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July's Theme: Independence

July's Theme: Independence

July is upon us, and for those of us in the U.S., that means the 4th of July–our Independence Day. America as a whole is not feeling particularly patriotic right now, but luckily Mirror Box exists to explore deep-thinking genre film, not U.S. politics. So what does independence mean to us creative folk?

I think our desire for independence can be driven by a lot of things. For a teenager leaving home, independence is how they define themselves for the first time. For a small business owner, independence gives them more freedom to set their own hours and priorities. For us as filmmakers and storytellers and creatives, independence can be a byproduct of ego (“I don’t want anyone telling me how to make my art”) or it can be a way to take power away from the too powerful (“I want to make more than one penny off my music since the record label is making 90 cents”). 

In Hollywood independent film is a loose term. Essentially any film that is paid for “outside of Hollywood” is considered an independent film. That includes massive blockbusters like Valerian, Cloud Atlas, and Passion of the Christ. In those cases, what independent means is “more risk.” Someone is putting their neck on the line without any guarantee of distribution (of course when you’re spending $100 million, there’s probably a good chance you’ll get it). 

Other times, independent is meant almost more as a genre, meaning films that fit a certain non-Hollywood aesthetic like Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, or Lost in Translation.

Then there are those of us who are making films on such a smaller scale that we balk at both the above definitions. We are the filmmakers who work full time day jobs and go out on weekends to shoot on our iPhones. We are the filmmakers who raise small amounts of money from friends and family and then make AN ENTIRE MOVIE with an amount that wouldn’t even cover the coffee budget on a Hollywood film. We are the filmmakers who go from film festival to film festival, jumping for joy when audiences embrace our movies, even if those audiences are smaller than most Hollywood films’ cast & crew. 

The independent film world is definitely exciting and so many filmmakers are creating beautiful works of art (even if most people will never see them!). It’s also exhausting. For an independent filmmaker, a single film can take up years of your life and soak up all your free time and vacation days. It will put stress on your family and bank account and will challenge you in ways you never expected. 

But, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, and you’re able to stop every once in a while and look around at the magical world that has come to life from inside your head, it’s infinitely rewarding.

Independence means doing what you are meant to be doing right now. 

It means not waiting for permission. It means not waiting until you’re ready. It means not waiting for more … more money, more time, more connections. 

The problem with gatekeepers is that we start to believe there’s actually a gate. But much like Neo with the spoon, we need to change our perspective ... “there is no gate.” We can manifest our dreams right now.

And here’s the thing no one tells you–that desire to get to the “other side of the gate” never goes away because THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A NEW GATE.

I’ve interviewed a lot of full-time filmmakers and writers and all of them feel like they still haven’t “arrived” yet, like they still have something to prove, and they’re still the hacks they were before they were making a living at it; there is always another level to get to, always another door to walk through. Success, in its traditional definition, is a constantly moving goal 

You have to ask yourself. What do you really want? Do you want the clout that comes from being the Russo Brothers? Or do you want to make movies? Do you want the fame that comes from being Scarlett Johanson? Or do you want to act? Do you want the money that comes from being Stephen King? Or do you want to write? 

Here is where true success lies:

  1. Find what you love to do

  2. Do it everyday

You know why the gatekeepers exist? Because it makes them feel powerful. When you create without permission, it takes that power away. After all, you can control what you create, but you can’t control how it will be received. 

Find the joy that comes from the making, not the feedback. Find the joy that comes from the creation, not the admiration. Find the joy that comes from fulfilling what you were meant to do with your life, not the riches and fame. 

“Work hard but know that it’s not necessarily going to mean you’ll get what you want. That’s not the goal anyway — it’s the work.” ~ DON CHEADLE

Take a look around the site this month to read more articles and interviews as we dive into what creative independence looks like in different fields.

When Found Footage Found Me: Revisiting The Blair Witch Project, Twenty Years Later

When Found Footage Found Me: Revisiting The Blair Witch Project, Twenty Years Later

Avengers Week - Captain America: A Tree Beside a River of Truth

Avengers Week - Captain America: A Tree Beside a River of Truth