producing Army of One

I've had this conversation a lot of times with a lot of people, but never in a focused way on the forum. Every time I see an indie film project come anywhere close to a win, it's from a team of people, usually dozens working together towards a common goal.

Simultaneously, almost every single person I've talked to for years is adamant about producing a feature film completely alone. What is driving this logic in a situation where metrics would indicate dramatically higher chances of success for teams?

Pushback on even 2 people working together is basically 100%, and yet I almost never see a film make it to broadcast with just one person on board. I understand the drawbacks and tradeoffs of creative collaboration, and yet you never see a single person playing hockey or baseball alone vs teams of 30. Is there something I'm missing? How much sense does it make to have a film with 1 actor, or for the editor to be the marketing person, etc. Why take a 10k hour job and turn a 3 month thing with a few dozen people into a multi year survivalist challenge?
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I had an actor with no significant resume, working as a bartender at night, sleeping on the floor at the actor's studio turn down one of my projects because he didn't want to do something that might risk his reputation...... Huh?
It doesn't sound so arrogant when you're complaining about people being stupid, does it? It's because you can clearly picture the scenario, and remember how it felt. Are you so sure that my statements don't originate from a nearly identical frustration as you felt with that guy?

People just joking about save point, but also it helps to have a specific EXAMPLE when discussing theory, so save point is an easy example for us all to talk about. otherwise discussion can get too lost in theory and cant see the forest for the trees
Yeah, I probably overreacted, I've been sick this week, and just feeling terrible, not getting restful sleep, that kind of thing. I'm like everyone else in that my mood sometimes has an effect on the quality of my discourse.
Maybe the honest truth is that they walk away because they don't believe in the project.

I for one welcome this opportunity. Nate, if you can tell us what a movie is, I know I would be grateful. I've spent my life studying these things and I thought I knew, but maybe I don't. Perhaps your years of paying close attention uncovered something profound. It's comforting knowing you are here to protect the indie community from its own misunderstanding and stupidity.

I'm sorry, Nate, but I find this entire thread a little insulting and very condescending. Each of us has a dream. Each of us is on a journey. For you to suggest that yours is more important than anyone else's is beneath the Nate North I thought I knew. You seem angry at the world because you can't find anyone who wants to work with you. I can't tell you why that is but I'll bet you already know. Don't torture yourself. Just accept the way things are. Be one with yourself. :)
How can one believe or not believe in things they know very little about? I had this issue in many other areas of life.

A conversation that occurred amongst Save Point members a year ago -

Why are we working with blender Nate?

To see if it fits our needs.

You mean we might throw away all this work, and it's for nothing?


You're a bad leader, we should only be doing work that counts.

This does count, you just don't see the big picture.

Well, explain why we should spend a month working on software we might never use.

Because this goal is complex and our demands on software are complex, and none of us have any idea how effectively a system will work out in practice until we put in the actual research work to test and analyze how each available option will fit our workflow and goals.

So we have to waste time thinking and learning, and just throw stuff away?

yes, in pursuit of a winning formula, we have to spend unrecoverable time fully testing different paths, some of which will be losses.

I quit. That guy over there is just filming with a cell phone, he knows what he's doing. (points at guy doing a 10c tic tok dance in front of an Iphone)

Ok, well, I'll plan and iterate, and you run and gun, and we'll circle back and compare notes later.

The person I had that conversation with is still posting tracks on soundcloud, trying to get 30 views on a good month.

I installed and tested over 40 different software solutions, and lost more than 6 months of my life installing, learning, and then discarding programs like DAZ studio, Animaker, Character creator, Iclone, cartoon animator 4, toonboom harmony, vray, max, maya, blender, and on and on.

My research completed and I made a decision. Now I'm literally producing CG output faster than anyone I've ever encountered. But that was the plan, and they would have understood that if they weren't in such a hurry to make a snap judgement.

Classic tortise and hare.

As far as being insulted and condescended to. It happens to me constantly, and no one cares. I've talked to people that came on this forum, and they've explained to me that they are the real thing, and I'm not in their league, and I go to their website, and it's a 7 person team, and they made one after effects video in 3 years. That one video isn't at the quality level of even an average video from the 110 that I made this year by myself. People are constantly arrogant and stupid, and you try to take the high road, but sometimes you loose patience and give out a taste of the medicine you're being forced to swallow. Think that's a made up example? I'll send you the link. I just don't want to bash anyone by name here.

