At the screening of April Showers at the Omaha Film Festival (a great fest by the way) I took the time that was allotted before the beginning of the film to unveil/discuss my desire to give a portion of the film’s proceeds to schools and/or charity. If memory serves me this concept was met with applause and much adoration, however in practice it became very complicated, very quickly. While I hadn’t spoken out of turn that night, what I viewed as a simple transaction proved to be a very difficult; for between the powers that be and even the recipients of the “charity” itself, both parties could rarely agree on what to do with the money. I won’t get into too much detail for fear of making any group or would-be recipient look bad (no one was truly at fault), but my God. For being a country of supposed socialists it is very difficult to share ’round here.
Needless to say my plan didn’t go according to plan and soon became a topic of contention within my own camp. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for making money -in the time leading up to and during production I was making a lot myself through advertising -but following the close of production something in me changed. Away from April Showers, in my professional advertising career, I had achieved some level of success -according to others’ barometers. At 26 I owned a home, I drove a Mercedes AND a Land Rover (why the hell anyone needs two cars, let alone those two escapes me to this day), I ate at expensive restaurants and had really cool “toys”. But I was unhappy and broke, well, maybe not broke as in no money, but every dollar earned became a dollar quickly spent. I was foolish. It was because of my success (or excess) outside of the independent film world that lead me to “nobly” forfeit my meager salary of $12,000 ( I think that was the figure) for making April Showers. I never got into to film to make money, because when I got into film I didn’t need any. After making April Showers I began to look at things a bit differently, for despite all my “riches” I never felt more fulfilled as a person then when I was on set and working for free.
This feeling lead to some pretty extensive self reflection, through which I re-discovered what lead me to being able to make movies in the first place. My education. I realized had it not been for many of my English and drama teachers (thank you to those of you reading this) I wouldn’t have caught the “bug” the way that I did and quite possibly never made the leap into film. I was fortunate enough to have parents that supported my creative endeavors and teachers who helped fine tune my skills and understanding. An opportunity many kids nowadays won’t have or even get, which is why I wanted to donate a portion of the proceeds from April Showers to them, or at least to groups who could help give them the same experiences and opportunities I had. But politics and business being what they are it never really was able to work out that way.
But that doesn’t mean it was a bad idea, or one I no longer believe in.
I’ve always said film is the most powerful communication tool we humans have in our bag of tricks. Film has the power to be more than mere entertainment for we’ve seen throughout cinema it’s influence over our everyday lives. I find the medium simply awe-inspiring and I know I’m not alone. We hear about how audiences have become “jaded”, in that they simply expect great effects etc., which I don’t believe to be true, or better yet, not the medium’s fault. I just think the majority of films are simply dumped upon the public with the same long-term planning as going for seconds at the Sizzler salad bar -it’s a great idea in the moment but once you get home you begin to think why did I do this to myself. This is because the majority of films are released with a linear focus; the studio makes the film, the audience pays for the film. Rinse and repeat. With large, tent-pole properties, like Batman and Transformers, this “plan” works and works well most of the time. But how much better would those films be if you knew going into them that the studios or producers behind them were doing more with the money they were about to rake in. What if after the first half billion, Transformers, through Paramount and Hasbro, had setup a fund for under privileged (or even privileged) children to participate in a school arts program designing toys -preferably robots -that Hasbro would then nurture and perhaps include somewhere in the brand’s mythos down the road. It wouldn’t take much, hell it wouldn’t take anything for the mere “prize” at the end of the rainbow would be enough for a few remaining art programs to pick up the challenge; if for no other reason than bragging rights when the winners were announced. Maybe the prize is a mere $10,000 paid to the school only AFTER they won. The film goes on to gross nearly a billion dollars and one program, one, potentially sets ‘em back a few bucks. In return the studio and Hasbro are viewed as heroes, scores of new kids are now invested in the brand, and-well -you get the idea. I have to imagine with studios’ resources they’d have a lot easier time setting up such a program and infrastructure than I did.
Still, despite my past experience, I want to try and build a give back component into my next film, even if I’m not 100 percent sure of what it is or how it will work out just yet.
Thanks for reading and until next time, take care and stay tuned…