As a screenwriting lecturer at a prestigious film school in the States, I sometimes hear my wonderful students talk grandly about “making it” in the film industry. Though their ambition is appreciated, a filmmaker’s focus is better served setting a foundation for a sustainable career. What does “making it” even mean? Does it mean making truckloads of money, or creating films that inspire passion?
The great secret in the film industry is that nearly no one makes it—and who really wants to anyway? “Making it” implies the journey is over and, hopefully, a filmmaking career is sustained over time. The real question for blossoming filmmakers is how to sustain a career. Of course, the answer to that question is as varied as the number of disciplined filmmakers in the world. Given challenging economic realities, it is imperative aspiring filmmakers look to artists for inspiration who are sustaining their careers.
My brother, Keith Del Principe, and his partner, bekky O’Neil, are animator-ecologists dedicated to a sustainable path. Having recently graduated from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema’s BFA Film Animation Program in Montreal, they are building a sustainable farm and animation studio, Cardboard Reality Studio and Farms, in Northumberland County, Ontario.
Cardboard Reality creates animated films and digital content while utilizing permaculture gardening techniques to grow vegetables, fruits, and teas year round. Their current animation project, Joy Runs Deeper, is based on the memoirs of bekky’s grandparents, Bronia & Joseph Beker (produced by The Azrieli Foundation Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program). Set in Poland during World War II, the film tells the story of a young Jewish couple’s struggle to survive and hold onto their dreams.
Not all of us will become sustainable farmers and filmmakers like Keith and bekky. Perhaps we can all benefit, however, from building sustainable situations where we can make films over long, rewarding careers. That path involves sustaining our resources, communities, and individual health.
Kevin Del Principe is a filmmaker who teaches screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.