Indie Filmmaking: You Have To Have Faith

by Christopher J. Boghosian A few months ago, I plopped down on my couch, let out a deep breath and involuntarily uttered, "It takes so much faith."

The best definition of faith I could find comes from the New Testament: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Although this verse is referring to spiritual faith, it perfectly captures the faith we need to pursue an independent filmmaking career. Because unlike a Starbucks employee who is guaranteed myriad customers and a steady paycheck, us indies must stand on our own two feet; even marketing and distribution has increasingly become our responsibility. We are entrepreneur-artists, a calling that demands "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

What strikes me most about the New Testament verse is its implication that a need for faith is relative. First, grander things require more faith. In the same way it takes more faith to sink a 3-pointer versus a layup, it takes more faith to produce a historic epic versus a one-location horror film. Second, faith is relative to one's power over things; the more leverage you have, the more you can secure. Third, the harder you work and the longer you persevere, the better your odds of success. So it seems a need for faith can be decreased by elements within our control.

But alas, as we all know, there are things beyond our control in independent film; things many believe are much more important to having a thriving career. I'm talking about profitability, public opinion, and professional advancement. I'm also talking about the thing that scares me most: talent. These truly are "things hoped for...things not seen," which will always demand faith! Sure, we can control them to a certain degree; however, they will forever elude us. (How many times have we seen a celebrated filmmaker produce a critical and box office dud, causing the public to question his/her viability and talent?)

I'm convinced the true worth of faith lies within the filmmaker as a source of strength, energy and hope. It feeds the filmmaker's soul, compelling him/her to continue onward, despite the odds. Without faith, fear will quickly overcome and defeat even the most ambitious of dreams. In fact, I'm beginning to think that fear is diametrically opposed to faith; complete assurance and conviction is fundamentally devoid of fear.

I've been pursuing a career in independent film for a few years now and, quite honestly, I'm tired, physically and emotionally. After numerous short films and a feature, I'm confident that I can control quite a bit; however, the elusive things like public opinion and talent are wearing me down. Just the other day I received another film festival rejection letter, one more punch in the gut, adding to my exhaustion. So it's no surprise when I plop down on the couch and utter, "It takes so much faith."

Where does faith come from? How can we have more of it? We can start with the things within our control, e.g., embrace your limitations, broaden your network, work hard and don't give up. And for the things ultimately outside our control, well, let's choose to believe rather than doubt. It's as simple as a choice: fear or faith. Might as well pick the more constructive of the two, right?

Living on student loans as a first-year law student, Christopher realized it was now or never, so he packed his bags and returned to his hometown, Los Angeles, to make movies. Since then, he has fathered multiple short films, a feature and a super-cute baby boy! You can see what else he's up to at FollowMyFilm.com

Christopher J. Boghosian on "Why I Made 7 Films in 7 Weeks"

I believe that one of the most important things a filmmaker can do to elevate their career and increase their chances of survival is to be prolific. Work begets more work. It once was that the economics of filmmaking required someone to hire you to do this, but that no longer is the case. The price point of creation is at an all time floor. So what is standing in your way? Good ideas? Please! There is a wealth of material that needs you today.

I was very inspired to learn of Christopher "I Am A Nobody Filmmaker" J. Boghosian's mission to make seven films in seven weeks. Christopher is clearly a brave, open, and generous filmmaker, but this was a challenge I suspect few are willing to undertake. I am hoping that Christopher's efforts will hope change that
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Why I Made 7 Films in 7 Weeks

The most frustrating aspect of narrative filmmaking is the infrequency in which one actually makes films. The conventional approach is complex and expensive, resulting in inactivity and atrophy. As a result, filmmakers often find themselves developing a film rather than making a film. So how does a filmmaker improve her craft? How does she refine her voice and style? More importantly, how does she experience the mere joy of making films more frequently?

I have always envied the feasibility with which a painter can pick up a brush and paint; thus, I wondered, can a filmmaker similarly pick up his "brush" and paint? The answer is yes and the key lies in embracing limitation. By creating within one's limited resources, a filmmaker eliminates nearly all production logistics that can snag even the most industrious types; I call it thinking outside the box, inside the box, which is exactly what I did this summer with 7 Films, 7 Weeks.

While my first feature film was in post-production, I was eager to cultivate my craft and voice as a filmmaker. Sitting around and waiting on others was not making me a better director, nor was it fun, so I set out to make one film per week for seven consecutive weeks. And to protect myself from production logistics, I limited myself to actors I had previously worked with and locations I had solid connections to. The result was a logistically stress free seven weeks, leading to the successful completion of all seven films.

