The Underground Artist

If you were not born rich, or into the establishment, or have no aspirations for joining the media elite - consider the underground.

Values take expression through form.

By creating movies with similar forms to things that are establishment, and to try and release them side-by-side with the products of the elite, means you're playing according to their rules.

So to make a movie in the style of J.J. Abrams, and to congratulate his accomplishments, is to prop up the empire of mass media (and all of its values).

And if that's what you want to do, fine.

But once you make the decision to go underground, everything changes.

First off, the possibility of making a living as an underground artist is better than ever.

According to Seth Godin, one only needs 1,000 die hard followers to make a living.

That means if only 2% of 50,000 followers financially support your artwork, you'd be set.

So one goal could be to make 50,000 followers.

Second, you can go with the flow of your life.

There's no need to radically alter your nature in order to ascend the ranks of the media elites.

You do you, but with emphasis, and build a small tight-knit following.

No pressure to attend all the galas, or constantly monitor your behaviour, or burning the wrong bridge in a small town.

By being an underground artist you can harmoniously exist with your craft.

Third, you maintain ownership of your copyright.

In the majors, they'll convince you that copyright is something to sell away instantly for cash or fame.

The reason, they claim, is because this is simply how business is done with the big boys.

The truth is - Your copyright is the money making thing.

The artwork almost doesn't even matter.

What matters is the exclusive rights for its use and distribution.

The only reason to hire a distributor would be for their business connections, and for their deal-making experience.

Business connections are something you can work on over the course of your life: by attending conferences, by meeting people one-on-one, by cold calling.

Deal-making experience is something you can develop over the course of a lifetime as well. 

Now, if you want to strike a limited deal with a distributor simply for the experience, this is something that could work out in your favor. But keep it limited.

Maintaining ownership of your copyright means you have to do the extra work to profit from it.

You will have to promote and distribute your film using innovative techniques.

But in the end, you win.

You win by building the business relationships for yourself (with theater owners, with online distributors, with legal and accounting and everyone).

You win for getting the contract experience yourself - so if you goof, you goof; but it'll be temporary, and it'll be a lesson learned making you a better artist-entrepreneur.

And you win by walking away with a bigger cut of your movie than any distributor offers.

But most importantly, you're in control of your destiny.

If one day your movie is no longer profiting, YOU have the ability to stir the energies to make money, basically, out of thin air: by doing a university tour, or a publicity stunt, or anything else.

Fourth, you're in control of the art and your image.

Obviously, there are market demands.

We're not anarchists here.

The goal of turning a buck is important.

But it's only ever-so-slightly less important than the art itself.

This is the unique aspect about this underground thing.

Yes, we want to become financially independent with our art work.

But, YES, the quality of the work is supremely important.

And finally, it's exciting.

Who doesn't love to be in the middle of an adventure?

Creating films for the underground is like being on the side of the German Resistance during World War 2.

Tiny acts of resistance.

Doing business in a way nobody does, finding unique avenues of distribution, creating new genres, discovering your own publicity methods, bypassing all the middle-men...

This "carelessness," this "misunderstanding of orders," ignoring the status-quo...

This is the revolution.

If You're There, You're There

Changing Titles