Um, making films makes you successful filmmaker period.
Sharing the films makes you a successful filmmaker, period.
Building a brand, an original style and a good body of work makes you a successful filmmaker period.
So what exactly did she even mean by that?
Okay let me go back.
We just wrapped on our latest short film, Mt. Washington . It’s a love story of course that’s led by music like most of my films. The story is inspired by a beautiful song by a band called Local Natives. When I was lying in bed I was listening to this particular song over and over and these images popped into my mind. If you’ve heard me tell this story before don’t be surprised because this is how almost all of my films come to be: from a song. I never knew one night of listening obsessively to one song would lead to a great night of making a film. We spent the night over at Providence, RI at an apartment I booked and we shot the film there. I worked with Chris Boylston as DP and Neil Guliano as Gaffer. We had Sharley Paul as the lead actress. This was the very first film she acted in! We also had Shane Alexander as the lead man in the film. It was a really fun, relaxed, small shoot. The best shoots too, when you’re with a great small group of people that click and really work hard. We stayed up until 4am just talking and shooting the breeze. Like I said, I never knew just lying in bed listening obsessively to a song would lead to that moment. I live for these moments: being a traveling filmmaker and making art with good people who are as passionate as I am. Win-win situation.
Credit: Eileen Slavin
The best part about it though, is you get to have an end product. You create something beautiful that you can share with many people.
The most challenging thing is, when you share your art with people, there will always be that few that just don’t “get it”, that are just negative. You don’t have to “get it”. You don’t have to “get” what I like to do and how I like it done. Cause if you don’t “get it” anyway then you never will and we just aren’t in the same space which is cool. But you don’t need to make negative comments or try to take away what I have done. Here is a conversation I had with a woman that so happened to see the film Mt. Washington .
Her: “The music in your films is too loud. Make it in the background.”
Me: “No. The music is supposed to be loud. That’s how I want it. I want the music to lead the narrative.”
Her: “But movies don’t sound like that though. In movies the music is always in the background. Just turn it down.”
Me: “In my movies the music is the lead character. I don’t have to be like everyone else.”
Her: “Maybe that’s why you won’t win/succeed.”
All because she didn’t like that music led the film.
This why I have really lived by the belief, that one should only create art that “they themselves” like and not worry about if someone else likes it or not. Because of people like that. One should only worry about if they like it, and if others like it too then that is a luxury. Now, some people would hear these words and might think, wow, that’s harsh. But if you create art the way other people tell you to and want you to, you’re losing your own passion for it and you’re forgetting why you wanted to do it in the first place; why you loved it in the first place. It’s not about your passion anymore. It’s about someone else’s. Okay, so my passion is music. I love listening to certain types of music and losing myself in the music and then creating stories (that are true to me and my personal experiences) from that music, and inspired by that music. If you’re telling me NOT to do that then why don’t I just stop altogether and just go work for you then and make films for you? Or why don’t I just get a 9-5? Why don’t I just do a job I hate and make your dreams come true instead of my own? What’s the point of creating art at all in that case?
There have been people that share that mindset. There was one guy, an actor that read the Mt. Washington script without having seen the storyboards, and he asked “where’s the dialog? I don’t understand. There’s no dialog”.
Credit: Eileen Slavin
Or one guy, he called himself a music producer. And he watched Sometime Around January  and said, “It’s really good, but the music is too loud, it drowns it out. Turn the music down”.
Drowns what out? And no.
If you’re reading this and you’ve ever told me to “turn the music down”: no. I won’t turn the music down.
To the male music producer, is it the music or is it because a woman took a man by the throat, slammed him down on the floor and choked him?
To the actor, is it because you don’t want to challenge yourself to go beyond talking and instead, use your body and your facial expressions to tell a story?
And what bullshit to say that a movie cannot have music that leads the narrative. It’s bullshit to say that a movie can only have background music and that’s it. Says who? I say movies can be led by music. I say movies don’t have to settle for background music. I want that music loud. I want that shit in the forefront. And here it is, here’s the proof: www.vimeo.com/raeshelle.
You CAN do it.
Choose to revolutionize an art form and do what the hell you want with it instead of choosing to follow what “the movies do in the theaters, man.”
The statement she made above suggests that I haven’t already succeeded by writing/directing these kinds of films.
I ended the conversation with her right there. Because when she said that to me I knew she didn’t deserve to speak to me anymore for one thing, and two, she didn’t understand that making films means you are “succeeding as a filmmaker”, and three, I knew she never accomplished anything in her life, hence why she tried to take away my accomplishments by suggesting that I’ve never accomplished anything in the first place.
You don’t need to live a rich and glam life somewhere in LA or whatever to be a successful filmmaker. I don’t know what she wants, but I know that I don’t want that. What I want, I’m doing. If you wanna be a filmmaker then be a filmmaker. Nothing else defines you nor should it. Nothing other than your body of work should speak for itself.
So I say to that family member, “success” you say? I will never sit up nowhere and try to explain to you what I accomplish. You never went to any of the festivals I attended, you never helped on any sets, you never drove with me nowhere, you never bought any of my equipment, you never did nothin that helped me get my accomplishments. You were never there to watch me so how would you know, really? The only thing I blame you for, is opening up your mouth and saying something negative. But if judging and negativity is what you call “succeeding” then by God I swear I never want to “succeed” ever. By your definition, I want to continue to fail like I’ve been doing. I’m going to fail hard.
I’m going to fail my ass off.
Credit: Eileen Slavin
And when we finally do shoot Most Dangerous Species on the Planet, a Sci-fi, non-music, non-love story, I’m going to write the following in the credits: “Dedicated to the family member that told me I will never succeed because I didn’t turn the music down. This film is for you.”
And I’ll tell you one thing, I bet you won’t feel comfortable watching that one either. Non-music and all.