When I first started making my way into filmmaking, I kept hearing this phrase over and over again: “Never spend your own money.”
I get it. I mean, as my friend +Sean Hackett told me, “You just want to paint.” I don’t want to deal with money. I don’t want to have to deal with contracts or legal disputes or LLCs or S Corps or clearance. I just want to write stories and make movies.
But, the moment I accept other people’s money, it means I have to listen to what they say. I mean, they’re making my dreams possible, so it’s the least I can do. Plus, if they’re paying because they want to be a part of the magic too (most “qualified investors” don’t actually think movies are a valid investment; movies are just too high risk).
Of course, there is an alternative. I could ignore that age-old wisdom and actually raise my own money. I could use Kickstarter (which I may do someday). Or, I could do freelance work and make my own money and be answerable to no one (I always listen to the opinion of people with whom I choose to work: actors, DP, sound, etc.).
When I use my own money, I have absolute and unquestioned creative control. I don’t feel guilty when I make a mistake that costs money because it’s my money. Instead, I’m slightly more cautious with where the money is spent. I have to be more creative in my script because anything that shows up has to be paid for.
Sometimes that self-imposed restrictions results in pretty amazing solutions. For instance, on my current project HACKER, I can’t afford an armor. That means no guns. Here’s the thing, what’s a computer hacker know about guns anyway (ironically, most of my hacker friends own multiple guns each). Now, the script isn’t about cool explosions or bloody gunshot wounds. It’s about character and computer hacking!
Paying for everything myself also means I get to keep the profits (assuming there are any). That means with the next script I might be able to play with even more colors.