In every generation, there comes a song that is so stultifyingly stupid and shows such a lack of understanding of the human condition that it actually makes you stupider just to hear it. In the previous generation, it was John Lennon’s opus to naiveté and total historical ignorance, “Imagine.” In this generation, it’s John Mayer’s fence-walking anthem, “Waiting on the World to Change.” For those unfamiliar with the song, it basically champions the cause of those who are dissatisfied with the world but, rather than encouraging them to actually do anything to change the world, it pleads the case that they should simply do nothing and hope the world will change.
As the chorus cheerfully refrains:
“It’s not that we don’t care,
We just know the fight ain’t fair.
So we keep waiting,
Waiting on the world to change.”
So, what does this have to do with low-budget filmmaking? (I mean, besides making us glad that this song wasn’t popular amongst the Patriots before the Revolutionary War or amongst the Allied Nations during World War II, of course.) Unfortunately, it can have a lot to do with it.
Editing this magazine, I run into a full spectrum of folks in the filmmaking community. Some who are eager to learn new things while others are set in their ways. Many low-budget filmmakers are anxious to improve their skills and, if they make ignorant mistakes, are very willing to improve in the future once they are aware of them. But there are others who simply want to make films haphazardly and expect the world to change to accept these films. These folks don’t really want to change or improve, because they figure that the way they make films is the right way and that, eventually, the world will just accept their genius. Most often, these folks are actually the most flawed filmmakers, and what they expect the world to accept is really poor production value, not artistic genius. (Just so we’re clear, the world will never change to the point that poor production value will come into style. The only time it was even acceptable was when there was no competition.) However, sometimes I’ll chat with pretty talented filmmakers, who might otherwise become great, but they’ve decided they don’t want to improve or grow better. I actually had one filmmaker send in a film for critique and then refused to read the critique once I published it, lest it pollute his way of filmmaking.
As microfilmmakers, I know a lot of things can seem insurmountable and unchangeable. We want to be unique and different, but we also must learn from the past and what’s been done before. A lot of times we have trouble knowing where the line between quirkily unique and poorly produced is. Having good production value doesn’t mean you’re not being creative, it just means that you’re telling a story that viewers can actually follow—which is what every filmmaker needs to continually strive for.
While it may seem as though, even with good production value and a creative eye, that the deck is still stacked against you as a microfilmmaker, don’t give up. Continue to make films and continue to learn how to be better and better. Continue to change the things in your environment to best facilitate what you are doing and the stories you wish to tell. In the end, every revolution or change that has ever occurred in history has occurred because enough people did what they could and continued to improve their surroundings. These great changes would never have occurred if people had simply waited for the world to change to suit them or declined to get involved because it was an “unfair” fight.
With that, I leave you with the a quote from one of Lord Acton’s contemporaries, philosopher Edmund Burke:
No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
-- Edmund Burke