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Confessions of a Working Director - 12/21/2009


2009 is nearly over.  Seems like the year just started.  It has certainly been an eventful year, full of high hopes, dismal disappointments, financial calamities, and amazingly positive experiences.  It has also been a year about survival.

We wrapped Ratline principal cinematography at the start of this year.  That was exciting.  I'd hoped at that time, and throughout the first half of this year, that I'd have a first cut of Ratline by now.  Unfortunately, the unpleasant reality of money reared its head time and time again - and Ratline post-production was shut down repeatedly to focus our efforts on bringing in more money.

One of the better reasons Ratline experienced delays was another movie called Stake Land.  I started off feeling like a fish out of water on that shoot, but in the end, working on this project was an extremely positive experience for me.  I am very grateful that I got to know the people I worked with on that movie.  They likewise must have had a positive experience working with me.  A multitude of professional opportunities are starting to emerge as a result of my time on the Stake Land shoot. I won't go into detail about all that now - because you never know - negotiations break down almost as often as they start up.  But for now, I remain optimistic about the future collaborations that are currently being discussed.

2009 brought with it a lot of personal highs and lows as well.  My last grandparent passed away.  Stress from financial struggles ate away at me from time to time.  And a few friends so close to me I considered them family showed truer colors, revealing themselves to be self-centered and hateful people who took some vicious shots at me (and at a lot of my team, too).  Not that vicious behavior shocks me - but it really hurts when it comes from people you care about.  Oddly, it was easy to move past these things - because some very giving people routinely filled in the gaps where others had chipped away.

I'm not going to get over-dramatic and act like I'm some irresolute letdown who can't function without his angelic team.  I sacrifice more than you think to keep doing what I do.  I contribute more to this organization - in both money and time - than everyone on my team combined.  However, after working a hundred hours, sometimes it is that last hour contributed by someone else that pushes you to success.  I may bust my ass to bring in a thousand dollars of income - but if I'm $20 short on paying the electric bill, the electric still gets shut off.  Yes, I work relentlessly and passionately to keep Wicked Pixel Cinema moving forward.  But that last hour of work or that $20 contributed by someone else on my team really is often what keeps me alive to fight again the next day.

And let's not forget, none of these people are obligated to give me anything at all.  Certainly, if I gain success, those on my team who support me are going to benefit from that.  Still, any support I receive I consider a true gift, deserving of my sincere appreciation.  I don't know how well I express that appreciation, but I do my best. 

Life is full of setbacks, back-stabs, emotional letdowns, and career devastations caused by the rich tapestry of incompetent assholes that envelops the Earth.  You get numb to it.  Each time something shitty happens, it seems more typical, more par for the course.  At least that's how I feel.  Where I run into confusion is when the opposite happens.

A counterpoint to the bad times and bad people... there have been moments in this past year where people were being especially generous to Wicked Pixel Cinema or to me personally - and these moments were very difficult for me to comprehend.  When people are being decent human beings, it feels alien and unnatural.  (That's pretty fucked up, ain't it?)

Sometimes people on and off my team have been so supportive and giving that I simply found it hard to process.  I'd find myself dissecting the situation in my mind, trying to figure out why, exactly, I was receiving such kindness or support.

Just as an example (he is most certainly not the only person who's shown me such generosity) filmmaker Aaron Crozier has been especially supportive of me and my career.  I've never given Aaron a winning lottery ticket or bought him a new car or anything, so I often wonder why he is so nice to me.  I remember a specific moment from earlier this year, after he had done something extremely helpful for me, I said, "Aaron, if this leads to anything good for me, I won't forget that you got me here."  Aaron brushed my comment off and said, "You got yourself here."

Later, I came right out and asked Aaron why he put such thought and effort into advancing my career.  He looked at me like I was an idiot for asking and stated, "Because I think you're a good director."

When things get confusing and I'm trying to wrap my head around why people are being supportive or helping me through the rough times, I remember those two phrases: "You got yourself here." and "I think you're a good director."  And suddenly things make a bit more sense.  A bit.

Thanks for reading.

- Eric Stanze