More than 70% of my income and time goes into pushing my film technology, and I've endured a decade of people at 1% on both metrics trying to pull rank on me. Maybe that's not quite the backpedal you expected. For what it's worth I think a lot of us feel insulted, by each other at times, and by the world at large. See how you feel about people calling you a whiner once you've sacrificed everything for the thing you love and a millennial tries to elbow you out of the way to make room for their one hour a week level of dedication.
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Much of this discussion reminds me of a comment made to me several years ago by an artist friend (of the oil-on-canvas variety) about the relative financial success of the different participants at an exhibition: she - one of the permanently poor - referred to the guy at the stand across the way and said "I am an artist, he is an artisan - we are in no way alike"

So many of @Nate North 's frustrations return to this same question of money, and especially the unfairness of it all. Well, yes, it's not fair ... but it's also not at all unique to the world of movie making, and in very, very, very many aspects of modern life, the stereotype is built on a romantic notion of the spirited/passionate/adventurous individual; while the reality is one anchored in the cold, hard ground of viable economics.

Even if there's no LLC behind it, "making a movie" is a multidisciplinary venture akin to any other complex business, and for the most part will enjoy greater success if there are fewer creative types involved. As has been said in various ways above, what most movies need to be made, are lots of people who will do exactly what they're told in the way that everyone else like them does it. These are technicians, not artists; and because they think and work in a different way, their motivations are also different and incomprehensible (c.f. @JKierskicine1207 's recent multiple cries for help! )

Then you need another group of people with serious organisational abilities to handle both the challenges of keeping a whole bunch of humans working happily together, of figuring out where to find money and how to spend it (wisely), and keep many competing interests from undermining the whole process. The last thing you want in this group is an artist trying to make a creative statement by doing things in a way no-one's ever done it before!

There is no place left in the western world for any kind of an "army of one". Even the self-published author depends on a huge team of software technicians to keep his or her publishing app running smoothly, and to manage the digital distribution platform; and if they opt for hard-copy publication, then at the very least, they're going to need to count on type-setters, box-packers and delivery drivers.
To clear any confusion, I agree with all of this. Some wording in my posts may have seemed like I'm saying something different, but for the record, as usual, Celtic is exactly right. You're winning a lot of respect points from me over time.

In the example of Save Point, it was built around the idea that most people would be technicians at the outset, with creative opportunities becoming more available as time progressed. Want to be an experienced editor? Here's 20 hours of footage to edit and an IMDB credit when you're done. Want to score scenes, here's a scene. We'll publish it, promote it, credit you, and give you support, resources and feedback.

I think that kind of situation could be beneficial for others, because it would be beneficial for me, or anyone. What I didn't see coming was people giving up and quitting after one situation where their work wasn't good enough to publish. I survived 1000 of those, ask any author what happens if you quit after your first rejection letter.

Anyway, I agree, too many cooks is a problem, but then not everyone in the kitchen HAS to be in charge of the ingredient ratios to produce a useful meal that all involved can be proud of, and use as a reference on their resume.


Staff Member
7000 a week is standard for an advanced editor for example, and I definitely qualify.

Can I ask what are your qualifications for that, god damn, 7000 a week is some serious cash.
I assume thats 1099 work with an enormous tax rate but still - taking home like 250k a year i'd wager

I would take that too but I definitely DON'T qualify lol.

The wage makes sense if youre working on a 100m blockbuster, the editor is seriously important.
IDK the going rate for a hollywood editor so i did some googling, this is what i found

One route to becoming a film editor is starting as an apprentice. Traditionally you would then spend at least eight years as an assistant editor before ascending to film editor.

Thats the qualification they want - 8 years one-on-one apprenticeship with a professional hollywood editor.
a personal tutor for twice the amount of time required for a college degree

Here's what the article said about compensation

Feature film editors, who account for about 21% of the editors guild, are among the highest-paid. Most earn between $3,000 to $5,500 per week, according to a survey by the Motion Picture Editors Guild (IATSE Local 700). Editors of scripted series represent the largest group and most are paid between $3,500 to $4,000 per week. More than half of the assistant editors in the union work in scripted series, with the majority earning $2,000 to $2,250 per week

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Staff Member
For comparison/information, we paid $10k to the (experienced) editor of my movie Detours (this was in 2015 fyi). It was a part-time gig over a few months, and I had a VERY hard time finding someone with some feature film experience to do it for that price.
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Staff Member
For comparison/information, we paid $10k to the (experienced) editor of my movie Detours (this was in 2015 fyi). It was a part-time gig over a few months, and I had a VERY hard time finding someone with some feature film experience to do it for that price.
thats for 1099 i assume like 37% taxes so he takes home aout $6,300 and if it took him 3 months work that is $2,100 netting a month or about $500 / week net income.

