Reality in Filmmaking

The conundrum every artist faces is Profit vs. Purpose, selling out or staying true. The path ultimately, as with all things, lies where the two points of view meet, somewhere in between, a compromise. This is where Un Punk now finds itself. 

This piece started it’s life as a short film that was entered into the Toronto film Race in 2009. The original concept was the final phase of a larger marketing plan, tied into a web-a-thon fundraiser. It was intended to depict a group of punk rock “underdogs” (i.e. un financed) coming together, to do something positive with their fanbase as a farewell. The movie would fill the screen of the Bloor Cinema, presenting scenes from concert day, to the music written for a city of underdog fans, overlaid, with the names of all those who contributed to the cause. Professionally,  It was supposed to demonstrate the power of collaboration and our social collaboration platform for our sponsors.

It rained… all day, no-one contributed. However, someone found an estimated $30,000 in public resources to shut us down. In that moment we became filmmakers, but that had yet to be hard earned. 

At first, we were so angered, by the assault, that we rushed to produce a documentary in time for the Tiff festival that year. We did manage to hack together a somewhat followable, politically influenced, mess of half baked defenses, and opinions surrounding the public rhetoric that had stirred up, in the aftermath. Rhetoric fueled mostly by us, While we attempted to defend against the defamatory press that was released after the event. In retrospect our narrative was forced, in evidence as  I literally had to bring my editing computer to the theater in a cab, to project the un synced audio, working draft, in order to make the screening deadline on-time.

After the trauma of that experience the film was left where it lay. However the issue it addressed felt unfulfilled, unresolved, we tried to satisfy this emptiness, with several marketing attempts to re-raise the failed funds for charity, but nothing found a foothold, so eventually it was dropped, shifting our focus to other projects, though the nagging feeling remained.

Then in the midst of the pandemic, with time on my hands, I went back and rewatched the footage. While syncing the timing on all 4 cameras that were shooting that day, a narrative started to emerge, the footage itself seemed to be speaking, trying to tell it’s own story. A re-stream in 2020 However, again failed to find an audience, and again I put it aside. 

I was still applying a marketing mind, rather than a filmmakers mind to the project, a fact I only came to realize this past summer while watching an “experiential” film Apollo 11 this film has no narrative footage, no interviews, it relies on only a newcast, and the masterfully synced communications traffic , with the film that was recorded as it happened at the time, to convey the narrative. Essentially the story is presented as is, allowing it to tell itself, and the audience is swept away with the current of the story or not.

That’s what Un Punk is, it’s the very experience the short film was attempting to market. Filming on handheld cameras, has the effect on the audience of a third person observer, immersed in the action that follows over the shoulder, as we attempt to put on a benefit concert and web-a-thon on a rainy saturday in 2009. Eventually exposing the audience to a first hand experience, all too common, in the lives of marginalized individuals in our society.

Feedback from one agent at AFM said, it will be difficult to market (find a distributor), but the movie is good. Which translates to it will be difficult to find a distributor willing to risk being sued. 

Thus the conundrum presents, simultaneously it’s strongest asset, it’s immersive reality, is also it’s biggest liability. So back to the original question: Profit of Purpose?

As with all things the path will be found down the middle, So we will be submitting it to festivals, as per the plan. And if we don’t find an agent, we will find another path to finance its festival run. 

Let’s let an audience decide what’s marketable.