As 2008 comes to a close, I look back on the three projects I made this year and try to assess their cost and their value. The former is easier to assess. Here's what it cost (with no hourly wage or fee for the director/editor: me)
5-minute video made in a friend's attic
Price tag $2500
COTTONWOOD, BAMBOO & POISON IVY
8-minute video and live event at Gaga Arts and Industrial Complex
Price tag $1500
10 minute live dance, made at The Yard,
Price tag $2000
Depending on your economic situation, that will either look like a lot or a little money. The three videos have generated exactly no dollars. On the other hand, COTTONWOOD has already been included in two festivals and CARTOON LOVE was voted as November video of the month on Dancemedia.com - with hits still coming.
One way such projects have traditionally been funded is through grants. Too often, I've found the grant application process a huge commitment of time (which equals money?) that doesn't come close to covering the costs of the project. What you end up with is partial funding: just enough rope to hang yourself with.
But I am happy to announce that my second SOS grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts - to attend the screening of TEXAS PLATES in Toronto - was just the opposite. As I said in my final report to the Foundation:
The ease of application and the speedy turn around time make SOS grants a real gift. I also appreciate that the process doesn't feel competitive with other artists: any working artist is deemed worthy of encouragement to seize an opportunity. I plan to continue to apply!
Small grants, personal funds, belt-tightening: all help make these videos possible. So do you - and even though it's a tough era for charitable giving, there's a DONATE button to your right, if you are so moved. Which still leaves the question of what this kind of work is worth. What I make - whether live or for video - will always be essentially hand-made. But my goal for 2009 is to take more time (equals money?) with each project, so I can dig deeper.
As giving gets harder, as we all try to figure out how to get by, I'll take a harder look at what I make and what it accomplishes. But I do know that making art is a way of giving too: and it's priceless.