No More Excuses: Adam Rifkin on Why You Should Grab Your Film by the Horns, Now

Movies are my life. Literally.

Making movies is the only job I’ve ever had, and dreaming about making movies consumed my entire childhood prior. I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to earn a living at what I love, and I plan to keep doing it until I die.

My most recent film is called Director’s Cut and it just had a boffo premiere opening the Slamdance Film Festival. It was written by Penn Jillette, the more talkative half of Penn & Teller, and is a twisted and darkly comedic tale about a movie-obsessed stalker who kidnaps his favorite actress and forces her to star in his amateur film. Penn plays wacko Herbert Blount, a character so dead-set on making a movie that he goes to warped and gruesome extremes to fulfill his dream.

Though Blount’s methods may not be advisable, there’s still something that can be gleaned from his do-it-yourself filmmaking attitude. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker and haven’t been lucky enough to get to shoot your opus yet, here are a few words of gentle encouragement: Get off your ass!

I made my first movie when I was seven years old. I commandeered my fathers Sears Super-8 movie camera and spent my entire life savings to that point on a $5 cartridge of Kodak film. This only provided me with approximately two minutes of footage, so I had to be judicious with what I shot. The film was to be called “The Lady Giant” and would star my four-year-old sister as a 30-story tall, behemoth monster rampaging through a downtown city I had constructed out of erector set buildings and matchbox cars.

It was a cold December afternoon in Chicago and my mother insisted my sister wear her jacket, which incensed me. How dare she compromise my vision? I remember the screaming fight that ensued: “Monsters don’t wear jackets!” I implored. It wouldn’t be my first disagreement with a producer.

Needless to say, the producer won and the first directorial compromise of my career was made. My sister wore a bright red puffy winter coat with white faux fur trim while demolishing New York City. After dropping the film cartridge off at the local Fotomat shack, which was located in the parking lot of our nearby supermarket, I waited the interminable three-to-five business days for it to return, developed and ready to screen. My first gala premiere was held in our backyard. As my film was projected on a sheet via dad’s Bell & Howell projector, the handful of local kids who sat Indian-style on the lawn were wowed by the scope and pageantry of my 90-second opus.

From that moment on I was hooked. Making movies was my calling. There was never any doubt; all I wanted to do when I grew up was be an actual film director. But my youthful optimism and cinematic passion didn’t necessarily jive with the realities of the world at the time. Playing with my dad’s Super-8 camera was one thing, but making films, real films, for an unsuspecting audience of strangers and movie lovers at large, was a magical golden carousel ring that seemed woefully out of reach: a phantom rainbow that was clear as day to my prepubescent eyes, but impossible to chase down and catch. If anybody had ever told me at the time that “The Lady Giant” could be instantly released on the world’s stage and potentially garner views and possibly fans from every country on earth, I would’ve thought they were completely insane. But that’s because YouTube wouldn’t be invented for another 30 years…

Read the rest of this article from MovieMaker Magazine.