“How are things going with raising money for that film you’re producing,” people ask. “How indeed,” I answer with a smile. I honestly don’t know what to say about it. Here’s how it’s going.
Funder A: We’ll give you 25% of the money you need to make this project happen, but you need to secure the other 75% before we’ll give it to you.
Me: Can I start telling people that you’re on board in order to help get them on board?
Funder A: Well … not yet.
Me: Okay, no problem, I’ll talk people into giving me money anyway!
Funder B: We might give you some money if Funder A is on board.
Me: Umm… hold on.
Me: Pssst, Funder A, can we tell people now? I’ve given you all the paperwork you asked for.
Funder A: Oh, we thought we gave you that go-ahead months ago!
Funder B: Okay. We’ll give you some money too, but we’ll only give you a little bit now, and the rest much later. Like, way later than you actually need it, ok?
Me: Great! Every little bit helps!
Distributor: We’ll pitch in too, we won’t give you any of it until after you’ve finished making the film.
Me: A-Okay. I’ll figure it out! Money’s money, right?
Accountant: Good news, you’ll get around 20% of what you spend back as a big ol’ tax refund, but that won’t happen until about a year after you’re done.
Me: Wow! This is all lining up really smoothly! I only need about 15% more!
Me: I just don’t know where I’m going to get that last bit of money from. Everyone else has said no.
Funder A: You should probably get that 15% covered by asking everyone to defer their payments. So, basically, get all your key people to agree to get paid later. After you get the money.
Me: I guess I can talk people into that. Sure.
Everyone: Great! Now, how will you actually handle your financing?
Me: Wait a minute. I see what you’re asking me. I need all this money to make the film. But I’m not going to get it until after I make the film. So, what am I supposed to do?
Everyone: Get a loan!
Me: So, I have to convince someone to give me all the money up front, and then after you give the money to me I pay them back?
Me: Excuse me, I need a loan for about half the amount of my budget. Is that ok?
Bank: Sure. How will you guarantee that you can pay us back?
Me: Here are all the contracts from these government agencies and signed agreements from reputable companies confirming that they’re going to give me all this money.
Bank: That’s okay, but it’s not enough. Could you give us all your worldly possessions as collateral?
Me: Uhhh … I own … a bicycle?
Me: But I thought you would take all these contracts and letters and assurances from funders as proof that I’ll be able to pay you back.
Me: I guess the dream is over?
Funder A: If the bank won’t give you a loan, here’s this other fund that’s totally designed for indie productions. Their fees are low! This will be much easier, we promise.
Me: Wow! Amazing! I’m so glad that exists.
Other Fund: So, you want a loan for 50% of your budget, but you’ll have to prove to us that you can cover the whole 100%.
Me: But I can’t, that’s why I need a loan.
Other Fund: Sorry, we need to be sure you’re going to make this film, not take our loan and fuck it up.
Me: So … how am I supposed to make this thing?
That’s how it’s going, friends. That is how it is going. I’m not saying “don’t ask”, I’m just saying “expect me to go on a rambling, incoherent rant and/or silently drag you to the nearest whiskey dispensary.
2014 was full of change. Colin and I moved to a new office (in the same building, but still, lots of packing was involved) and a new apartment, which after 10+ years in the old place, in his case, at least, was a major ordeal.
Our old apartment was fantastic – cheap, homey, cute, perfectly located, inclusive (with laundry!) and the best landlords anyone could ever ask for (they were at our wedding, that’s how much we like them). But after three years of accumulating stuff together (and let’s face it, neither of us were minimalists before we got together) it was way too small, and the lack of space was beginning to wear on us. It wasn’t harming our relationship, but it was definitely causing a sort of general malaise.
