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How Are You, as a Black Filmmaker, Surviving in Such a Challenging, Though Rapidly Evolving Environment?

How Are You, as a Black Filmmaker, Surviving in Such a Challenging, Though Rapidly Evolving Environment?

Not at all planned, I found myself in different conversations with several filmmakers, that took place over the last few days – each touching on how an artist (especially one that lives outside of the mainstream) survives in such a challenging, uncertain, though rapidly evolving production/distribution/exhibition environment – an evolution that democratizes, inspires and excites many outsiders.

Most of the filmmakers I engaged have long accepted that their journey would be a struggle, and they’d essentially planned and prepped for that, not at all expecting filmmaking would be a primary source of income for them. 

A few others hoped that an invite into the so-called promised land that is Hollywood studio filmmaking, would eventually be theirs, even if only as one of a number of options available to them. As, ultimately, I suppose that’s what’s most desired among many of us – having viable options; being able to choose, without the burden of money influencing (too heavily) which choice one makes.

I also wondered how each of these artists earns a living currently, since it’s certainly not (yet) via their craft. And for most, it was a hustle – short-term, freelance gigs that, in some cases, did utilize some of their skills, like writing, teaching, shepherding after school arts programs for pre-teen and teens, the occasional editing gig, etc.

For others, it was working security at a mall, or construction; one person actually worked on shipping boats in Alaska, in not always the best weather. But, as he told me, he makes a lot of money in a relatively short period of time (a few months), which allows him the freedom to not have to work constantly, freeing him up to focus on his craft (he said that he’s made as much as $30,000 working over a single summer; certainly it’s not work for everyone).

But each person had their own individual story of not only struggle, but also acceptance, peace, and even triumph at times. I’d say that the one thing just about everyone I spoke to has, is a definite understanding that nothing’s certain. They are all fully aware of their respective positions, and are realistic about what is/isn’t possible. They each have a plan, along with the drive and determination to execute.

It was all very cathartic you could say, because, in the process, not at all one to speak about my own personal trials and triumphs, I did share with them all as well. 

So this inspired me to make this a more public conversation, and invite you all to join in if you’d like.

If you’re a filmmaker (director, writer, actor, actress, DP, editor, etc, etc, etc) who isn’t already entrenched within the “system” (we could call it) and its ways, first, how are you living and surviving – as in, earning a living to pay your rent, to eat, etc, while still pursuing a career in your chosen craft? What’s your desired or planned path? How far ahead have you planned? Or maybe you don’t even have a plan. When you think of your career in another 5 to 10 years, paint a picture with words of what that looks like in your head, and then ask yourself (and share as well, if you’d like) what you’re doing right now to get you there, and just how feasible getting “there” is. Where are you in that journey? Let’s enlighten each other.

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