Each film writer-director’s pathway to success will be different. Each brings a unique vision and skill set to the journey, and each defines success differently.I do, however, think that there is a relatively cut and dry, black and white decision that each aspiring film artist must make: does our pathway to success fall within the "Hollywood Economy," or outside of it.
The Hollywood Economy is, at its core, a content distribution machine. This is an industry that exists primarily to make all manner of visual media available to millions of different people, all day, every day. Within it, there are thousands of differentiated niches—both content-wise and in audiences defined. Though the industry is experiencing a great deal of operational upheaval at the moment, its goal of connecting mass content to mass audiences is unwavering.
A writer-director (independent or otherwise) who wishes to participate in this economy, must make his/her peace with it…embrace it…settle into its conventions and practices and trust that it will get you there. You let it carry you and your work. You let it decide where you fit into its scheme of things and you heed its advice. The way is by no means easy or a guarantee. But you can "make cool shit" and expect it to eventually hit the fan.
If, however, the Hollywood Economy is not for you, if you cannot make your peace with it…if, as you scan its broad horizon, you see a desert where others see oasis…you need not despair. You can still make a go of it. You can, in fact, still pursue your cinema passion, survive and thrive. But. You must bid farewell to its shiny trappings, and steel yourself.
Now, your world is about you and all the audience you can muster.
You choose a cinematically ambitious writer-director pathway that may never intersect with the Hollywood Economy. And if you can make your peace with that choice, you can be liberated by it.
You no longer need to write properly-formatted scripts of “feature-lengths.” Instead you will meet and connect with cinema lovers on a more personal level.
You need not care what kinds of films are trending at the festivals this year, you only care what your friends and fans liked or didn’t like about your last film.
You may have no idea what kind of deal you'll get from a small, independent film label to micro-distribute your film…but you don’t want or need it. Instead, ask your audience, “how would you like to receive my work…and how often.” Then, do exactly what they say.
The Hollywood Economy is a fine thing. It’s how most of us became interested in the cinema as children and teenagers. When it works, it really works...with the flash and force of a lightning bolt. But it’s not for everyone. Many haven’t the patience, the respect, or the taste for it.
It is truly a new moment in cinema history for people who choose the non-Hollywood way...for those less interested in the pomp of the movie industry than its circumstance.