21 October 2009

On Day Jobs, Francis Ford Coppola, & Batman



Francis Ford Coppola thinks the current form of cinema is going the way of the dodo, and I agree with him.  I'll write more on that at some point, but right now I'd like to talk about day jobs.

His most recent film, Tetro was self-financed through revenue from his Coppola winery.  Of making personal films, Coppola said,
"Now, at this age, I'm doing what I wanted to do when I was 22."
 Why wait?

I've long been a proponent of artists not going to school and majoring in their art. I did it (music composition), and I wish I hadn't.  I've had success outside of composition and film, but only because I flew by the seat of my pants, screamed "shit" and hoped to hell I wouldn't crash and burn.

Coppola is now following the Charles Ives approach.  Ives, today regarded as one of the greatest American composers to ever put pen to staff, was largely dismissed during his lifetime.   His music was, to say the least, "modern."  Ears weren't ready for him.  He was truly a man ahead of his time.  It was only later in life, thanks to the help of legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann that his music began to cultivate a following, leading ultimately to his ascendancy to the pantheon of legendary 20th music composers.

In stark contrast to the image of "starving artist," which the above historical diversion may form, Ives was extremely wealthy.  He achieved his wealth in the insurance industry, and was, in secret, a benefactor to many twentieth century composers.

In short - he made enough scratch to do whatever the hell he wanted.  A wonderful quote by the father of twelve-tone music, Arnold Schoenberg on Ives:
"There is a great man living in this country – a composer. He has solved the problem of how to preserve one's self and to learn. He responds to negligence by contempt. He is not forced to accept praise or blame. His name is Ives."
I was often asked by my students during my previous life as a music teacher, "what should I major in if I want to go into music?"  My response?

"Anything but music."

With the arts, you either have it or you don't (I have no clue if I have "it," I'm just having fun). The technical skills can be taught and developed outside the education system, which is largely a system for networking anyhow.  I'm a "learn by doing" proponent.  There's simply no comparable alternative.

Not only that, but I've found that I function better, and take a higher satisfaction in the accumulation of knowledge on my own.  I like screwing up.  It's only through our mistakes and our missteps that we learn.

The potential for a more personal art is increased if that form of art is not your primary form of income.  If you don't have to feed your family by making films, the pressure is off.  As digital film makes its way through the growing pains its currently experiencing, a new form of art will come into being.  A decidedly and intensely personal, low budget film made not for monetary gain, career advancement, but rather "because I felt like it."

This isn't to say that I want to spend my entire career making personal films about my feet.  I don't.  I would kill to direct a James Bond flick and write and/or direct for television (save Fringe!).  I would, however, like to have the option to make a film when I want to, be able to finance it myself, and not have to cater to demands of the pursestring holders.

Success in a "daylight" endeavour shouldn't be something to scoff at - it should be approached with as much vigor as our filmmaking passions.  After all... Batman wouldn't have all those wonderful toys without the Bruce Wayne money thing.

Or that cool car.

He may have made better wine though.  Sorry FFC - not a fan.

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