I did this breakdown in the last two posts about editor salary bc i think writing and editing are my biggest strengths and i was personally curious. Also health insurance is about $500/ month in america so that would mean he only nets about $1,500 a month - about the cost of rent and car payments and nothing left over.

editing sounds a lot less lucrative than javascript
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For comparison/information, we paid $10k to the (experienced) editor of my movie Detours (this was in 2015 fyi). It was a part-time gig over a few months, and I had a VERY hard time finding someone with some feature film experience to do it for that price.
My understanding is that they charge a lot but get only a few projects. A script writer, for example, got $1 million for a movie, but he didn't find work for a decade, so that million had to tide him over for years.


Staff Member
The guy we hired works on multiple projects at a time, most of which are shorter and (probably) more lucrative, like commercials.
But yeah, he certainly wasn't getting rich on my project.
well my intent certainly wasn't to knock the rate youre offering him, I was just curious about the life of an editor.. but yeah makes sense if youre trying to get money you'd book as many projects at a time as you could handle while keeping clients happy. in which case he could make a pretty good living if your project pays all his bills and all the other projects are bonus savings/spending cash on top of that.
What I didn't see coming was people giving up and quitting after one situation where their work wasn't good enough to publish.

Been thinking all day about this part of what you said, which ties in with @JKierskicine1207 's laments, and I think it comes back to something I referred to on this thread earlier in the year: the last few decades have seen software companies - and especially their marketing departments - proclaim that their product can Unleash Your Creativity. With MS WordArt, you would never need to employ a graphic designer again to supply you with a decent logo; with the complete Adobe Suite, you could produce the most stunning brochures with full-page, high-def, perfectly composed photos and gripping text; with nothing more than an iPhone 11 12 13 Pro, you too could be in line for at least one Oscar nomination ...

For anyone with creative urges, this is indeed a powerful selling point. I know, I'm one of those who's downloaded, installed and used several variation on these themes. On the other hand, I had the benefit of a couple of decades of prior experience knowing that it's not just a digital pen, or pixel-by-pixel editing or a choice of 7000 in-camera filters and effects that turns those raw creative urges into a piece of "refined consumable art" - there's a whole lot of hard work and brutal criticism to deal with too, and all that real-world practical stuff aswell. But those who never
lived in that era, and were (are) sucked straight in to the promise "right here, right now" are on a path to frustration from the very outset.

In my (occasional) Day Job, this same scenario has become a really serious problem, where a relatively small number of TV shows have painted an incredibly unrealistic picture of profession, but successfully tapped into a long, "romantic" yearning on the part of school-leavers. The result is that the best schools cherry pick the best students and deliver us graduates who can't handle the daily drudgery that fills the endless hours between those 15 minutes of TV-worthy drama; and the worst schools saddle the desperate students with a level of debt out of all proportion to the training they've received, and they crack up as soon as they hit the first of those dramas.

I suspect SavePoint faces something of a hybrid of these two situations, where the concept taps in to that romantic/creative yearning, but those who sign up are really looking for a quick-and-easy way to bring their dreams to life, rather than truly seeing it as a way to build experience.
I once quit a project. I was asked to do some digital work for a micro-budget film. I was doing it for free. The director asked me to create the appearance of a house address chiseled into the brickwork of the house. The shot was hand held. I was given the plate which I had to track then produce required effect. I submitted the first attempt to the director who did not like it. She criticized the shot, talked to me in a very condescending manner then explained to me how I should have created the 'drop shadow'. There was no drop shadow. I created a 3d rendering of the modified brickwork...... anyway, long story short. I didn't quit because my first attempt did not match the directors vision. I quit because of the way I was being talked down to.


Staff Member
I want to give credit to Mara here. she's never tried to be an army of one.

i think her approach of writing and producing, doing all that legwork, but stepping aside for someone else to direct has really enabled her to succeed. If she wanted to direct too, and control the camera, and control everything, i imagine it would be a lot harder for her to have accomplished two feature films.

I think there's something to be said about ... the more you're willing to give away, the easier it is to work with others.
Holds true for stock as well, if you give away stock in your company and have a team of people with vested interest all working together in cooporation its a lot better than one guy owning 100% of nothing.

People who give away the credit (naming stuff after contributors) or the glory (letting someone else do the cool stuff) , etc, are all factors that can help form a team. so kudos to Mara.
Yeah, I have no issues with the way Mara makes films, it's pretty much the normal approach for well educated microbudget filmmakers. It wouldn't at all surprise me to see her landing higher profile projects in the future.


Staff Member
Thanks @sfoster and @Nate North - I appreciate it.

And yeah, I'm working on what will hopefully be a higher profile project (with a friend/colleague who has developed some impressive contacts through her directorial debut which has done extraordinarily well), although certainly not anything that would qualify as action or adventure :)
Thats exciting! hope it pans out