Thursday, January 29, 2009

art vs. commerce


So, there is something that I go around and around about in my head–and it can easily be pigeon-holed into a one, non-sentence logline:

art vs. commerce

I want to be an artist, but I also want to eat. The years I spent deciding between toilet paper and food were not pretty, and, luckily, I haven't had to answer that question out loud in quite a while (but I still play the "what if" version of the home game in my head). Still, I struggle between doing art because it moves me and taking jobs because I need to pay my bills. I HAVE made some choices for purely financial reasons (and while I don't regret a one) there are a couple of acting jobs out there that make me turn red with embarrassment when someone tells me they caught them late at night on the Sci Fi Channel–please, God, hopefully late at night when everyone is asleep and my grandma can't see them, yipes!

With that said, I want to talk about something I did for art's sake. Something that makes me really happy when I think about it because the process of getting it made involved a lot of my friends and was just a blast to do. It wasn't about making any money (who makes money in independent film?), but about doing something that I believed in with a really talented group of people backing me up throughout the process.

What the hell, may you ask, am I talking about? I'm talking about DRONES–the best little movie in Texas, for God's sake! Okay, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas allusion is totally unfounded because we shot the film in Baton Rouge, LA not Texas, but c'mon who doesn't love themselves a little Dolly Parton every now and then? (Well, you might not, but then who the heck says there's any accountin' for taste.)

We shot Drones in 14 days with a budget that wouldn't even begin to keep the pope in shoes for a month. Of course, it was utter insanity–and there WERE a couple of freak outs on my part–but, all in all, I have to say that it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Adam, my co-director, and I spent a good chunk of the summer '08 in Baton Rouge rustling the troops and sticking OMNILINK (our fake company) stickers onto every available surface of our built for shooting office set. There was copious amounts of Kane's chicken eaten (and yes, I am a lapsed vegetarian–wow, that has been bothering me for like three years. Sheez, I don't feel like such a hypocrite anymore. I haven't really had the online presence and ability to correct that factoid until now–thanks Hal at BuzzBuilderz for making me internet savvy!) and Perrier consumed. I lost three pounds in prep and gained four as I consumed every fried delectible Louisiana had to offer once we started shooting. Which means that I can truly say I gained something–other than experience–on the film. (PS: that was a very awkward joke, so no pointing and giggling at it.)

Wow, I've really overblogged here. I guess I better wrap it up, right, Pete? (Uhm, that's a movie "in joke" that only Adam and me and Jonathan and James Urbaniak would really get.) So, keep your fingers, noses and toeses crossed that someone out there in festival land falls in love with it as much as I have. Then I can stop beating myself over the head with this endless art vs. commerce argument, the art side finally having been validated!

Here's hoping that art beats the crap out of commerce where it really the nuts! (Okay, sorry, another non-analogous allusion, but darn it I just couldn't help myself! Take pity on me.)

From one nut to another. Over and out.


  1. Hi Amber!

    Jaina and I talked to you at Collectormania in the UK about Drones, for our Jonathan website (thank you so much for pointing us to the 225 article back then, by the way!) so it's nice to be able to get in touch this way and say thanks again for that. It's so great to hear more on the movie and I know Jaina and I both have all of our available appendages crossed that you get what you need and we all get to see it soon!

    Thanks again!

  2. There are no such things as over-blogging!But time zone is quite funny! (only to me though, 'cause here it's my morning and over there it is the middle of the night, and it amues meto mess up with today's yesterday because I'm at tomorrow alredy).
    Can art be enough? I fearyou'll have to accept to play in som things such as the SciF movie (which wasn't so reat but come on! YOU look amazing with a sword! And the scenes where your character is dirty?yum! I am not a perv I swear!. But to play in such movies means to get known by other people than those rom BtVS, and so to get sort of Maecenas(es?) to live only thank to what you love to do. =)
    I hope DRONES will be available for us iving outside the USA? I'm really curious about it! =)
    Well I wish you luck with that and a goodnight 'cause of the time zone thingy!
    Friendly (which is me translating a French word and not making sense but I've been told it was nice ^__^)

  3. Hey Amber,

    We've all taken jobs to pay the rent that weren't our dream jobs. I can't imagine if someone broadcast footage of me just out of college selling toasters in a department store to the wide world...I suppose I'd have to have sold toasters in chainmail in order to have it broadcast on SciFi at night, but still.

    And as for the carnivore're still aces in my book no matter what you eat. Chicken is good stuff.

    Can't wait for Drones. I know it will do well. I'm crossing everything for ya!

    Take care and blog again soon.

    Sue aka MegansMom

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I know I'm so not at my dream job right now its just a way to pay the bills. I will be waiting for Drones to become available for purchase, cause as I've told a lot of people, I still think that you're the greatest no matter what you do or what you eat. So I will continue to purchase anything or write,come out in ect.... and Art beats Commerce any day.

  6. Hey Amber

    Welcome to the world of blogging. It is a crazy place.
    I am excited to hear more about Drones. I for one would love to check it out.

    How is your mom? I have not talked to her in forever. I need to drop her an email.

    (if you remember me,haha)

  7. Well, I did try to get you to shoot Drones in Texas, if you recall. Glad the shoot went well and that you got some fulfillment (personally and nutritionally) from the experience.

