$1,000,000,” says David Spangler, who made “The Artist” and “The Hurt Locker.” “Most of the guys I know have been working in the business for, like, 20 years.”
The difference today, of course, is that studios don’t even bother with the hard work that keeps a studio’s films afloat. That doesn’t make their business practices any more or less fair, necessarily, than they do back when “The Artist” was making $600,000 a week at Fox, a figure that may be outdated, but that’s the point.
If you are a low-budget filmmaker, in other words, you really should be out of business. It’s the only way you can survive.
As Spangler says, if you want to be able to make a quality film, you have to start making movies now. The only way to do that is if you are willing to compromise a little and compromise. (It goes without saying here, but if you are interested in doing something less conventional, read on.)
It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best way to ensure success when making your first film is to make it as simple as possible. You don’t necessarily need to be doing something special for the job to be worth doing, and “The Artist” could have been made in many different ways, as a feature-length, short-run musical, a web series, an episodic series, a documentary, and a documentary with sound.
“I was working every day in the dark as a digital effect artist,” says Spangler. “And I would be sitting at my desk writing and watching TV. That’s how a story unfolds — you’re writing and you’re watching it. If something isn’t going well, then you just sit at your computer, you go out for a nice lunch, and you try to figure out what went wrong so you can go back and fix it.”
Spangler says that he didn’t really know what to expect making “The Artist” until a friend sent him “A New Life,” a film directed by the indie filmmaker James Dashner. “I thought I was in trouble and I really wanted to make something,” she says. “We actually bonded over a lot of things, and as we sat in my apartment and watched it, we realized that the story felt very natural, very accessible to the viewer. The way that it was expressed in the world that it was happening in.”
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