MICROBUDGET ETIQUETTE 101: DON’T BE A DICK

There is a narrow gap between being a confident director and being a dick. The winning microbudgeter walks a razor’s edge.

My two big passions in life are microbudgetry (folks call it film making) and Community Theater. They have many similarities. They have many very important differences too, but that is meat for a future blog. One of the qualities they share is a reliance on committed volunteers. People who will put serious energy into your project because they believe in it or because they are trying to build a body of work for themselves. These are worthy goals, and it is a healthy, reciprocal relationship, as long as everyone is laboring on spec.

COMMUNITY THEATER and MICROBUDGET MOVIE MAKING

Onstage as Shelley Levene. (Courtesy Daniel Baumer, Danscape)

GGGR

Directing

CrawlingBrainFullScan Directing “The Crawling Brain.”

However, if you do end up making the next “Blair Witch Project” and you get millions for your inspired microbudget effort – don’t be a dick. Be prepared to share the profits with those who helped you get it.

Too often I have been on microbudget sets where the director imagined him or herself to be the next Scorsese, just what Hollywood has been waiting for. These dicks (they shall not be named here) usually bring with them an unspoken assumption that cast and crew people know how lucky you are to be on the ground floor of this next wave in the cinematic art-form. And anyone who doesn’t suck wind at the power of that “artistry” clearly doesn’t “get it,” and probably doesn’t need to be on their set.

Consequently, many of these proud would-be film “auteurs” never finish their projects, because members of the cast and crew, feeling ill-used, will walk away from it.

These so-called artists are self-deluded dicks. They need to learn some manners. Don’t be that dick. Be prepared, great. Know what you want and be firm, absolutely. Be confident and be sure, but don’t for a second think you are better than anybody else. That’s solid advice in the world, and it’s true on the set, as well.

film-director

You ain’t all that.

When you have sufficient budget to pay all your people, it’s a dream. Your cast and crew really appreciate it, even if the pay is little more than a token. And if you can pay them well, you can even afford to push them a little, make demands if necessary. Even then, of course, you should still be guided by the “Don’t Be A Dick” principal, but you do have a little more wiggle room.

“We have a budget this time, folks!”
(Bikini Frankenstein, Retromedia)

However, if your cast and crew are unpaid, which is generally the case in microbudgetry, you had better be prepared to keep your ego in check and treat them with respect. They are donating their time and their passion. You should be grateful and you should show it.

Tiki_reunioin

Happy microbudgeters: “Tiki” (Retromedia) reunion. Ron Ford, Angie Dierdorff, Joelene Smith, Daniel Anderson and Heather Swanstrom.

Volunteers are to be wooed and nurtured. They are your companions in the project, they are a kind of family, and they are your friends. Let them know it every day on the set.

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