Filmmaking Struggles: Why the Pandemic has meant that I'm now moving backwards.

A few weeks back I wrote about the frustrating lack of a Blumhouse-style production house in the UK focused on horror content. In that post, I mentioned some awesome people who are doing lots of cool stuff in the genre here in the UK. I was reluctant to include myself in that last because, well… a) I’m just not that awesome, and b) I’m not sure I am doing any cool stuff.

See, here’s the problem. With the lockdowns, I am totally without a project. I have one that’s technically in pre-production, I have several others ready to go, I write regularly, and I do my podcasts, but as it currently stands right now I don’t have any film productions on the go. And that really fucking sucks. And the reason, at least as far as I can see, is that I just don’t have any money.

Moving aside the bit where I can’t get a job, I am currently focusing a lot of my time and energy on ensuring that my kids get their schoolwork done. I submit articles to publications as and when I can (and when I have the articles to submit) but so far I have been unsuccessful in getting picked up. Likewise, I apply for funding, but again I am met with rejection. And, look, rejection is part and parcel of the business, so it’s not the actual rejection itself that bothers me so much as it is the lack of avenues for me to actually be able to make some kind of success with the work that I love.

And I know this is a very first-world problem, but as it stands, I can’t even seem to get a job doing “regular work” either. And I’ve spent so much of my time focusing my energy before the pandemic into producing, writing, directing, and getting my degree, that the more time ticks on the harder it will be for me to get “regular work” because I simply haven’t been in it for so long.

It’s the "time ticking on" aspect that I want to focus in on here, as well, because this pandemic has really screwed me over. Not to downplay the millions of people who are in a far worse situation than I am currently in, and of course, all those who have tragically lost their lives, but I at this point my frustrations are really starting to bubble over onto the surface. I mean, I know people are trying to help when they say things like “you’ll get there in the end” and “don’t worry, just keep on trying”, but… when exactly is this supposed to work out?

I think the reason I’m feeling so angry about it is that I felt like the “when” had happened. At the start of 2020, I managed to sell my film to a distribution company, and it was released across the US and in Canada. I had several meetings lined up with other distributors about possible funding for some of my projects, and things had seemed to really start looking up.

We were ready to go into production on another film, and we had a different project ready to go into production after that. The plan was that we would deliver two films in quick succession and prove ourselves as people with the ability to deliver decent content on time and effectively.

And then the fucking pandemic happened and that was thrown into disarray. The projects we did have planned stalled, first because we couldn’t actually meet up to do them, and then secondly because they simply weren’t possible to do in the now severely limited budget we had while meeting the guidelines required in order to shoot during the coronavirus crisis. This left me desperately scrambling to come up with something. At first, I wrote an audio drama, but that failed to get any traction, and then I turned my attention to a brilliant idea I had involving zoom and a séance which, er… was basically HOST but with less inventive kills, and when HOST came out it totally blew my project out of the water and basically killed it dead.

Finally, I managed to rework an existing project to include less, er... “stuff” and we began searching for a suitable location, only for that to prove next to impossible during the situation, so I created an entirely new project to work around a location we already had, and we were good to go. And then we went into our third fucking lockdown and everything fell apart again.

In the meantime, I’d lost all possible hope of gaining traction off the back of ONUS’s release and am now firmly back at square one. No projects. No income. No time. Nothing.

The income that I did have coming in from other work in the meantime has either been cut to 80%, existing in a sort of vacuum where I don’t know whether it will be there at all when the lockdown finally lifts, or it has dried up entirely leaving me with a load of work that needs to be done and no actual money to earn from it (this one is a complex situation that I won’t go into much detail on here, but suffice it to say that funding for a project dried up before the project was finished and while I could just walk away, it isn’t my project, after all, I have put so much work into it already and fear it would leave other people who a bunch of issues and I would have let everyone down).

Previously my producer and I have self-funded our film projects, but this is becoming more and more difficult anyway – and it’s not like it was particularly easy to begin with – and as I’ve already mentioned, the more time that passes the less likely it is that we’ll be able to really benefit from our initial sale anyway.

Basically, at the risk of sounding like I’m being really negative, everything is fucked. I’m in a really shitty place, I’m struggling to find motivation for anything, and the things that I do find motivation for seem to immediately get shut down thanks to events outside of my control. AND I STILL CAN’T SEEM TO GET A JOB!!!

What am I supposed to do here? How am I supposed to carry on doing this? I’ve put so much effort and time into doing what I do, and just when it seemed like it was all worth it – BANG! Gone in a flash… This has become far more depressing than I thought it was going to, but I’m having a really hard time right now. Sorry for droning on, and thanks for reading. I hope you’re okay at least.

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© Alex Secker 2018