I became a filmmaker at 24 when I wrote/directed and produced my first short film while living in Madrid. It had just the right balance between youthful pretentious profundity and Almodovarian inspired reflections of reflections. The cast was made up of English, Scottish and Irish expats, the crew mostly Spaniards, but all working shooting together from midnight to dawn, five days straight, for no pay and certainly no glory.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I was an idealistic kid with no film-school background and only a few production assistant stints to my credit — with no real idea how impossible it was to actually get a film made. Thankfully, my age blinded me enough that I somehow managed to recruit real professionals at the top of their game in the Spanish film industry.
While living in Spain, I barely eked out a living as an English teacher and translator, so the little money I did have I put into renting equipment I had never used, much less even seen or touched before, purchasing set dressing for a bar I also finagled into getting for free and paying for the surely less than satisfactory food that I barely even had enough to buy.
But what I was lacking in experience, I more than made up for in ganas, or desire, to create, to express, the ganas to will something from nothing, ganas to stop at nothing to achieve my dreams, ganas to inspire others to inspire me. Now more than a decade later, I realized those ganas are the most valuable commodity of the independent filmmaker.
If I were to add up in dollars and cents all the time I have spent trying and occasionally succeeding, yet mostly failing, to get my films made since, whether that be as actor/writer/director or producer, I would be in serious default to the dream creditors. My soul would be in a continuous state of foreclosure and even my most mundane dreams would be fighting for real estate in the near dormant recesses of my brain.
Now so many years after becoming an independent filmmaker, having filmed in Israel, Spain, Colombia, Ethiopia and finally in Los Angeles (but mostly just outside of L.A. due to the over-complicated requirements and prohibitive costs), I have learned that despite the films I have made that are a lot bigger than that short all those years ago, I still hold ganas as the most important ingredient for success.
The City of Los Angeles is perhaps one of the ganas capitals of the world, especially in the film industry. There is more chutzpah, moxie, talent and skill among so many film and television professionals in one block of L.A. than in some entire cities or states of the country or the world for that matter.
With the city overflowing with so much bustling energy to produce the best filmed entertainment on the planet, we need to collectively ask ourselves, how did we, yes we, the resident film professionals of L.A. allow runaway production to even get a foothold, sputter, take off and soar to such levels that film companies like the legendary VFX house Rhythm & Hues would go bankrupt?
With so many productions now shooting and posting in other states and countries because of the attractive incentive packages, many more companies are tinkering on the edge as well. It’s a serious issue that affects each and every professional waiting for their next job in filmed entertainment.
There are many clear signs that changes must be implemented to save the film industry in the state however there are many changes that can be made by the City of L.A. to help low-budget productions and indie filmmakers which can significantly increase production in the city to begin planting seeds towards larger changes at the state level to lure bigger budget productions back to California.
For this reason, I have started a petition to urge the city to pass legislation, resolutions, and policies to make it easier for all filmmakers to work, shoot and post their shorts, music videos, web series, TV shows and feature films in Los Angeles.
If you are a filmmaker in Los Angeles, or if you have ever worked or benefited from the production of filmed entertainment in the city, then you have a reason to sign this petition. I hope you can join us in this first stage of this campaign by signing and sharing here.