    Re: art vs. commerce
    You are working and supporting yourself doing what you love. How many people can say that? You mentioned accepting some films you aren't so proud of. What actor hasn't? I think we sort of talked about this in May. Although, at the time I hadn't seen a lot of your other work outside Buffy, Chance and LLL so it was hard for me to comment. I think I said, or tried to say, something along the lines of "If you love the role and/or script, take it regardless of the pay (if you can swing it financially of course). If you're ho hum about the role/script but the pay is good, take it if you need the $ to pay the bills and treat it as if it's the best role you've ever had. If you hate the role/script, no amount of $ is worth going through weeks of hell over." Also, you are choosing these role based on a script and, I would imagine, the pay... like any actor would. I have read a number of scripts that I thought were great on paper, but not so much on screen. A lot of the elements that make a film work or not work are out of the actor's control. All you can do is give the best performance you can. I think you've done that. Although, admittedly, I haven't seen Intermedio ;)

  8. I'm glad you are doing those projects that you are passionate about, rather than taking those jobs that pay off your Visa bill.

    (actually, in re: to comments upthread, I thought you were talking about that movie you did when your foot was broken. You were adorable, but that flick stank up de place.)

  9. Must Art and Commerce be in opposition? The best art is commerce, even if it is simply the transaction of emotions between creator and audience. And commerce can, in its way, be an art form.

    Not buying that? Okay, let's go with this: I've admired how you've struck a balance between The Things You MUST Do and The Things You WANT To Do. I'm certain you could have done a whole lot more on the Sci-Fi Channel that you would hope most people would miss entirely...but that might have meant there would have been no Lovers, Liars and Lunatics, no Death's Daughter, no Drones. I don't think that would have left you (or us) very satisfied.

    Keep striving for the balance (but lay off of all of the fried chicken. I think future film shoots should be plotted in proximity to a really good Ethiopian restaurant.)

  10. Hi, Amber ^^
    Like you said, do independet movies is REALLY hard... I know that... here in my country is even worse than USA ¬¬
    I hope 'Drones' will be available for us living outside the USA, 'Chance' and 'Lovers, Liars and Lunatics' were really good, I really enjoy them ^^
    Btw, your Scifi movie was really nice, you were amazing on it...

  11. hellooooo,
    at least you have a job.
    i'm 21 and i havent worked a day in my life,
    it's that whole 3rd country deal. we dont have that many job openings. or maybe i'm just lazy!

    anyway i'm proud to be a fan of yours ...

    btw, if it makes you feel better, i dont think we get the Scifi channel over here!!!

  12. Hi Amber! The art vs commerce question is worth considering, but it's more tangled than George Clinton's dreadlocks. Is Charles Dickens "art?" I'm an English teacher, so my yes vote is obvious. But in his day, he was pop culture. If he were alive now, I think he'd be more Norman Lear (or Joss Whedon!) than John Updike.

    The question in ways is about power and choice, isn't it? When you're doing independent work--the art that speaks to you most strongly, that you're most invested in--you have power and choice (even if you don't have money!) When you do the more commercial stuff, you get money, but have less power. Whether you're making art as you do the more commercial gig depends on lots of factors, but since it's not what you're intellectually and emotionally invested in at a seminal level, the possible artistic merit doesn't seem as great. Is that possible? Or am I droning on? That happens....

    Glad I found your blog and your twitter! You've kept me amused during a long, boring meeting today--I'm still considering if I have an opinion about men's deodorant!

  13. I think you can consider yourself lucky I don't watch the SciFi channel, I would be complimenting your works that show there as well. For you, there is no such thing as overblogging, personally I didn't see enough.

    Your writing, its an inspiration.


  14. Mwah, I don´t see a problem here, moral or otherwise. If you create something with the intention of making money it surely does not make that creation any less an object of art than if the intention behind that creation was something ´loftier´ like creating something to ´send a message or make a statement´ or to further the enjoyment of others or oneself.
    To use an ever so subtle example: is Rembrandt´s Nightwatch less of a piece of art knowing it was created for money so he could pay for his big old house and support himself, his wife, kids and mistresses? Don´t fret, commerce is nothing to be ashamed of and chickens just taste too good to not be eaten.

  15. I think I took your vegetarianism, since I became one about that time. You broke that bone ages ago; stop all ready!

    Also, hi; hello. Hope to see you back at Passim, wunna thez daiz.

  16. Don't be ashamed of Gryphon, it was great... no it wasn't... you were great in it, that's the truth. Better be ashamed of eating animals :p

    Bye, gotta go steal the popes shoes now, since I'd like to make a movie myself... Figured I could sell them on the black market to raise funds.

  17. Amber I was lucky enough to meet you in 2007 in UK and one of the things we talked about was Gryphon. To be honest I love it I thought in was good fun and you gave the rest of the cast the chance to work with the world’s most talented actress which I’m sure they were grateful for! Okay maybe I’m a little bias but to echo what was said in previous post you can improve any film you’re in and I mean that! I remember that you at least you got to do some cool things like learn to ride a horse and sword fight which sounds far more interesting then my job.

    Amber please don’t beat yourself up over doing certain project for the money I’m sure everyone including me has worked doing something just for the money but if gives you the freedom to make something that’s important to you like DRONES then every one of your fans is right behind you! As for eating meet again as long as you’re happy and healthy that’s all that matters!


  18. Hey there - What was your motivation for becoming a vegetarian in the first place? Why did you lapse?

    I have been vegan for almost 2 years. I became aware of the horrifying abuse that can occur in industries that use animals for food, clothing and entertainment, and made the decision not to contribute to it any longer.

    I also feel so much better since I gave up dairy. I never knew it, but it made me feel "bogged down", and was also adding extra weight to the appearance of my face and other parts of my body. I noticed I felt much lighter and had more energy after just a couple of weeks of no dairy.

    Take care - Jaime.

  19. Wow. All my whining about Common Rotation not coming to Louisiana and I had both you and Adam in my state for a summer...and missed it?

    I'm rather sad now.

    Also? Gryphon is good, clean bad science fiction fun. Never be ashamed of camp.

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