Anthony Moorman has been passionate about storytelling his entire life. With years of experience working as a Production Assistant, Grip, Editor, and other roles in the film industry, Moorman and a friend were inspired to create a documentary about the challenges of “Making It” in the entertainment industry. Specifically looking at the world of Illustration, the documentary Making It provides a fascinating and important look at being a creative professional in today’s unstable marketplace.
I recently interview Moorman to learn more about his background and the production of this documentary.
Nicholas Yanes: What inspired you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry? Was there a moment growing up when you realized this is what you wanted?
Anthony Moorman: That’s a loaded question. Wow!! Ha!
I’ve always loved movies as a child and watching films and being excited by art, video games, comics, toys, was something that has stuck with me throughout my life. But I guess to answer your question, I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller. Transitioning into the documentary field makes sense. In a weird way I’m able to capsulate all my interests in the documentary genre.
Yanes: You went to the University of Cincinnati and New York Film Academy. Since then, you’ve worked as a Production Assistant and as a Grip/Electric. How has actual film work compared to what you expected while in school?
Moorman: Being a student you’re just clueless. You think you know it all, but you really don’t know shit. And you also don’t realize that you never stop learning. You get the basics in school and that’s it.
Getting in the field and failing is the best way to learn and get to better at your craft. I’ve been in the business for almost 15 years and I’m still learning something new every day on every job. Whether I’m gripping, editing, directing, or getting an asshole producer a cup of coffee, there’s always something new around the corner.
Yanes: You have just released the documentary, Making It. What was the inspiration for this project?
Moorman: Well it started with an idea my friend and co-creator, Woody Hinton, had about making an art doc in 2012. It took us almost a year to figure what the hell we wanted to do and how the hell we we’re going to do it. But right from the start what appealed to me, and actually both of us, was the idea of telling an honest gritty story about working artists in the illustration field.
We could’ve just made the three artists, Andrew Bawidamann, Brian Ewing, and Eric Fortune look cool. But we decided to go the opposite direction. To ask hard questions, to be honest, and bit raw at times. I responded to that. And I was thinking, so will the audience.
Yanes: What are some insights into the film industry you gained from producing and marketing this documentary?
Moorman: We sort of made everything up as we went. We didn’t ask for permission to make this film. We made it on our own without corporations, sponsors, or backers from kickstarter. I decided to take all the financial burden on myself and see where we can take this thing. I’m still in debt from it but I would have done it the same way all over again if I had the choice.
Now marketing the film is a weird topic. FilmBuff, this amazing distribution company based in NY is fantastic and amazing for picking up the film. But with a small film like this there really is zero marketing. Social media is my only tool. We hope word of mouth and good reviews will keep the film going. Hoping it’s a slow burn and maybe in a year or so people will start discovering the film. In a cheesy kind of way I learned that if you make good stuff, the right people will find it. Sounds so hippie dippy but in our case it was true. Our film reached FilmBuff because a friend of Brian Ewing’s retweeting the trailer. That’s not suppose to happen. Ha!! But it did.
Yanes: In the worlds of professional writing, illustrating, or any form of creative professionalism, money seems to be a topic that is never discussed as much as it should be. Why do you think it is so hard for artists to discuss the financial realities of their professions?
Moorman: Sometimes talking about money can be embarrassing in many different ways. But I agree it should be more openly discussed. It’s like a secret. No one wants to share. I think most people are a bit sensitive about opening up about what they made last year. Ha!!
I mean I wouldn’t want to share that right now with you. It’s personal. But we do talk about it a bit and the three artists Bawidamann, Ewing, and Fortune, discuss how hard it is to make a living as an illustrator. And it’s great coming from them because they are in the middle of their careers – where most people are. We all can relate to that.
I always use the example that I’m a blue collar filmmaker. I have a job. In my off time I work on films. I can’t afford to make films and pretend I’m a big hot shot director. That’s not how this works. But again the artists all talk about the financial struggles. Eric Fortune is pretty open about the gallery scene. It rough!! 50% there, 20% here, shipping costs, framing.
The artist is lucky if at the end of all that they break even at times. And it’s common that a show or a job could potentially lose them income. Being a writer, an illustrator, a filmmaker or an artist is not for the faint of heart. It’s a rough path for any artist. The long journey isn’t fun and sometimes it sucks. Unless your attractive, independently wealthy, and super talented. Ha!!
Yanes: From this documentary, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have about becoming a professional artist?
Moorman: By far the biggest misconceptions of artists is that everyone is doing great except for me. We all think these artists are rich, happy, satisfied, and accomplished. The truth is and we explore this in the doc, is everyone struggles with something. We all don’t have it figured out.
