a business associate of mine gave me a gift card as an early
Christmas gift. However,
unlike most gift cards I've received in my life to places
like O'Charley's, Ruby Tuesday's, or my favorite iced mocha
bar, this was a gift card that looked just like a credit
card from one of the major credit card manufacturers. We
won't say which one, but, suffice it to say, it was one
of the major ones. For the sake of this article, we'll call
the card company, Brand X.
"How nice. A gift card that I can use anywhere that
accepts Brand X credit cards."
I started to read the paperwork that came with the card.
According to the bank that issued this Brand X card, I did
not in fact own this Brand X card, they did. As such, should
this bank (who we'll call Bank X) ever want their Brand
X card back, I would have to forfeit any remaining credit
on the card and give them the card immediately.
the card wasn't FDIC insured, so I was basically using my
Brand X gift card at my own risk.
read on, I found out that the Brand X gift card could not
be redeemed for cash from Bank X, but must be used for normal
purchases. However, it could not be used online or at gas
pumps, but must be used at a kiosk where a clerk could verify
that I was signing my signature for a Brand X gift card
issued by Bank X that did not have my name on it!
things even more fun, I could not use up my Brand X gift
card in the way one normally uses up gift cards (ie finishing
off the card on a more expensive purchase and paying the
difference.). No, if I wanted to finish off my Brand X gift
card (which I can never throw away because Bank X still
owns it), I must know the exact balance of my Brand X card
before attempting to use it. Then I must pay only the part
of my purchase which exceeds the amount for which my Brand
X card is currently worth, and then I can use my Brand X
card to pay the exact amount that is still on the card.
Otherwise the card would be denied and some overzealous
clerk might attempt to take her scissors to the Brand X
gift card that I don't actually own due to the fact that
it's Bank X's property, at which time I might forseeably
go to jail (just like if I'd snip off those tags on mattresses!).
it to say, this yuletide tale concluded with me at Wal-Mart
at 4 AM trying to buy one of the kids on my gift list a
skateboard and repeatedly hearing, "I'm sorry, sir,
your card's been denied." After each utterance, I would
throw a dollar bill at the cashier, hoping that that would
finally bring us close enough to my Brand X gift card's
balance for it to be used. (It was sort of like playing
the slot machines, only much more annoying!)
do I bring this tale up now? Is it to bring up that funding
films on Brand X credit cards is a bad idea? No, though
funding any film on any credit card is an asinine idea.
(Yes, I know that Kevin Smith made Clerks on credit
cards and that got accepted to Sundance and now he's 'made
it'. Every year a few people survive lightning strikes,
too. That doesn't mean that shoving a lightning rod down
your pants and running outside during an electrical storm
is a brilliant freaking idea!)
reason I bring up my yuletide Brand X story is to talk about
red tape. The current film industry thrives on red tape
because it has the money and the lawyers to waste on cutting
through red tape.
movie Bowfinger, Steve Martin's character claimed that,
when you got past all the BS from Hollywood, all films were
made for less that $10,000. While this is a bit of an exaggeration,
one has to wonder how much Hollywood films would actually
cost if you got rid of all the lawyers, all the Union shenanigans,
and all the red tape?
Hollywood may be able to afford the huge drain that this
red tape causes, we as microfilmmakers cannot. We have too
much on our plates working odd jobs so that we can afford
cameras or tapes or editing equipment to afford all the
red tape of the movie industry as it stands right now.
that in mind, my Christmas gift to you, my no-budget filmmaking
brethren, is to focus Microfilmmaker Magazine on cutting
through the red tape of filmmaking over the coming year.
You've seen how we've started to streamline the process
of finding musicians through standardized agreements that
benefit both you and them. You've seen how we've started
to provide discounts on services that you need and how we've
created a community that is slowly growing to help you make
better and better films.
this upcoming year, we're going to be working on everything
from an even greater selection of musical artists and composers
to a prize-packed full length feature film contest to a
streamlined connection for your films to national distributors.
going to be an exciting year, so stay tuned and see what