Indie Movie Mastery: Filmmakers, Create Your Own Sandbox!


I had a conversation with a friend about the gender gap before the election that has stuck with me ever since and I think it applies to all of us in the entertainment industry.

We were standing in my garage talking about the gender gap in film (and in life in general) using the analogy of a sandbox. She was explaining how men have more sand than women. As she was talking she raised her arm and put her elbow in the air and pointed to indicate that this was where the men were and then she put her hand significantly lower than her elbow and indicated that this is where women were – almost like a seesaw in the sandbox. Then she said that in order to make it equal, we had to take from the elbow (men) and give to the hand (women).

I took in what she was saying. She wasn’t wrong about the unevenness of the sandbox, but I believe she was wrong about how to make it more even. As I visualized what she was saying, I thought: “What about all the other sand outside of the box? What about all the playing field that hasn’t been tapped by anyone? There’s more than enough to go around.”

As I was thinking about what I would write in my column for Ms in the Biz, this conversation hit me because I believe that in order to make real change, we need to start making things. With technology, the internet and the way the world is so connected now, we do not need anyone’s permission to make our dreams into realties. Stop focusing on the injustices, acknowledge, but don’t focus. Use them as motivation but keep your eye on the goal.

I call it “radical optimism” and it’s my mission with Indie Movie Mastery. I believe it’s this perspective that has made me a successful producer. It’s absolutely what made my team and I decide to distribute our first feature in theaters and on iTunes at the same time even though the theaters literally called us the “horseman of the apocalypse.” By the way, that movie made its theatrical budget back from the theatrical release and became #1 on iTunes beating out some major blockbusters. It’s what made us decide to become the first to produce a narrative feature specifically for Hulu even though we had no idea how it would work. And it’s what made it so that we were able to raise our full budget for our first feature even though none of us had done anything at that level before.

Radical optimism and the ability to confidently walk away from a sandbox you don’t feel good about playing in so that you can create your own sandbox, is the secret sauce of successfully producing a movie and creating the career of your dreams.

We absolutely need to be aware of the realities of the world. But, awareness and focus are two different things. Acknowledge that reality that you want to change and then shift your focus onto how you can change it. With this column, I want to challenge you to focus on the possibilities. We’re in the business of dream building after all, both on screen and in real life.

The industry is changing, but if we want things to change for us, we must acknowledge and then figure out how to make our dreams come true. The world desperately needs us to and there’s no reason we can’t. If you want to make a movie, make a movie. Find the right script, raise enough money to pay everyone (including yourself). Find a way to make it, distribute it and get it to your audience.

No more excuses. Create your own sandbox. You don’t need permission!