“You are the Cavalry”: Taking the Reins of Your Own Film Career

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Still from The Carnival.

Franklin Killian is a writer/director/actor/producer living in Los Angeles. He’s the writer/director of The Carnival, which is currently being crowdfunded on Seed&Spark.


“Who gives a fuck about the calvary?” Mark Duplass threw this to the crowd at last year’s SXSW Keynote Address.
He followed with this little lightning bolt of truth: “You are the calvary.”

Everyone involved in independent cinema heard these words, at one point or another, spoken by the charmingly-transparent titan of the film industry. Including the person on the other side of this blog.

We will do it with a lot of efficient planning, hard work, focus, compassion, and at least one hundred people telling us IT CAN’T BE DONE.

I don’t remember (nor was I certain at the time), what the reaction would be when I pitched (went into a room of rich, middle-aged white guys and tried to acquire excitement and possibly financing) for my first feature film. But I was shocked, stunned, offended; the men in this room didn’t believe that this ambitious, blue-collar artist from the back woods of Missouri, could make a feature film in JUST 10 CONSECUTIVE DAYS WITH ALL PRACTICAL LIGHTING.

I was appalled. They had no vision. No risk. No guts or gas tank to take a leap on something new, fresh and provocative. Too propelled by the fear of making rent and status quo.

I left that room, disappointed, wanting a cocktail, feeling absolutely soggy under the breathtaking, blue skies of Los Angeles. And…I waited.

A few months later, I went into another room. They were a little younger. Late Generation X-ers. Squeezed between baby-boom modesty and hipster nation. But, it gave me some hope. “Maybe they had hunger. Ambition. Maybe they had courage.” I was armed and ready for battle. Now, I had a cast. A full cast of working actors. AND! This time I had a trailer for my movie. A visual business card. A look book. This time, they were gonna eat it up. I’d be behind the camera, calling “action” in no time.

The Carnival film - Pyragraph

Still from The Carnival.

I referenced Roman Polanski, Akira Kurosawa, and Luis Buñuel. This impressed them. “This Missouri kid has done his homework.” I painted the walls with inspiration and legacy. I spoke of Oscar-winning Birdman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Bronson; neo-surrealistic artists who were mining the soul for truth. Oh, what a lovely day, they loved this.

That’s when I laid all the cards on the table: “And I can do this in JUST 10 DAYS WITH ALL PRACTICAL LIGHTING.” Simultaneously, but ever so quietly, they all smirked. The one on the far left responded: “It’ll NEVER happen.” And then the elder of the group piggybacked and said, “It simply CAN’T be done.” My throat squeezed shut. I thought those quotes, that flavor of blanket statement, was reserved for an animated, war-propaganda film of the 1940s.

I scoffed, holding on to the last thread of hope that they were actually pulling my leg. Silently praying that the mysterious door in the corner would open and stacks of cash would fly into the air and find their way to my lap. Then these development execs would jump up, flip the table over: CHAMPAGNE FOR EVERYONE! The CEO slides out of her chair, shakes my hand, and a photo op surfaces. I flick my hair back. Smiley face. CHING CHING!

But that did not happen. Before I left, they tossed me this little curve ball: “We think you might be crazy. And not like the GOOD crazy.”

I walked to the lobby, then outside, wondering why I was the only one in this mid-century courtyard with tears in my eyes. And…I waited.

I waited for permission to make art. Jackson Pollack must be rolling in his grave. I have to confess: I became callus—deaf to the residual echoes of Mark Duplass: “You are the calvary.”

But now. Now. Right now. Maybe out of spite. Us against the mountain of doubt. We are making this film, NOW. No more permission slips. No more holding warm water bottles in a cold room, waiting for lukewarm gatekeepers to educate you on the latest trends in cinema. Waiting for that, “No thanks,” or, “We’ll be in touch.”

We will do it with a lot of efficient planning, hard work, focus, compassion, and at least one hundred people telling us IT CAN’T BE DONE.

“No more making meetings. Only movies.” Another gem from The Duplass brothers.

And yes, we are still doing it in JUST 10 DAYS WITH ALL PRACTICAL LIGHTING.

We are currently crowdfunding on Seed&Spark to bring this project to life. You can join the calvary here.

Peace, love and lots of pretzels,
Franklin Killian

Seed&Spark

About Seed&Spark

Seed&Spark is a crowdfunding platform for filmmakers that is creating a lush ecosystem for truly independent cinema. Seed&Spark’s fair trade model provides a unique experience for filmmakers and audiences alike in that it focuses on the symbiotic relationship between both parties. Through a media partnership with Pyragraph, filmmakers currently crowdfunding their films through Seed&Spark are sharing their experiences and lessons learned. Join them in building a fair trade filmmaking movement.

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