"I would have been more successful if I’d left movies immediately. Stayed in the theater, gone into politics, written – anything. I’ve wasted the greater part of my life looking for money, and trying to get along… trying to make my work from this terribly expensive paint box which is … a movie. And I’ve spent too much energy on things that have nothing to do with a movie. It’s about two percent movie making and 98 percent hustling. It’s no way to spend a life."
- Orson Welles
Welles’ warning has dissuaded very few filmmakers. Kevin Smith is ready to make a change though. The Clerks director is giving up movies in favour of podcasting. Like Wells, Smith spent years hustling for money to try and turn stories from his life into films. Stories that were, easier and more effectively told by him directly to an audience with a microphone. Smith’s personality, as it turns out, is much more warm, witty and provocative than any of his movies. And so he’s changing. Unlike Wells, Smith is brave enough to put his ego aside, to ignore critics that might see a switch to the internet as being a step down.
It’s conceivable that the internet may flip the production cycle for future movies upside down. In the past a filmmaker would design a personal film. She write a story and take it to a small group of investors that believed in the idea enough that they would fund it’s transformation into a movie. After years of marketing, word of mouth and award wins the film would be considered a success and the masses would seek it out. Spin off novels, Wikipedia pages, fan fiction and Comicon merchandise would follow years later.
But the internet is flipping that cycle. Now it’s web comics like the Professor Brothers that get offered television show. It’s the sketches, the wiki pages, fan fiction, experimental shorts and all the other secondary tribe building elements, published online that lead to bigger deal. The internet allows for simple, text and still image based ideas to flow quickly between people all around the world. Perhaps in this era storytellers interested in making films, should work to build the biggest possible tribes around certain ideas and themes first. If filmmaker can demonstrate to money-men that already have an audience for a project, producing the movie becomes simple.
One more example. After a successful storytelling season at the Moth podcast, Mike Birbigliahis took his insane sleepwalk stories to the large audience at public radios This American Life, then to the huge audience in movie theaters across America, then to unlimited audience online at Netflix. Mike started with just some notes and a microphone. What movie projects could we launch if those tools were all that was needed?