Friday, August 6, 2010

How you buy often indicates how you make

Apizza Scholls –– truly magnificent
pizza in Portland, Oregon

The other day I was talking with a producer buddy of mine about pizza. He buys the cheapest pizza he can find. And he prides himself on using coupons to save even more. 
Another producer I know insists on going to the most expensive pizza place in town. It's good. But I'm not convinced it tastes the best.
As for me, I like pizza. A lot. I lived in New York and developed a taste for wood-oven pizza like what you get at John's. The pizza I like to get is in a place with formica tables, in a part of town surrounded by bars and tattoo parlors. I don't find the area particularly scary, but some people do.
What does this have to do with filmmaking? Well, it's interesting.
The cheap producer makes things the way he buys them. He's always looking for a way to save a buck, and doesn't see the point in spending money on a better camera, the really good dolly grip, or the brand-name cookies for the craft services table.
The profligate producer is what we call a "star fucker." He hires the most famous people he can find and if nobody's more famous than anybody else, he'll go for the person with the highest rate. If there's an expensive piece of equipment out there, he'll not only find it, but figure out why he has to use it.
And then there's me. I'm looking for the unique. The expressive. The solution that helps me to evoke the feeling I want to create. If it's expensive, I'm happy to spend the money. But if it's cheap, I'm even happier.
The interesting thing is that by and large, none of us has enough money –– ever –– to do a job "right." So you would think that the cheap producer would be at a distinct advantage. And sometimes he is.
But the star fucker producer isn't exactly starving. Because he speaks with such conviction about the stuff he thinks has value, he's often hired to pull off a job where a mediocre piece needs something to make it work better.
As for me, I feel fortunate in that my taste is distinctive, but not necessarily expensive. Sure, I need certain equipment to achieve the look I want, but I know enough about every job on the set that I don't need to rely on somebody with some mystery talent I don't understand to deliver it.
Who's going to do the best, ultimately? Who knows?
You might think it's the cheap producer because he's always the least expensive option. But the quality of the stuff he creates tends to be minimal.
You might think it's the guy like me because I'm generally somewhere in the middle, yet the pieces I deliver are consistently distinctive and extremely high quality.
Frankly, I think it's the star fucker. Because most people –– in any profession –– are insecure. They prefer to hire and trust the person with the aura of authority.
I should probably rethink my approach.