The articles I write for “Fan Film Follies” generally have something to do with fanboy stuff, be it video games or actual “fan films”, themselves, but this time is different.
See, I am way too busy with our current feature film production to whip up an article about some dude with a camera who dresses like Spider-Man or the latest X-Box shooting game that we’ve all lost our friends to. I am far too mentally and creatively swamped… so I’ll write something a little different. I’ll write what’s on my mind.
I, too, was a fanboy. I still am, to an extent, but I’ve managed to build some sort of life priorities. I think it’s safe to say that those priorities (raising kids, pursuing a career) keep me from fitting under the “raving lunatic fanboy” category, which is good… because I have a girlfriend and would like to keep her. Still, the dreaming nerd inside me will never die. I am, after all, a FILMMAKER.
You know how people who care about you will tell you “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket”? It sounds like good advice. However, those same people will also tell you “Go after your dreams no matter how unlikely” in the same breath. The funny thing is, you can’t achieve your unrealistic dreams without putting all of your eggs in one basket. You could give it a half-hearted attempt, while mainting a “plan B” in case it doesn’t work out, but then that’s not REALLY going after them, is it? The ones who make it are the ones who refuse to take “no” for an answer. The ones who will risk their sanity, social lives, and shame to achieve the impossible. Sounds preachy and tacky as hell, but it still rings true. If you want to make it to the top, you’ve got to go full throttle. Few ever do. Most find solid excuses not to. Most only go up to second gear, saving the other gears for the way back down. However, if you want it bad enough, you have got to “man up”. Be willing to stand naked by the side of the road, because that’s how humiliating it can get. Be willing to live in a car, because that’s how broke you’ll be. Be willing to eat shit, because that’s how the ramen noodles will taste after a while.
What the hell? Is this a sermon about believing in yourself? No, it’s not. Not quite. Well, maybe a little. But it’s also me bitching about how hard this really is.
Nine years ago we started all of this. We called ourselves “filmmakers”, but it would be 5 years before we actually used real film. Of course, that applies to just about every filmmaker these days. There wasn’t much to lose when we started. I was, after all, about 19 years old. Young enough to ruin my life and have it all back on track before I had any gray hair. You know, your parents won’t admit it but the truth is, you can do whatever the hell you want to at 19, within reason, and still not be risking anything. Most people party, do the dorms and frat house thing. Drink a lot of beer, sleep with a lot of girls, and focus on making themselves “qualified” for jobs they don’t want.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a girlfriend and did some partying, but I had this crazy urge to do something with my time that was productive and would lead to bigger and better things. I wanted to be a filmmaker and I promised myself I wouldn’t give up until I was successful at it.
This isn’t an autobiography so I’ll spare the full story, but now I’m 28 years old. I work for a company I helped start called 4Reelz, LLC, that’s operated out of LA, though we’re shooting and animating our first projects here in Ohio. We made a bunch of animated fan films, live-action shorts, and just plain retarded videos. Some of them disappeared into obscurity. Some became these online hits that get us recognized by total strangers in other parts of the country. This isn’t “woe is me” and I’m not complaining, but I definitely paid my dues and I paid them big time.
Today, things are quite a bit better. Nerd and fanboy sites interview me pretty regularly. Newspapers in LA, DC, and of course, Ohio, have covered our stuff. Some Hollywood hotshots have noticed our momentum and a few have even helped us out financially, or with their services.
I’m home in Ohio working on our first ever feature film titled “The Long, Slow Death of a Twenty-Something”. It’s a comedy. Think “Clerks” meets “High Fidelity”. It’s about a group of friends who are slowly realizing how flakey the world around them is as they near 30. It’s a race to become relevant and to accomplish something real before it’s too late. It’s pretty hilarious so far, and I know we can get some sort of DVD distribution or maybe even some NetFlix publicity. We’re also in production on an animated TV pilot called “Four Tanks and a Healer”. It takes place inside an MMORPG like “World of Warcraft” and it’s very “Adult Swim” in style.
I love where we’re at professionally right now, but it’s taken a lot of work to get here. I’m my own boss, for the most part. I’m definitely my own secretary. The faces around me are always changing, but I keep on busting my ass. I even have my first gray hair, right smack in the middle of my chin. I don’t mind, though. Bring the old age on. Thanks to the choice I made and followed through with at 19, the years just keep on getting better. I’m not rich, not by a long shot, but we’ve signed contracts and have a lot of “back-end” pay coming on these projects if they take off, and trust me… they will. Even if they don’t, we get back on the horse and try again… but again, believe me when I say “They will.”
This whole time hasn’t been a walk in the park, though. It’s been hard for my parents, who, while proud of what I’m doing (along with my brother, Aaron, I might add) watch me struggle every day. Plenty of people thought (and probably still do) that it was an unrealistic longshot. Some of them worry because they love me. Some of them constantly berated what I was doing and whispered doubts into my ears and into the ears of others. Some will support me forever. Some help me out because they want to be owed something later on. There are people who are genuinely inspired by what I’ve done and what I’m doing and who have told me so. There are also people who are jealous and cruel. There are positives and negatives to doing something so extraordinary and everybody in the world will have an opinion on it. I learn from both the good and the bad, but I don’t let either dissuade me. Everything I ever wanted to do, I’m DOING. I’m not living on top of the world and the workload is ridiculously stressful and would make some people cry, but it’s what I love to do. Self-respect is rare as hell. A lot of people pretend to have it. Some actually do. I’m one of them. You can’t ask for more than that.
My advice to any people, young or old, who are standing at a crossroads, unsure of whether or not they should “go for it” or “play it safe”, is simple. “Put all your eggs in one basket.” It’s not quite that easy, though. As cheese-tacular as the ending of this article would be if I closed on a motivational line like “Put all your eggs in one basket”, there’s more to it. The darkside of the truth. Here it is: You can’t be a p*ssy. Forget being popular. Forget looking “hot” or being cool. Forget eating out every night or being somewhere social by 8. Toughen up, grow up, and get ready to eat some major shit. Everybody goes in strong, but few people make it all the way through. I’ll bet you can’t do it. Prove me wrong. Our generation could use a few more sets of balls. Most importantly, I say “Good luck”… but it doesn’t matter since that has nothing to do with it.
And for those who aren’t looking to do anything adventurous or risky and who are content being somewhere in the middle, that’s fine too. Not for me, it isn’t… but then again, you’re the homeowner and I’m the shit eater.