As you can imagine, I am now a much more skilled and confident filmmaker. I worked with professional actors, conceptualized and wrote diverse scripts, and edited numerous scenes. By the third week, I stopped doubting myself and trusted more and more in my abilities and talent while having fun making films.

On the flip side, "cultivating my voice" as a filmmaker was much more difficult than I imagined. Though I made an earnest effort to create authentically, from a personal point-of-view, I struggled immensely and experienced much anxiety. Even now, after seven films, I remain unclear regarding my personal relationship with film, i.e., the way in which I am to uniquely engage in the art. Simply put: I want to discover what "a film by Christopher J. Boghosian" really is.

Rather than discourage me, this hard lesson has given me a greater respect for the art of making films and a deeper appreciation for the patience needed to do so. Because of my 7 Film project, I now realize that one's voice is not quickly contrived, rather, it is an ongoing conversation steeped in sincerity and exploration.

I encourage all creative types to undertake such a project. Maybe 7 films in 7 weeks is impractical for you, so how about 7 films in 7 months or 4 films in 4 weekends? The key is to embrace limitation and stick to it - think outside the box, inside the box. And, of course, it helps to announce the project to the world, as I did, because a little bit of accountability can go a long way!

You can watch all 7 films on FollowMyFilm.com...

Accruing way too much debt as a law student, Christopher realized it was now or never, so he packed his bags and returned to his hometown, Los Angeles, to make movies. Since then, he has fathered multiple short films, a feature and a super-cute baby boy! You can see what else he's up to at FollowMyFilm.com

"I Am A Nobody Filmmaker"

Today's guest post is from filmmaker & blogger Christopher J. Boghosian.

I’m a nobody filmmaker: I don’t have a recognizable name nor a recognizable film. In essence, most of the world couldn’t care less about me nor my movies. This sounds pathetic, I know, but coming to grips with this reality has truly liberated me and provided an invaluable perspective on my work and career.

As a result of the internet, mass media, and proliferation of panel discussions and seminars, beginning filmmakers can now listen in on the conversation between film industry experts. Insider tips and wisdom are readily available, from casting celebrities to negotiating a VOD deal. It’s true: gurus sometimes discuss broad principles and concepts that apply to every level of filmmaking, but more often than not, there is a buried assumption in their discussion: that a filmmaker or their project has a considerable amount of credibility, hype or leverage. As a result, many of these conversations are inapplicable to nobody filmmakers who have no reputable name nor a film with high salability. Nevertheless, in our earnest search for success, us nobodies continue to invest a lot of time, energy and money on experts.

A beginning filmmaker can learn all about financing, film production, marketing and distribution, but if s/he has little or nothing to back it up with, what’s the point? Living in LA, I’ve met countless filmmakers trying to raise thousands of dollars, even millions, with very little to their credit. Who do they think they are? What other business or profession operates like that? Like every other profession, filmmakers must earn the right to ask for thousands of dollars. They must earn the right to mass market and distribute their film. In the end, most of these filmmakers discover that only their friends and family are willing to invest in them, since that is with whom they have earned trust.

The baker bakes, the architect designs, and the filmmaker must continually make films. What baker bakes one loaf of bread and asks for thousands of dollars to open a bakery? What architect designs one home and expects to have thousands of fans on Facebook? None. It’s ludicrous. As a nobody filmmaker, I have come to realize that I need to earn my right to ask people for their time and money. And the way to do that is by consistently making films, plain-and-simple.

In fact, even the desire to make a great film must be earned. An expert baker who has studied and worked for years would scoff at a novice attempting to develop a great loaf of bread. It takes years of trial-and-error, blood, sweat and tears to bake great bread. How is filmmaking any different? Why do so many beginning filmmakers strive to make a great film? It’s presumptuous and disrespectful toward the art and craft of filmmaking.

Coming to grips with my nobody-ness as a filmmaker has set me straight in many ways. Rather than attempt to make a great film and attain thousands of fans, my focus now is to continually make the very best films I can within my means. Additionally, I have come to realize that I am, in fact, a somebody to a few folks out there. Most are friends and family members who watch my films, read my blog, and anticipate my future work. Thus, as I continue to make films and develop my craft, I will, first and foremost, share with them. Rather than create my own Facebook Fan page, I will call and email them, letting them know what I’m up to. And, hopefully, if my films are any good, they’ll spread the word and, maybe, create a Fan page for me!

-Christopher J. Boghosian

Christopher J. Boghosian is an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles, California. His blog, FollowMyFilm.com, focuses on the emotional side of filmmaking as well as highlighting the progress of his first feature film, Girlfriend 19.