Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Wholphin" or "How I Learned to Get a Job"

Thanks to Netflix, I rented "Wholphin 6," a collection of independent short films. There was one about a kid in London who lived next door to a crazy man who banged on the wall all the time. Another film was a documentary about Chinese third graders who battle over the job of class monitor. A surprising film featured some hardcore gangstas who stole a fancy SUV in order to get to Jersey to purchase expensive tennis shoes. They wanted to buy matching shoes for their friend's seeing-eye shetland pony (he was allergic to dogs). Yes, I said seeing-eye pony. They needed the matching shoes so they could match with the pony for their prom pictures. No, I can't make this up. Another film just featured an Australian stunt man who escaped from the trunk of a moving car.

None of these films were very good. But each one of them had a lengthy set of credits. Lots of people worked really hard on these films. And that brought me back to my days as a BYU film student. Several years of my life (okay, like three...) revolved around making these same sort of silly short films. This was a very serious thing back then. We stayed up late into the night preparing shooting schedules, props, costumes, etc... A lot of my classmates opened credit cards and went into major debt funding these films, which often cost several thousand dollars.

Even after we graduated, several of my friends hung around Provo making more and more short films. Short documentaries, comedic shorts, dramatic shorts, speculative ads. You name it, they (okay, "we") made it. Almost everyone I knew said things like, "oh, that would make a great short." It seemed like that's all my friends and I talked about.

And then something happened. My friend Michael Moore (no, not that Michael Moore), said something that pretty much summed up everything I felt. He said, "No one is getting anywhere hanging around making these short films. I'm going to stop making them because I need to get a job and move on with my life."

It was like my apprehension was validated, knowing that someone else shared my feelings. I stopped working on short films and I moved on with my life. I recognized that independent film wasn't going to ever become profitable for me. I needed a real career. I needed health insurance. So I took a lousy job which provided those things while I completed my M.Ed. degree. When that was done, I became a teacher. This was never my dream job, but it has evolved into something I love, and I don't ever regret it. But sometimes I wonder what could have happened if I'd just stuck with it.

Now I know. Despite my best effort, my cherished (and expensive) film would maybe have worked through the festival circuit, only to end up on a DVD compilation like Wholphin, while prestigious, would not have likely paid my bills. I'd be working at Blockbuster trying to pay off the debt of a lousy short film.