There is an argument that if you say you're a filmmaker, you are one. Robert Rodriguez (Dir. el Mariachi, Sin City) argues this in his seminal book Rebel Without a Crew. Saying something to the effect, "you're a filmmaker, go make business cards." However, if you say you're a CEO, are you actually a CEO? I guess if you start your own company, even if the company isn't actually profitable, you are. So we've come to the conclusion that you don't have to be making any money doing what you do to be considered as whatever position that is that you say you hold. Right? Right.
I've believed I was a filmmaker since I was about 14 years old, when I was running around filling barrels of CO2 pistols with ketchup and firing them in my friend's faces, I was directing movies. So, why then, when I went to college and began paying twenty-five thousand dollars a year, did I suddenly go from "director" to "intern?" Why then, after I graduated, having paid over one hundred thousand dollars to receive a degree in film, did I become a "vault manager" at a post house?
A few months after I graduated from TCU, while working at said post-house, a few friends of mine and I decided to produce a short film. I was director of said short film. While we were making the film, I felt like the director, I was respected as the director, and we all had a blast on set. It was hard work and it felt right. Then, after the film was in the can, I went back to work at the post house and began the long, slow process of editing the film. When it was finished and while it played for people, I was still the director, but inside, I was feeling more and more like a "vault manager." After a while this began to weigh on me. I didn't pay one hundred thousand dollars to earn a film degree to become a guy who sat in a place called "the vault" and make DVDs for ten hours a day. So after two years of slowly moving up the post production ladder, I made a break for it and quit my job. At this point, I probably should have taken the money I had and made another short film, but I'd been paid such a measly salary, that I really didn't have any money to spare. Instead I went to Brazil and shot a documentary. This was the beginning of my two-year stint as a traveling documentarian. I traveled all over the world, got paid a better rate and it was closer to my goal of being a director. But when I got home from each trip, I was once again in the same place I began, because although I was indeed directing segments on the road, I wasn't getting credit as a director and I wasn't building a director's reel. And after each gig was over, I was technically unemployed. So I started a company and for a year and a half, all I did was direct video after video, promotional, commercial web-series, and TV concepts, with short breaks to travel abroad and shoot documentaries and reality TV.
A director, at least in the world of advertising, stands on his reel. You can tell a good one because his or her spots are for good brands, you can tell a hot one because his or her spots are current and trendy, and you can tell a great one, because even though his or her spots are for familiar brand name products, it's hard to tell what year they were shot. My reel on the other hand is a mixed bag of low (or no) budget commercials for non-profits, strings of docu-reality TV cinematography and web-campaigns that cannot be understood without an explanation. I am at a cross-road in my career. Do I take the measly savings that I have and produce spec-work in hopes of getting representation as a commercial director? Or do I keep plugging away, just making the videos I'm hired to make, in hopes that I'll continue on a steady path of bigger and better work?
I'm very grateful to the clients I have, Oink Art LTD, Culinary Cartel, Green River Ordinance, Building With History and Mission Reality. And I'm very happy to have worked on Get Out!, for LonelyPlanet.tv, Project MyWorld, for Mad River Post and Red Car. I'm also very proud of the radical new spot we produced for Oink Ink. Hopefully, I'll have something exciting to report here soon about my new path as a director in Los Angeles. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
By the way, see if you can spot me busting a flex: