Remember when I decided to become a professional filmmaker?
What year was it… 2005 ? Out of some coincidence I picked up the book “From Reel to Deal” and after finishing it (I almost never finish books that fast) I decided that I would become a professional filmmaker before I turned 40 (I was 31 at the time).
…and I did it! In 2011 we released American Cafe, which made-back its budget many times over and also made me a professional filmmaker (i.e., I was getting paid for it).
It might not seem like it today, but in 2005 it was a pretty radical idea to think you could produce and distribute a successful feature-length film with a budget of about $1000.00. Remember this was a time when Netflix mailed dvds and YouTube didn’t exist. Broadcast-quality digital video was just becoming accessible to the consumer market and HD was still years away.
The reason I’m reflecting on this today is that by contrast, starting a successful [ artisanal software ](https://jasongullickson.com/artisanal- software.html) company seems downright easy by comparison. Not only in terms of the work, but also in terms of the mystery, or the unknowns.
I know a lot more about making software now than I did about making movies then. I don’t consider my business knowledge to be substantial but I know more about the SaaS business than I did about the entertainment business back in 2005. “Going pro” at running a SaaS should be much easier for me now than becoming a professional filmmaker was back then, so what is holding me back?
It may be that very thing: my problem may be that I know what I’m doing.
After American Cafe we went on to produce a more ambitious motorcycle film: The Bonneville Project. We took everything we learned on AC (and numerous other projects leading up to AC) and as well as a steady revenue stream to provide a budget and produced another successful film, but we have done very little since.
I’ve analyzed this repeatedly and discussed it with our director and no matter how many great ideas we have for new projects, we never seem to get very far with them. We could use the typical excuses (not enough time, not enough money, etc.) but none of those things stopped us before.
I think what is holding us back (or at least me) is a much more complete understanding of what it takes to make a movie, and what it would take to make a better one. In 2005 I was extremely naive to the fact that what I was setting out to do was virtually impossible, so there was no reason to doubt I could do it.
Now I know better, and ironically it’s stopping me from doing something I’ve already don’t because now I know how to do it.
I think the same thing may be afoot when it comes to my technology work. I have worked professionally in this field for over 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of success and a lot of failure. I know that skill and talent are no match for bad luck, and that you’ll never really know who your audience is before they find you.
Being dumb has the advantage of not needing to be brave. When people ask me why I’m not intimidated by ambitious projects, I would joke that “I have a carefully cultivated sense of naïveté “. I’m starting to thing that isn’t just an unhelpful, smart-ass response but perhaps something I need to take more seriously.