I didn’t have enough space to actually put away all my clothes, so I’d just leave them in a big pile on top of and all around my full-to-bursting dresser. I’m not a very tidy person at the best of times, but not even having the option of being tidy felt like defeat. The kitchen was spacious but every inch of counter space was crammed with appliances and stuff, so over the last few months there, I slowly stopped cooking as much as I used to, and fell into a depressing habit of getting take-out. Since we’ve lived here, I’ve been cooking so much I’ve even started blogging my recipes. The sense of excitement over the new kitchen (with its acres of space, fancypants stove and dishwasher) has not worn off, and I hope it never does.
In 2015, I resolve to turn this new apartment into the grown-up home I have been daydreaming about for the past few years. And keep it clean. That too.
On the work front, 2014 was about as busy as I ever want to find myself.
The progress on Birdland has been great, but also very stressful. We got money from some major government sources this year (hurray!) which put the pressure on us to tie up all our loose ends (ugh!) nail down a lot of complicated legal agreements and other paperwork, and get moving so that we can shoot in 2015. I’ve been managing ok (I mean hey, I did put together those successful funding apps) but honestly I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water 90% of the time, because there’s so much to be done that I have no experience with and don’t know how to do. Thank goodness for our Exec Producer and our (new) Line Producer, both of whom I will be leaning on a lot in 2015.
The other project that’s closest to my heart is of course Rite of the Witch Goddess, which we may or may not retitle in 2015 (so as to not give away some of the film’s secrets). The feedback we got in July at Fantasia was fantastic, but the progress of rewriting the script based on all that feedback has been slower than anticipated. Mostly because I’ve been too busy to give it the kind of attention that it deserves, which I am constantly frustrated by.
Over the holidays, I’ve dedicated a bit of time to it and managed to write 30 pages in just a day or two because the ideas have been stewing in my brain for months and were dying to get out. I’m looking forward to finishing our millionth draft and passing it to James for his input sometime early in January. We promised a lot of people that we’d send them something new to look at in the fall, and we’ve blown through that deadline, but I know that we’re better off handing in our best work late, rather than a rushed version on time.
I quit working full time in order to pursue producing about two years ago and I have yet to actually produce a film from start to finish. That’s been a bit frustrating, but I can’t deny that there has been lots of great progress. Plus, I’m very, very proud of my involvement with some films that are already done. James Sizemore’s The Demon’s Rook came out on VOD and DVD this year through Tribeca. Jason Bognacki’s Another had its festival debut(s) and was ranked as one of the Top 10 horror films of the year by The Daily Record in the UK. Jason is so talented and I can’t wait to see what he does next. WHY Horror? played some festivals too and took home the Audience Choice award at Toronto After Dark. Those dudes were so great to work with, I hope we come up with another project to do with them. I might get down sometimes about not getting enough done, but it has been an exceptionally productive year.
Last month, Colin and I also celebrated a full year of programming The Royal, which has been a hell of a learning experience (fun, too). I now get how film exhibition works and my understanding of distribution has deepened immeasurably. I vacillate wildly between loving the Royal gig and being incredibly frustrated by how much more work we’re doing than we thought we would be (and not because the programming is so much more difficult than we thought, but because we’re constantly taking on tasks that are way outside our job description just because they’ve gotta get done and nobody else is on it. It’s a constant juggling act and even though I have an “aarrgh, they don’t pay us enough for this!” moment at least once a week, I really love the place, am super proud of the dedicated, smart, funny and film-savvy staff we’ve got, and am looking forward to another year of great programming. Honestly, getting to watch Labyrinth on the big screen for my birthday with 30 of my friends, or getting to talk to my best friend about how much she and her boyfriend loved The Dance Of Reality, the new Jodorowsky film that we were the only theatre in Toronto to play!!! – that makes it feel worth it and then some.
A couple of months ago, Colin and I picked up another freelance gig, doing some programming and consulting for a new VOD channel that will be launching in the US in 2015. When it launches, I’ll tell you more about it. For now it’s a much needed source of additional income (gotta be able to pay for that new apartment, right?) and a fun challenge / great learning experience.
