A few days ago, I was catching up with an old friend who has been busy being a mother for the last two years. In one of the rare conversations we’ve had without any toddler-based interruptions, she spoke freely about the little joys of parenting and her attempts to avoid being overly protective. Her hope is to give the children space to discover. I had to bite my tongue when I realized I could easily compare her experience to the ones I have every time I try to develop a good film.
So now I can say it: parenting and filmmaking have a lot in common. All types of similarities really, such as putting out late night fires, keeping a strict budget, wardrobe, the importance of keeping everyone fed, even teething. It’s why the crew often defers to the director’s project as “his (or her) baby.” In fact, a lot of them don’t like to overstep their creative bounds or get their hands dirty with your kid, often deflecting ownership or responsibility with some variation of: “I mean, whatever you want to do, this is your baby.”
Coincidentally, I read a quote tonight that really nails the parallel perfectly. It comes from filmmaker Andrew Jarecki (All Good Things, Capturing The Friedmans) who describes the experience of first screening your film to the public. He mentions it’s “…not unlike sending your three-year old child to his first day of school. He’s been in your care for a few years already and the only reactions he’s really gotten have been from you, or friends who come over and meet him, under your watchful eye. Now, he’s going off to a place where other kids will meet him for the first time. Most will not even notice him, some will love him like you do, and others will take him to the playground and beat the shit out of him.”
What’s funny is that with the festival circuit, you’re touring that ‘film child’ around multiple schools, hoping for the one that gives him a chance to graduate early. I’m not going to make any distribution vs. adoption parallels, but I’ll tell you one thing: when any prospective family fights to gain custody of your film child, it takes a lot of paperwork that will leave at least one of you a bastard. Moral of this post, you ask? Simple — Whether you’re a parent or a filmmaker, or both, remember… it’s worth making the effort. Once you get past pregnancy (AKA: development hell), relax… each child will make you proud.