Goodbye Production Value

7 Dec

Most filmmakers rarely make films.  Simply put, it takes a ton of time, energy and resources to actually make a film, even a short.  Like the thousands of disillusioned immigrants who were promised the “American dream” at the turn of the 20th century, many aspiring filmmakers have found themselves unfruitful despite the “digital revolution.”  Although affordable video cameras have virtually replaced expensive film equipment, not much has changed in terms of lighting, costumes, make-up, locations, talent, crew, catering, insurance, contracts, etc..

Because of such production demands, most filmmakers spend little time actually making films.  Though my business card says, “Christopher J. Boghosian, Filmmaker,” much of my time is spent planning, promoting and thinking about my films.  I assume John Doe, Baker frequently bakes or Jane Doe, Yoga Instructor consistently teaches yoga; however, Christopher J. Boghosian, Filmmaker rarely makes films.  Sure, filmmakers are often unproductive due to their own issues.  Like other artists, they battle numerous personal hurdles such as laziness, ignorance, ego and fear.  Believe me, I fight inner demons every day!  Nonetheless, even if one earnestly attempts to make a film, the sheer complexities of the task eventually overwhelm and thwart them.

An important distinction must be made.  The type of filmmaking I am speaking of is live-action narrative filmmaking with high “production value,” which essentially refers to the richness or sophistication of a film.  For instance, a film with myriad locations, celebrities, costumes and stunts will have high production value, whereas a film like Paranormal Activity with two primary characters in one location lacks production value.  Although such value is subjective, there is general consensus in the film business and amongst movie-goers regarding how rich and sophisticated a movie should look.  Therefore, those who strive to make a distinguished film for a large audience are faced with the production value challenge, which usually means raising money to secure, coordinate and execute multiple elements over a long period of time.

As a relatively new filmmaker, production demands quickly become my nemesis.  Making a film often ends up becoming a logistical chore, not a creative venture.  Rather than develop the craft of writing and directing, I often spend my time securing locations, gathering equipment and managing people.  And if you’re thinking that such chores ought to be delegated, I simply ask to whom?  Unless you are blessed with an abundance of loyal colleagues or resourceful family and friends eager to volunteer, you, the filmmaker, often end up doing it.

As a result, I have been developing a filmmaking methodology that will eliminate much of the burden.  Rather than raise money or solicit volunteer services, I am seeking ways to reduce production elements in general.  It’s like America trying to reduce its dependency on foreign oil.  How can I become more independent through efficiency and innovation?  Can I only film at one location?  Do I really need a ton of expensive equipment?  Again, it comes down to production value.  Many people try to make movies with a high production value on the cheap, but they almost always fail, because it’s too taxing and expensive.

Excellence is doing the best with what one has and because I currently don’t have plentiful resources, then I must let go of high production value expectations.  I had no crew and rented no equipment for my last short film, Jasmin & Josephine.  I was the only person who worked on it, from writing the script to editing the film.  As a result, I literally made the film in one week.  I didn’t have to wait on paper work, people’s schedules, etc..  In fact, the elderly woman in the film is my very own grandmother and we filmed in her apartment!  Sure, there is virtually no production value, but, hey, I successfully made a film that I am very proud of.

I am convinced that aspiring filmmakers like myself need to abandon production value and focus more on making films.  I miss my camera and I miss working with actors.  As a result, I am developing an intense filmmaking project for myself to begin in January.  Tossing production value and it’s obstacles aside, I’m going to free myself to simply make films!

-Christopher J. Boghosian

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6 Responses to “Goodbye Production Value”

  1. Mark Stolaroff December 13, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Hey Chris, just to give you a little inspiration for your new film, I met with a friend of mine the other day who just got his feature into Sundance (NEXT Section). He had a film in Sundance in 2007, but rather than wait around for some big money to make his next film, he shot a documentary and then worked on this current narrative project. To date he has spent $700. The film was shot with a 3-man crew: himself on camera, his co-writer on sound, and a friend doing make-up/wardrobe/art direction. The script was a 15 page outline, improvised by a group of mostly non-actors. The lead actor is a 50-something barber. His co-writer is composing the music and doing post sound. He shot on a Sony Z1u, not because it was the best camera (it’s NOT, not even 24p), but because he owned it and knew it really well.

    As you know, I trumpet “Embracing Your Limitations,” and this project is a supreme example of that. Once you let go of stuff like “production value,” even to the extent of the camera you’re using, it frees you up to concentrate on the things that really capture people’s imaginations–story and characters.

    Best of luck on this new endeavor!

    • Christopher December 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

      Great to hear from you, Mark.

      That’s a fantastic story about your friend. Totally encouraging and affirming of my beliefs. Wow, his approach makes even Girlfriend 19 seem like a big budget film. I can’t wait to check his movie out and hopefully meet him some day. Way cool… I just love what they did and the fact that they got into Sundance is fantastic.

      I’m actually going to be launching a crazy project next month that will really pair production down. I’ll be announcing it in a few weeks, but my point is that I want to strip things down even more and just make films!

  2. Mark Turner December 9, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Christopher,
    Thanks for verbalizing what so many of us deal with. When we hear that fellow filmmakers are finding it hard to produce enough to justify calling themselves “filmmakers” it helps alleviate our undercurrent of “guilt”. I am a comrade in your struggles and appreciate hearing how you are working around them.
    It has always been helpful for me to have several abilities to fall back on as “work arounds”. As a poet, audio producer and visual artist, I am currently creating short art films combining those fields. The productions can have fine art “production value”, literary “production value” and have an audio track as elaborate as many high production value movies. Of course, the audience is a narrow market, but my sense is that a small seed can become a great thing in the broad, long term scheme of God. If these little art films stimulate a significant conversation which moves a few lives forward, I have accomplished more than is immediately visible, perhaps something great.
    Thanks for your faithfulness to this journey,
    Mark Turner

    • Christopher December 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

      Thank you, Mark :) I really appreciate your comment. I definitely resonate with the guilt feelings too!

      It’s awesome that you work in so many different ways; I admire that. I’m more of a single task kind of guy, which is why I really need to strip down my filmmaking approach. If not, I’ll never make anything! LOL

      Keep up the hard work and I’m heading over to check out your site now…

      Blessings,
      Christopher

  3. Anders Kjaer December 8, 2010 at 4:16 am #

    Great post Christopher.
    You verily hit the nail here. I feel exactly the same been struggling with planning, peoples schedules, etc and therefor producing nearly nothing.

    Thanks for inspiring me.

    Keep op the good work.

    Anders Kjaer

    • Christopher December 8, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

      Thank you for the comment, Anders. Logistics are such a danger….

      I’m so happy to hear my words meant something to you. Keep up the good work as well!

      Godspeed,
      Christopher

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