to think of a witty quote to open with but this is all that came out.  Last week I traveled with Burning Torch Productions from the high altitudes of the Colorado Rocky Mountains to the debts of Canyonlands National Park in Utah and to the 2012 Runway Show in southwestern Wyoming.  Looking over the pictures, I’m realizing just how diverse the week really was.  When you put snow next to sunbaked desert soil, the snow feels colder than ever and the soil seems that much hotter.  When you wander through the most desolate wilderness in the lower 48 and then go to a fashion show, the solitude of the wilderness is the purest you’ve ever felt and the people of the fashion show are the most inspiring.  The power of film is in the tool of juxtaposition.  ImagePlacing diverse images side by side brings a sense of power that can’t be experienced any other way.   Capturing and compiling these images is my passion.  The diversity of everyday life is one of the only true beauties we can experience.  Everything else slowly fades and becomes average.

Image

I would characterize myself as an adventure filmmaker.  It has taken me to the far corners of the earth to capture some of the most obscure and intense moments.  Balancing “getting the shot” and my safety is more or less a common equation in my daily life.  One might ask, how could the excitement of this ever fade?  It doesn’t fade.  It just loses perspective.  Sometimes you have to juxtapose experiences in your own life rather than just watching them on the screen.  My method to bring back perspective into my daily life is by diversifying how I can experience my passion.  Shooting extreme sports isn’t my passion.  Shooting life is my passion.  This past weekend I shot a fashion show.  The excitement and energy surrounding the event was incredible.  Shooting high fashion and glamour has always been part of my excitement towards filmmaking, but juxtaposing it with shooting the loneliness of the desert or the risk of extreme sports makes it one of the most exciting things on earth. Here’s short clip to give you an idea of what it was like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWlLL2DJxic

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The Art of Finishing Something

This week was the host to quite a few finish lines in my life.  I finished the short film “Western Wandering”, I finished a fashion show promo video, and I finished my master’s degree in communication and journalism.  On one hand it’s a huge relief, but on the other hand, finishing something doesn’t always mean that you’re less busy.  In my case it just means crossing things off the top of a list and moving other things from the bottom up higher on that same list.

Even though I’m just as busy, there’s still a value in finishing a project.  A professor once told me that the worst finished project is better than the best incomplete project.  Finishing films is one of the hardest things I struggle with every day.  It’s not because of the work involved, but rather knowing when to let go.  My advisor Conrad Smith told me the other day that “Energy! O Energy!” has enough footage to edit for eternity.  He’s right.  The struggle is knowing when to stop, and realizing that you finally have what you want.  The footage has been shot and the story is in place.  Now it’s just a matter of finding what I want to use and using it.

I just finished my MA degree and a common question I’m being asked is, “what’s next?”  I wish I knew.  Like I said before, just because you finish something doesn’t mean that you’re done.  Right now I have a number of other films on the burner, and EOE is hopefully going to be complete by the end of May.  But then what, more school, projects to pay the bills, a feature film?  My answer is, all of the above.  Living is learning, which means that I never plan on being finished with “school”.  Who says the projects that pay the bills can’t be fun?  As for another feature film, there will be plenty of those as well.  The past few films have been low budget and made with the resources that I have.  These films were made out of pure passion and very little else.  My goal for the next film is to take the idea of passion, and combine it with the resources of a well-funded film.  Hopefully this is a recipe for a film that can reach a large audience and make a difference.  “Come on kid, that’s just crazy.  Do you really think you’re going to change the world?”  If I had a penny for every time I heard this, I’d have enough money to change the world.  It doesn’t bother me though because my idea of changing the world is different from that of the people who say this.  If someone watches “Western Wandering” and feel the emotions and the experiences of the adventure, that’s all I can ask for.  We tend to focus on the huge concepts and ideas in the world, but what about the individual moments?  The huge concepts are made from each individual moment.  If someone experiences one of those moments though one of my films, what more could I want?  Remember, knowing where to stop is the hardest part of finishing.

Going Out

The weekend started Friday by working on the story structure for EOE until 3:30 am.  The next morning came much too early and was followed with more progress on EOE.  With all of this work, I have been neglecting from my leisure time and haven’t stopped to smell the roses.   Saturday night I decided to take a break from editing and I went out.  I didn’t “go out” in the way that you may think.  “Going out”, to many people means going to the bars.  “Going  out” to me means venturing out into the world to experience something great.  The traditional expectations of going out seem boring to me.  I don’t like limiting my experience based on what’s popular or easy to do.  Whether it’s a bar or simply walking down the street, going out is an opportunity to experience the uniqueness of each moment in a setting outside of your house.

I took a drive around town just to see what was happening, to see what I wanted to do while I was out.  Living life means opening your self up to the spontaneity that it may bring.  Saturday night it brought me to the University of Wyoming campus.  It was freezing, the wind was blowing, and I was completely exhausted from the last few months of editing and shooting.  That wasn’t what was on my mind though.  The moon was low in the sky, spilling perfectly balanced light onto the symbolic Bucking Horse bronze sculpture of Wyoming.  I found my experience for the night.  At first I just looked at the scene and then decided to take a few photos to share the experience with others.  Here are a few shots of “going out” this weekend.  For me, it was incredible.  It gave me a well-needed break and reminded me that simply opening your eyes to the everyday beauty of living can be the inspiration that can’t be found anywhere else.

Mark