If you’re thinking right now “gee, Kat, that sounds a little bit too busy”, you’d be right. But honestly, if Colin and I were only being paid by TIFF and REEL CANADA (with whom I do still do regular consulting work, bless their sweet little hearts), we’d be living below the poverty line. Producing doesn’t pay (yet), so we really need all these jobs, but having them does also mean that I don’t see most of my friends nearly as often as I’d like to. Hell, I don’t even get out to the movies most weeks (months). We programmed Whiplash at The Royal in part to give ourselves a chance to see it, and guess what? It played, and I didn’t see it. C’est la busy-ass vie.
In 2015, I’m making a resolution to take more time off. I don’t mean taking more beach vacations (although that would be nice). I mean keeping regular work hours and rebuilding the totally-destroyed boundary between work time and personal time. Working for myself and working with my partner-in-life is a really slippery slope to working all the damn time. What do Colin and I talk about when we’re sitting around at home watching TV? Well, sometimes we talk about books or music or feminism or current events or how to make a dining room table out of reclaimed lumber. But there are also a lot of evenings on which we find ourselves talking about work at 10pm, because hey, it has to get done. Sure, we have an office. But I also work from home, from coffee shops, from my parents’ house, from the Via Rail train on the way to visit family for Christmas, from just about anywhere I find myself. Sometimes, it’s hard to stop.
I’d like to travel less, too. The past few years have been truly wonderful, travel-wise. I love to travel and getting to go to Germany, Austria, France, Estonia and the US countless times has been a blessing. And getting to see friends who don’t live in Toronto (or even on this continent!) once or twice a year is truly wonderful. But I’m tired. I miss having regular home routines, cooking for myself, being a member of a community. 2015 will be the year of reconnecting with home and with Toronto.
I’m also making a resolution to document the events of my life in a more tangible and meaningful way. I don’t mean more Instagram. I mean keeping a journal, and spending more time reflecting and writing those reflections down, in it and on this blog. As I get older I’m finding that my memory has gotten strange and spotty. I read a book and three months later can barely remember the plot. And yet, if I spend a bit of time thinking about the book I’ve just read, talking about it with others, and perhaps even writing those thoughts down, I have no problem at all remembering it months or even years later. Perhaps the problem isn’t really memory, but the amount of attention and focus I give to things while I’m doing them. In 2015, I aim to be more focused and more mindful, to think more deeply about the things I’m spending my time on, so that they may have a more meaningful impact on me. And I resolve to multi-task a lot less. I’d banish the concept from my life entirely, if I could.
I’d also like to start paying more attention to my physical wellbeing while reducing the amount of anxiety I have about my health. I am (knock wood) a healthy person, but every ache and pain makes me spiral into a vortex of panic about my mortality. What a waste of energy! I should be focusing on the fact that I’m actually getting older and my body is getting creakier, and while the sporadic hip and back pain I feel is not a symptom of anything terminal, they are all symptoms of “wake up and start stretching and exercising more right now or be a limping, hobbled hunchback by the age of 40, you out-of-shape idiot.” It’s not about looking a certain way or losing weight or developing superhero shoulders (although I do want those). I’m actually old enough that getting enough physical activity has become about health and mobility. Welcome to middle age, me.
My last resolution is to spend less time on the internet and more time reading books. Over the past few years I’ve rekindled my lifelong passion for fiction, which for a few years in my 20s I’d (horribly!) let dwindle away. There were years during which I was doing all kinds of exciting things, but could count the number of books I read on my hands without running out of fingers. That was horrible, and I’ve worked my way back up to being a regular (avid, even) reader in my 30s, but there’s always room for improvement. This year, I might even incorporate a bit more non-fiction into the routine?
I think that’s it, resolution-wise? 2014 was a good year for me personally. I accomplished and learned many things, and I made it through a lot of big changes. I look forward to many more triumphs in 2015.