The Starving Artist Cliche

I recently had a debate with one of my twitter followers who stated that the budget for my Kickstarter campaign is too high, and I quote…

“I’m having a hard time swallowing $60 grand is required – What kind of budgetary message does that send to new [film]makers?”

Fair enough… however just about every independent filmmaker I know is either complaining that they can’t make a living doing this or that they are broke. And what strikes me as even more peculiar is that many seem in some not so subtle way to prefer living with “the starving artist” tag.  It has become (specifically in my native Brooklyn or as the French say – tres Brooklyn (Whatever)) some sort of badge of honor to struggle while doing your art. I think it’s all crap.  My goal as a filmmaker was never to struggle as I do my art. There are more than enough inherent obstacles in the film industry, you don’t need to add artificial ones in order to fit into a cool stereotype. The truth is there are few things worse (as an artist) than not being able to pay your rent while simoultaneously trying to be creative.

So to answer the question of my skeptical tweeter… my message to new filmmakers would be that you don’t have to be a starving artist to be a good artist. I make a good living doing corporate videos, and I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t also be the case with my creative personal projects granted they utilize the same resources. Filmmaking is not something you can fund yourself and do well.  The equipment costs the same, my crews rates are the same, my time is the same, I still have to carry film insurance, so I choose to maintain the same budget on my creative projects as I have on my commercial work.  If I wanted a cheap hobby I would have taken up a paint brush.

When I first started as a videographer I would do a project that I would charge 5 – 6K for today for $750 or less.  I did this by cutting corners, wearing many hats, and rushing work. Some corporate project managers don’t care enough about quality to pay any kind of a premium, so I did what I had to do to get my foot in the door.  Once you establish that you will work for cheap It is tough to break through that perception and get a fair rate. Especially when corporate clients will leverage other struggling videographers against each other to keep your rates down.  It’s only after fighting through that ceiling that I was eventually able to get for myself on a regular basis what I consider a fair rate.

So ask for what you are worth, push past the initial resistance from your peers to maintain some hipster struggling artist cliche, and eventually when your work is good enough you will get what you are worth.

Here is a link to the Kickstarter page that sparked this debate.



Comments are closed.