I also think Brian Ewing had a great point where in the movie he explains that most students feel that they’re buying a career by going to art school or film school. And that way of thinking just isn’t true. Yes, having an educational background can help, but the doors won’t swing open. You have another 10 years of working your way from the bottom to the top. But you’ll need talent, patience, and bit of luck to even reach near the top. It’s kind of depressing. I went through that whole struggle myself.
I’m 37 now. I’ve been making terrible films, shorts, videos, for almost 20 years. All that failure and struggle has led me here. And I’m grateful for it. So yeah, it’s a long shitty road every artist has to take.
Yanes: For the documentary you interviewed several professional artists. What are some of the main insights you learned from talking to them? Was there anything that completely took you by surprise?
Moorman: Wow!! Yeah, I think I could talk about each of the artists and go on and on and on. But I’ll name just a few. Terry Moore said that it’s easy to get in the business but it’s really hard to stay in it. I thought that was pretty profound.
We all want to “Make IT”, but what we don’t think about is what the hell do we do when we get there. And how do we stay.
Andrew Bawidamann also has a line where he talks about how art school teaches you how to make pictures and media but what it doesn’t do is teach how to live your life as an artist. That one line is crux of our film in a way. We interviewed nearly 50 artists and I think what you get is practical advice from people who have been in the trenches. And it’s all there in an 88min movie. I wish I had a Cinema version of this back when I was younger. I would have eaten it up. Again, I could go on and on. The movie is full of great quotes and advice.
Yanes: One of the people that you interviewed discussed how every aspect of the entertainment industry is upside-down. Given how much social media, digital distribution, and other recent developments have changed how entertainment companies make money, who do you think are people that are professionally using these changes to their advantage?
Moorman: Yeah, it’s all changing so fast. With Bit Torrent, Digital Distribution, Social Media, Pay-What-You-Want platforms. It’s everything and everywhere. Every company has a studio these days. And everyone seems to be on the hunt for content. We as Americans are consuming media on 5 devices these days in our homes. And content providers need content. So yeah, it’s just everywhere.
I mean people are making a living by doing just YouTube videos. That was William Stout that said the industry is upside-down. And he also adds as an artist, it’s our job to innovate. And I thought that was great. Don’t worry about it, just innovate and move with the times and figure it out.
Yanes: There are a lot of colleges that offer to train people in art and entertainment production. After filming Making It, do you think most of these programs are doing enough to prepare their students? If so, what more do you think they can do?
Moorman: Well I’m a drop-out, so I’m not sure I should be commenting on college or art school. Ha!!
I think college is great and probably an awesome experience. But I agree with Eric Fortune when he talks about is art school worth it today? Probably not – unless your parents have a shit ton of money.
An education is soooooooo expensive these days. And it seems to keep rising. But I do believe that having a working professional relationship with your fellow students and professors is invaluable. Paraphrasing Woody Hinton, if you’re making art in your mom’s basement and you’re not sharing or learning you’re probably not going to go anywhere. So putting yourself in an environment you want to be involved in is key. Art School is an important and a special place. But maybe you don’t need 4 years of it.
Every artist needs to find a balance of education and student debt.
Yanes: Overall, what are you hoping people take away from watching Making It?
Moorman: Well, we wanted to inspire people to create and make SOMETHING. I think Woody and I had different reasons on what we wanted people to take from this film. But that was the main take away.
We wanted to have an honest conversation about the journey and the struggle that artists face in the illustration field. The film is a bit gloom and doom but being in the middle of your career kind of feels that way. You’re either going to sink or swim. And that isn’t fun most of the time.
Jon Foster had a great line where he says, people ask him all the time, when does it get easy, will it always be this hard? And Jon says, yes, LEARN TO LOVE IT. Which I think is a great take away. Stop bitching and moaning and whining and crying. Learn to love it or stop and do something else.
Eric Fortune said it’s about having a long term strategy, it’s not about being rich or famous tomorrow, it about having a career in art over your lifetime. Getting back to that journey thing. Most people need to understand nothing is going to happen quickly. It’s going to be a while. So hang in there, keep working hard, and hopefully you’ll achieve a career in art.
Yanes: Beyond this film, are there other projects you are working on that people can look forward to?
Moorman: Yes. Woodrow Hinton and I are in pre-production on a biographical documentary on Cincinnati Famed Illustrator C.F. Payne. I’m really looking forward to this project. Chris is a great guy and his body of work is amazing. Chris has this very cool Rockwellian style. It’s going to be an intimate personal doc. Much smaller on scale compared to Making IT, but it’ll still have that honest, raw, feeling with the subject matter and the themes.
And later, down the road we really want to revisit Making IT with some type of sequel with new artists, and approach the subject from a different perspective. We really focused on Illustration. But opening that world up to Comics, Concept Art, and Fine Art would be an interesting concept. We know so many more people now and have so much more access it would be interesting to revisit all those similar themes with an actual budget and ability. But yeah in the meantime I’ll still be gripping, editing, directing, and getting asshole producers a cup of coffee.