La Bonhomie des Artistes

crowdfunding 5 comments

Any artist will tell you that to make art (of any kind) is painful. To create takes a toll. It can negatively affect our emotional well being, our relationships with our partners, family, and friends, and it can destabilize our finances.

So why does one bother?

Of course the specific answer is different for everyone, but there is one general answer that every true artist will tell you: We don’t have a choice. Just as feeling compelled to create can have all those negative effects mentioned above on a person, so can NOT creating.

So to create is pain, but to not create is also pain. Well that’s a conundrum, huh? A veritable “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. Is being an artist a curse? Though some might say so, I strongly believe that it’s the opposite. Who else gets to put a part of him or her self out into the world permanently? Sure, if that part of you that you share is not received well, or if it falls short of your own expectations, then you are thrown into fits of self doubt, self loathing, and frustration. But through the miracle of life and entropy, you also realize that you can try again-and you learn! So every day is an opportunity to build on your past and become better, in a tangible (not a self-help book) way. Your soul doesn’t let you quit after a failure because it would hurt too much to have your last construction be worthless. And it doesn’t let you quit after a success, because then you feel invincible and need to keep going. So you keep going.

And rewards do come. Sometimes. It may be something as simple as feeling personal pride in one well crafted sentence, or as extravagant as gaining widespread fame and fortune. But the possibility that sometimes might be this time is all you need to keep going. And if you’re lucky enough to have emotional and/or financial support, the moments of satisfaction can come more often, and you’re able to be more hopeful during the time in between validations. Knowing that there is a network of people who are on your side can really keep the fires burning, and drive you to higher levels of productivity and inspiration.

So who are these people who can provide this support, and where does one find them? I’d say that they are a group that many today wouldn’t think of: other artists. In “A Moveable Feast”, Ernest Hemingway describes the network of expatriate artists living in Paris; how they share experiences, ideas, and necessities. They influence one another and spread the word about one another’s achievements. They also feed and house one another in times of need.

Since most of us aren’t experiencing the isolation of living in a foreign land and needing to seek out others of our kind for comfort, we have lost some of that spirit. I know myself that until recently, I dismissed fellow creative types as a target audience. Perhaps it is because of a perception that they are “the competition”, but when you think about it, who better to garner inspiration from, than others with similar drives? Yes, there may be competition, jealousy, and insecurity if you open your raw art to other creators, but their feedback is much more meaningful than that of someone who blindly praises your work without knowing much about how it was made.

The truth is, we are stronger together. Especially in the emerging world of online media, where there is no “establishment” to dictate what is art, what is trash, and what is somewhere in between. In this world, we need to revive ”La bonhomie des artistes”, the good-natured brotherhood of artists, to build the foundations of our medium, establish it’s credibility and merit, and set standards. As our expatriate ancestors did, we should feed and house our fellow artists-not just metaphorically, but actually. We should offer advice, share experiences, and even give our money. Not all of it, just what we can spare.

Writer/Producer Paul Osborne (@paulmakesmovies on twitter) laid out some of the math in his blog ( He showed that if 1000 filmmakers gave $20 per month to any campaigns of their choosing, that would infuse almost a quarter of a million dollars per year into the independent film and online video community. A simple calculation, but WOW. Imagine if 10,000 filmmakers did it? That’s $2,400,000. Still not a Hollywood Blockbuster, but enough to fund a whole heck of a lot of webseries and short films.

Now, this substantial influx of cash requires buy in from LOTS of artists, but most of us can afford $20 per month. And by donating and spreading the word, we set the tone for when we ourselves need funds. The further this support network extends, the better off we will be when our time comes to ask. I’m the first person to say not to spend all of your own money to do a project, but if we each spent a little of our money on other people’s projects, and they spent some of theirs on ours, then many more projects could be made.

What I’m really saying is, we shouldn’t go outside the artist community for support-at least not at first. We need to share resources, and then bring in the outside audience-and hopefully sponsors with a lot more than $20 per month. But we have to start somewhere, with our compatriots who share similar dreams to our own.

If anyone reading this is inspired to give but needs ideas of who to support let me know. I’ve come across several worthy projects since beginning this journey that I can recommend you consider…and NONE of them is Causality…yet.

Posted by   @   February 11, 2011 5 comments
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Feb 11, 2011
9:12 am
#1 Glynis Mitchell :

This is a fantastic post, Ralph.

Feb 11, 2011
9:18 am
#2 Ralph Fontaine :

Wow, thanks! I struggled with how to phrase it, and by nature I’m not typically as group oriented as the post suggests, but working together for mutual success really makes a lot of sense.

Feb 11, 2011
9:35 am
#3 Glynis Mitchell :

Yeah, I agree. Actually, Carolynne and I were talking about something like that yesterday at the shoot. You know, that weird energy that comes from auditions, where everyone is trying to seems confident and badass and really they’re scoping out the competition and scared as shit. I think that’s something that organizations like us don’t need to do; in fact, it’ll hurt us.

Author Feb 12, 2011
10:28 am

I think the main difference here is that auditions are a zero-sum game, and this isn’t. In an audition, one person walks away with the part and everyone else goes home empty-handed. But it’s just not true that a webseries is engaged in “competition”, at least not in the sense that one series gains viewers at the expense of another. I think it’s just the opposite — I think a viewer who discovers that they like one webseries is likely to seek out others. I think just raising the general awareness of “look at all this cool stuff that’s out there!” benefits everyone.

Feb 12, 2011
5:38 pm
#5 Glynis Mitchell :

I agree! But I feel that with people who are used to the competition aspect of such things, the feeling can carry over. I’ve certainly felt that pervasive attitude between some of our local arts orgs.

Anwyay, I should say that I don’t feel that from our fellow webseries folks. Quite the opposite: our peers are encouraging and welcoming!

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