Tales From The Big Chair: The Root of All Evil

Allergies have been keeping me down lately but nothing can stop filmmaker Shawn Ewert as he shares his hard earned knowledge with us again. This week, he is NOT discussing Lindsey Lohan.

You can donate to his project at their IndieGoGo page: http://www.indiegogo.com/sacramentthefilm

I know I am not alone, but very few things stress me out more than money. When we started putting Sacrament together a couple of years ago, we had some pretty lofty goals. When you start adding up every little detail of a film, one thought just won’t go away – “Holy shit. I don’t know how we are ever going to afford all this.”

“You get what you pay for” ran through my head the entire time we were working on our budget. Can we get this person? How much can we afford to spend? Where – dear Lord, where – is all this money going to come from? It had been beaten into my head that if you were not paying people, you might as well not bother shooting the film because you would get nothing but dregs. People that work for nothing aren’t really professionals, and if you aren’t paying, neither are you. I wanted more than anything to be able to pay everyone as much as possible.

Of course you want to pay everyone that works on your film. They are showing up to set every day, doing their jobs to the best of their ability, and trying to make sure the film is something they can be proud to have their name on too. Trying to figure out how we could make sure we took care of everyone left me with a knot of nerves in my stomach. Everything just costs so damned much.

We started several crowd-funding campaigns, but after each great start the returns quickly fizzled. Maybe we were setting our goals too high? Maybe people really don’t want to see this film? You can really start to doubt yourself when you see campaigns that seem so silly rolling in cash. The thing I had to remind myself was that these were the exception, not the rule.

Most crowd-funding campaigns go nowhere. They will usually reach the family and friend believers, but rarely do they reach a mass audience. Still, we offered some perks that we thought would be fun. Everything from exclusive t-shirts to dinner with the cast and crew was on offer. I don’t know that the campaign sites are at fault, though they definitely do get their pound of flesh at the end. I think a lot of times it is simply a lack of exposure and a general uneasiness with the general public to put money into something that isn’t a sure thing.

Regardless, we kept at it. It took some expectation-lowering, and a lot of online panhandling, but we eventually came to a budget we could all live with. This was in no small thanks to a few credit cards, and an investor willing to take a risk on our film. Thankfully, they truly believe in what we are doing, and understand why we are working so hard to make this happen. We also employed the crafty side of our team. Sacrament-themed aprons, cutting boards, t-shirts, bottle openers, and wristbands – all ready to snag the attention of anyone we can get them in front of.

Gratefully, we have a cast and crew willing to take risks too. Being able to offer points on the back end of the film (editor’s note: this refers to the practice of giving a percentage of money from the film’s gross income) has been our saving grace. We have been able to land so many talented actors and crew that are working with us, and understand what we are trying to do, it makes me a little misty.

I don’t think you can judge the professionalism of a production, or of an actor/crew for that matter, strictly on the money question. It’s a big one, but not the only one. Should you be fully prepared to put the money on the table? Absolutely. Should you be prepared to lose people to other projects if you can’t? Of course. But there is something to be said for having people working with you towards something you all believe in. Those people understand that you are doing everything in your power to make sure they are taken care of before you are, and come together to be a part of something bigger.

Shawn Ewert
Born and bred in North Texas, Shawn started writing short stories at a tender age. Following a deep love of film of every kind, he was encouraged to pursue his love of writing. Growing up during the heyday of the slasher film in the 80's, Shawn immediately developed an affinity for horror films that bordered on obsession.

Currently, Shawn is working on a number of different projects. Focusing his energies on Texas indie films, he moves from writing to directing, acting to set photography, and even catering film shoots to move into any role he is needed on set.

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