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Examine the expectations and inferences underlying selected job positions. Consider timely topics in career preparation and the struggle for fulfilling employment. Analyze what could be improved in either situation. If this blog reminds you too much of work, then peruse my namesake blog for lighter fare.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Want to Be a Film Director? It's a LOT of Work Breaking Into the Field!

Update: The "Dara Says" Team has regrouped to try again! Their new goal of £3,000 ($4,748) is only 2.31% of the original target and hence is far more feasible. A few new perks exist, such as a replica of the character Jack's backpack stuffed with assorted film items the Director's Cut -- with background scenes which didn't quite fit into the narrative -- in exchange for £30 ($47.58). You may donate here until April 21.

I made the above GIFs by changing the color of the original logo in PhotoShop and then ordering the different-colored layers in ImageReady.

Original Article: For every big-budget Hollywood director, there are hundreds of film school graduates working outside the film industry due to the difficulty of breaking into the field (much like the heavily gated jobs in public policy and government administration, but that’s for a different post). The film maker’s dilemma goes beyond the typical quandary of supposedly “entry-level” jobs requiring several years of relevant experience (such as the notorious problem of not being taken seriously for a “corporate” job despite having years of freelance work experience). How extraordinarily difficult is the role of budding auteur?

It’s as challenging as raising over two hundred thousand dollars for a professional production. Despite being pocket change for a Hollywood studio, a modestly budgeted film (in the low six figures) costs the equivalent of a half decade’s wages of the everyday worker. Although commercial studios have the resources to fund dozens of such micro-budget films in a given year, few are approved as pilot projects due to the politics of parent companies, screenwriters’ guilds (unions), actors’ guilds (also unions), stagehands’ guilds (more unions), and established directors. If a screen writer wants his or her story to meet celluloid in this lifetime, then traditionally the only option has been to find some wealthy patrons who fancy being listed as the film’s executive or associate producers.

The advent of “crowdfunding,” or soliciting money from the general public via the Internet, has many believing the middle class may collectively fund those projects overlooked or spurned by wealthier individuals. This sounds good in theory but often fails in execution: whereas a well-monied patron may be convinced by an appeal to his or her particular fancies, a thousand or so less-monied donors need to be appealed to before the identical funding goal may be achieved. That means a lot more work in both market research and advertising!

In that sense, finding one or several wealthy patrons continues to be the only feasible means of bringing a film from concept to execution. The fidelity of that performance will depend on how much technology is needed to bridge the filmed reality with the produced fantasy of the narrative; how much may be budgeted for travel and permits; and the extent of editing necessary to match the presentation with the film maker’s imagination. And that’s for an independently produced film -- a production in any of the major studios will feature much higher labor costs due to the aforementioned unions of the various non-directorial staff.

But rest assured, none of the funds donated to Vasco de Sousa’s nascent film Dara Says will go towards the overvaluation of labor produced by unions. It goes to 13 non-union production staff, costumes for the actors, and high-caliber equipment to ensure the audiovisual elements of the film are as professional as you’d find in a major studio. You may read the budget summary for greater detail.

Who is Vasco? He’s a kindred intellectual with whom I corresponded on the soon-to-close LinkedIn Answers forum about various critical thinking questions such as what I fancy my job would have been if I had lived in a different historical period or geography.

What is the premise of Dara Says? It is a wry humor film about the realistic highs and lows caused by the bittersweet relationship of two working-class flat dwellers. Although filmed in Wales, its narrative could transpire in almost any region of a given Western country. The trailer and storyboards reveal a snippet of the plot: the girlfriend finds the boyfriend’s email account password in his diary and then checks his account, only for him to arrive home from work and infer immediately that she has been snooping (due to extra fingerprints on his diary cover and the URLs of his emails in the browser history).

Donations are accepted through February 20, 2013. Because the sidebar on the landing page enumerates the “thank you” rewards for donating at certain amounts of British pound sterling, I’ve conveniently converted those numbers into U.S. dollars:

Minimum donation:  £5 = $7.93
                  £10 = $15.87
                  £25 = $39.68
                  £50 = $79.36
                 £100 = $158.73
                 £200 = $317.46
                 £500 = $793.65
              £999.99 = $1,587.28
               £5,000 = $7,936.51
              £32,415 = $51,452.38
Total cost of project: £129,600 = $205,809.52

Although the project has achieved only £420 ($666.66) or .003% so far, all donations are refunded if the total of £129,600 ($205,809.52) is not achieved by February 20. The above conversions are based on the exchange rate of $1 per £0.63, or $1.59 per £1, ascertained as of this writing at the CNN Money® Currency Data page.

