Last week, I told this story:
Our trailer unexpectedly received a bunch of positive attention on the Internet, because the very awesome Avery Guerra liked it and started spreading the word around. Then, Joblo.com referred to it as “Schlock Party” but that was totally fine, because the worst review we ever got was that a film of ours was “just ok.”
I love it when people like our work, because the best reason for making movies is to make people happy. It’s awesome when you see people laughing and enjoying themselves while watching something that you had a hand in. But at least “schlock party” is an emotional response, whereas “just ok” is a lot like saying “I suppose I could have committed suicide during this film and it wouldn’t have bothered me one way or the other.”
The part of the Joblo story that really stung about the schlock party story is when I was quoted as saying: “Our prior horror efforts, including Consumed are dark, grim tales, which we enjoy, but didn’t feel that tone was what we wanted in a Bigfoot film. We agreed that Jaws had a good balance or horror, comedy, and adventure which we are attempting to capture.” Then author responded with: “Based on the two trailers below, farther from JAWS this film could not be.”
I, naturally, felt like a complete tool. My quote was very tool-ish, but why was it necessary for this guy to point that out? Back in the old days, when we were promoting Badness, our imaginary rock band that couldn’t play instruments, promoting our work seemed much easier. We had a couple films and a website for the band and, for some reason, I was always much more outgoing and impervious to ever feeling like a tool. Like I did now. It would take a well-known speech by actress/director Jodie Foster to help me start to comprehend why.
In ninth grade, I had to give a speech about myself in English class, and thinking that would be super easy, I didn’t prepare anything. I said I made movies, cause that was really all I did, then I ran out of material. After 2 minutes of me staring blankly at the rest of the class staring blankly back at me, Mr. Carey took pity on me and started asking me questions and trying to coax me into not looking like a total ass.
“Who writes your films?” he asked helpfully.
“I… uh… I usually write them,” I answered. I was a writer AND a director. Wait till they found out I also acted!
“And how many films have you made?” was the follow up from Mr. Carey’s stupid teacher face.
Shit. I done tons! Let’s see… I won’t count the cartoons I did on our Texas Instruments computer. So, let’s see. Teeth was my first. Then we did Adventure Barney. Wait, that was technically Dennis’ movie. Do I count Vacation ’88? It was just a home movie, but I thought it more of a docudrama. Then there was the one I was currently working on. But that didn’t count cause it wasn’t finished.
“One,” I answered.
Mr. Carey blinked at me.
“You usually write your own movies,” he said incredulously, having lost any pity he may have at one time had for me, “but you’ve only done one?”
All I could do was return to my seat with my head hanging low and accept the realization that high school was really going to suck for me. This episode was humiliating and while I don’t mind telling you about it, I would be mortified if it was ever posted online. It was perhaps this incident that sent me into the Filmmaker Closet. I adopted a very strict Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy when it came to my film work, and that isn’t the best promotion strategy.
Years later, I produced a short about drunk driving that I was shopping around to different educational film distributors. This is the first time I had ever done anything like this before, and I was terrified, naturally. I distinctly remember I wouldn’t even refer to the film as a “film” when talking to people about it. I called it a “video.” Somehow, “video” sounded less George McFly to me.
About the same time, actress/director Jodie Foster delivered a speech that I, and a lot of other people, were greatly moved by. She said, “You gotta lose yourself to the music The moment – you better own it. You better never let it go. You only got one shot. Do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.” Powerful words. Words so powerful they were even made into a song by Eminem.
I remember that song playing in the car when I was on my way to transfer my miniDV master of my film to a real format that professionals used so I could ship it off to its new distributor. And, even with the liberties Eminem took with Foster’s poetry (like adding something about his mom’s spaghetti), the song was very inspirational. And it reminded me that I do only have one shot – one life – and this is it right now. There’s no dress rehearsal. And there’s no time for shenanigans.
That’s a hard lesson to get through one’s thick skull, and it took years, but I knew it was time to come out of the Filmmaker Closet. I had been so comfortable as Dave Smith from BADNESS because I was promoting our work as Dave Smith and wasn’t preoccupied with what people thought of him. I knew I either had to stop caring so much how I was coming off and pay more attention to what I was trying to accomplish or I needed to put on the wig and become Dave Smith forever. Which wouldn’t have sounded so Norman Bates-ish if the real Dave Smith wasn’t stuffed in my attic.
So, I switched to a strict Didn’t Ask?/I’m Telling You Anyway policy when it comes to the movie. At times, I’m embarrassed at the self promoting whore I’ve become. But it’s my duty to be a whore – for the film, for myself, and for everyone who busted their butts helping us out. I have to spread the word. It’s part of the job. No one will ever hear of your film if you try to promote it from the closet.
I’m even cool with it if Mr. Carey tracks me down one day and corners me on some rambling. nonsensical babble I just spouted. Because maybe this time – if I really pay attention – I’ll see one lone dude in the classroom thinking, “Cool! I love a good Sasquatch flick!” While my classmates laugh their asses off at me.
Last week, I said that the lesson we took from our Joblo experience at the time was that that you have to be extra careful that what you say to the press can’t be misconstrued. But I think maybe the real lesson here is people aren’t just going to be critical of your work, but they will set out to make you look like a tool -especially if you just said something toolish – and you need to get used to that.
A lot of people use “I don’t care what other people think” as an excuse to be a dick. Don’t be a dick. But don’t judge yourself by what others think. Work hard. Stay focused. If you believe in what you’re doing, there will eventually be others who feel the same way, unless you’re doing some kind of weird puppet/poop/snuff film.
I remember bracing myself for the inevitable blizzard of negative comments that would no doubt accompany the Joblo story. Hopefully, I’d be able to handle them and it wouldn’t derail the motivation that this sudden, unexpected burst of publicity had brought us.
But only one person ever commented.