My greatest inspiration does not come from famous directors nor Academy Award speeches. Rather, I find inspiration in “nobodies” like me who doggedly plug away at their first few films. And living in Los Angeles, one would think I am surrounded by such people; however, the reality is that I am not. Instead, I often run into disillusioned and derailed dreamers. As most people know, countless folks move to LA every day to make movies, but the truth is that only a few actually do.
Day-to-day survival in LA is quite demanding; it’s expensive, crowded and competitive. But even if you’re rich, there are many distractions to be reckoned with. New attractions and social events tempt you while endless traffic jams and long waits at stores and offices delay you. Nonetheless, in my opinion, what cripples aspiring filmmakers most is the presumption they bring with them to LA: the city itself will make their movie. Far too many pilgrims naively believe that moving to LA will make them a filmmaker as though it were a rite of passage.
Sure, there may be actors and studios on every corner, but, in the end, one needs to do the hard work and make the film happen. I believe many genuinely try; however, most are swallowed up by the very city they thought would help them. As a result, I find myself meeting many filmdreamers, rather than filmmakers.
I’m not one to judge. Without the support of my wife and family, there is no way I would now be making my first feature film. I am incredibly blessed and I know it. On the other hand, LA is my hometown. I was born and raised here, thus, it supports me in ways it does not support my immigrant peers. This is why I believe most aspiring filmmakers would be more productive back home where they presumably can focus less on survival and more on making films.
Film pioneers heading West are seldom warned about a simple truth: though Los Angeles routinely supports those making big budget movies, it will ultimately foil and defeat many attempting to make low-budget films. People like me, trying to make a movie for virtually nothing are viewed as pariahs, beggars and wannabes. Sure, there may be that rare rental house owner or editor who embraces us nobodies, but most are tired of giving handouts and have become resentful. Even mom-and-pop store owners have become savvy and demand hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for the use of their little shop.
Such is the reality for aspiring filmmakers in Los Angeles, thus, rather than inspiration, I often find myself barraged with frustration and humiliation. If only the thousands who migrate here every year would stay home and make the most with what they have! Ironically, top film festivals like Sundance actually prefer provincial films set in unknown towns and communities. Festival programmers want to be taken someplace new rather than see another crummy LA apartment.
So, perhaps, while driving out to Los Angeles, many aspiring filmmakers are leaving behind their greatest asset: their hometown.