I’m interested in where the narrative goes because it reminds me of a very similar situation which I observed between acquaintances almost a decade ago. For the sake of privacy, I have changed their names in this anecdote.

“Miles” and “Bethany” were in the same school year that I was. They were friends in high school but became really involved with each other in college -- but not involved enough for Bethany’s liking. She grew suspicious of Miles’ fidelity because he chose to enroll at the community college in town and work the video store job at which he held seniority while Bethany left her hobby supply store job to enroll in a university in an unfamiliar city over 50 miles away.

Miles demonstrated his devotion by driving 100-mile round trips at least twice monthly satisfy their longings. It was always Miles who pulled the long hauls and spent hundreds of dollars on gas over the course of a year, but insecure Bethany needed more assurance and demanded Miles transfer to her university to be near every day. Miles acceded and joined Bethany on the campus before summer’s end.

However, this would only deepen Bethany’s hysteria as she had even more opportunities to monitor Miles. No longer could he mingle with his friends without her in the same room! Bethany’s need for control was so intense that she chastised Miles for – Gasp! -- having other friends who just happened to be women! Such restriction was eerily reminiscent of the puritanical prohibition of speaking with members of the opposite sex. While it’s not always a good idea to do so, one should not be subject to such a broadly impactful ban on freedom of speech and assembly.

That jealousy-fueled domineering wasn’t quite enough to deter Miles – it would take an act of genuine treachery to dissuade him from the harpy he adored. By winter of that year, Bethany proceeded to send me a message from Miles’ email boasting of how she learned his password by looking at his keyboard enough times when he had naively failed to distract onlookers during login. I responded back to ask why she bothered to check his account. Bethany admitted that she distrusted Miles because he was “talking with another woman after class” but that she could not find emails to or from her in Miles’ account.

Being familiar with how much of himself was poured into serving the never-satisfied Bethany, I forwarded her emails to Miles’ other email account to show him the incriminating evidence. Miles acknowledged receipt and thanked me, saying he needed to “work things out” with Bethany.

They split less than amicably by month’s end. The departure had to happen sooner or later because their relationship had the archetypal pattern of a secretive partner habitually manipulating an open and honest partner; if Miles had enjoyed such manipulation, then he would have remained with Bethany after the revelation of his violated privacy.

Befitting of an abuser of trust, Bethany’s grades declined too low to continue at the 50-miles-away university, and she transferred to Palooka University. She never landed a job in her desired field of international business, either, whereas Miles went on to become a beat writer for a county newspaper following his graduation from the journalism program. Sometimes karma is evident -- other times it is not -- but in this case it was!


  1. Thanks Joe. Although, the budget was in pounds, not Euros (you used the Euro sign).

    The union thing was also interesting. You are technically correct in that we haven't signed up to a union. The US unions have no jurisdiction here. I'd talk more about the British unions, but I'm not on their bad side either as far as I'm aware.

    There are union rates, and union described jobs. And we feel that the unions in some countries (which shall be unnamed) are stuck in the 20th century with job descriptions.

    For instance, the bologna of having "a film by" the director is so "auteur theory" and so removed from reality. My contributions to Dara Says come as much from my perspectives as an actor or a writer as they do from anything I know about storyboarding (the traditional director pre-production role.)

    1. Thank you for the comment, Vasco! I'm glad you like my article.

      I have corrected the currency symbols accordingly and notice that already 20 unique views of this article have transpired (not counting cached views). While I believe the trailer could be more compelling by including Jack's phone call for help and Dara's response to give the viewers an idea of what Dara will be like (and hence another compelling reason to donate), I understand you already heavily edited the trailer and had to control pre-donation costs.

      When people peel themselves from the formulaic neuroses of the major studio films to fund your project, then they will experience the nuances of a pseudo-documentary / film-length reality show about two people and their flawed intercessor. And even if funding does not come through, then I have reason to believe Lion's Gate film would purchase the screenplay -- the studio is known for quirkier films such as those starring WWE actors and the later films in the "Leprechaun" franchise.