The Mission of We Make Movies: Creative Freedom

industry marketing Mar 21, 2024

The future of We Make Movies comes down to two simple words:  Creative Freedom.

by, Sam Mestman - CEO and Founder We Make Movies

In a world where creative people are exploited, underpaid, and their work is largely taken for granted… to the point where everyone thinks it can be replaced fully by AI… many might ask themselves “what’s the point?  Why bother?”.  Well, We Make Movies exists to answer this question.


Most people I know did not enter the film industry to be told what movies to make, to be typecast as characters they don’t want to play or having the only acting they do be the endless self tape auditions they submit that no one watches.  No one grows up wanting to be making infinite variations of the same unboxing video on their youtube channel, to make marketing videos for soulless corporations, or work on an endless steady stream of film sets where not a single person is passionate about what is going on screen.  It’s all a compromise and it’s all not what we grew up wanting to do.  While there’s nothing wrong with earning a living (especially these days)… none of what I listed above is WHY anyone specifically chose this business.  It’s all what you end up doing while you wait to find the funding to make the things you’re actually passionate about.


If the Hollywood dream wasn’t broken, you wouldn’t need We Make Movies because you’d be able to get off the bus, get noticed, get funded, and get to start making projects that didn’t crush your soul.  Hollywood doesn’t work that way, though, and it never really did… but it has become significantly harder in the last 20 years to break into that system and get where you wanted to go… and it is no easier these days to make money as a YouTuber or influencer.  Your current best bet as a content creator is to make a living creating content for corporations… but I think we can all agree that is not the sexiest option, and it is the most removed from living an artistic dream of creative freedom.


We Make Movies doesn’t exist to be another place for you to grind out a living making money from making content, though.  We exist for a very different reason.  We want to cater to that original spark you had of wanting to be an artist.


Where do you go to make the work you care about with likeminded people who are passionate about who you are as an artist?  My hope is that place will be We Make Movies.  We want to be the movie studio for the other 99% who never get to play.  We want to be the place where the people who grew up believing their stories deserved to be told and were just as good as anyone else’s come to make those stories a reality and have them be honored, respected, appreciated, and amplified.


It has been my observation that people enter the industry with a childlike sense of wonder about all the stories they want to tell and how awesome it would be to work with a bunch of creative people to make the things you’re passionate about… and then they become a professional and they never quite get around to doing that.


The reason this happens is that the film industry and all related industries are bad BUSINESSES.  Why?  Great businesses run on talents that are in short supply.  You want to make money?  Solve a problem… and the bigger and harder of a problem you can effectively solve, the more money you can make from it.  However, for creative people, they have been placed in this bizarre meat grinder of needing to make a lifelong career out of something that has way too many people who want to do it in order to pay people what they’re truly worth.


And so… in order to make a living, people decide to specialize in one aspect of the craft. People become editors, DP’s, commercial directors, YouTubers, influencers, producers, gaffers, sound people, actors, etc. so they can make a living while they wait to make the content they dream about.  They become professionals who practice a lifelong craft that has endless unions and rules and logistics and problems and pitfalls that can only be solved by…. lots of money and lots of people who are professionals at being one small part of the process.  They become joyless guns for hire moving from one project to the next in order to make a living fully knowing that they have chosen a craft with minimal job security, lots of competition, and often very little true creative agency in a field they specifically chose so they could be creative.   They become masters of a craft they never truly get to practice in the way they intended.

It is all a form of slavery.  We are slaves to our bank accounts, our careers, our peers, our platforms, and most of all… to our own self created prison that we lock our creativity into because we are afraid of what will happen if we just finally did the thing we wanted to do. 

Anyway… before you start lobbing all of your anger at me about why you can’t quit your job and how entitled I am for even being able to type what I just typed above… let me reframe this conversation a little bit.

Booking that commercial and making that marketing video isn’t evil… it’s just not the main event.  They’re just gigs.  They put food on the table… but there are lots of jobs that can put food on the table, and the only question you should be asking yourself is “am I making the most amount of money I can from this gig so I can be creatively free to do the things I want to do”?  I don’t want you to quit your job.  I want you to pick the job that pays you enough so you can make your art… and that job might be selling real estate.  I don’t want you to stop being a creative PROFESSIONAL… I want you to be a creative professional who is creatively free and fulfilled.  I don’t want you to leave your union.  I want that union job to make it possible for you to work on projects you love.   I don’t want you to do anything that would fundamentally jeopardize however you choose to make your living.  I want you to choose the right way to make a living that allows you to make the art you always imagined you would make.  


We Make Movies wants to be that place where you come to make YOUR art.  The place that makes it easy for you to find your creative freedom while you do whatever you need to do in order to get by.  We want to be the place where your dream gets to live no matter what is going on in the outside world.  We’re the company, community, film festival, and educational outlet that's only purpose is to care about the work you grew up wanting make and helping you to make that as awesome as it can possibly be… whether you make that work in Hollywood, Nebraska, or at one of our 20 Orphaned Starfish centers around the world where they’re making movies with iPhones.


We want to be the place that helps you make your dream possible and helps you keep it yours.  The place you come to make the movie YOU WANT TO SEE.


In the future, there’s really only two paths as a creator.  You either let the world (AI, the studios, the streamers, your fears) control what you make and how you make it or you leverage the world, technology, your friends, family, community and audience to create the things that truly matter to you, become the best version of yourself, and do the work you were meant to do on this planet without excuses.



This profession isn’t a meritocracy.  It does not recognize or reward the best talent, and it is not fair.  If you chose this path to be an artist, you need to know that the cavalry is not coming.  No one is going to make it happen for you.  So if you choose to be a part of it… you need to do work that feeds your soul along the way, because there is no guarantee that this industry, the algorithm, or AI will anoint you as one of its chosen few and give you the keys to the kingdom.  No matter what, in order to stay sane, you may have to make your own kingdom… and We Make Movies exists to help you with that.  We want to help you do it sustainably, ethically, and affordably.


I’ll close this by painting you a picture of a mythical world that you could be living in.  It goes like this…


You write a simple script you’re passionate about and you show up to a We Make Movies lab to have it read.  People like it and they give you a few suggestions.  You revise it and bring it back to the community and people start coming up to you because they like it so much and they want to help you make it.  Someone’s got a camera (or the latest iPhone) and there are some actors there who like the roles who want to be in it.  You shoot for a day, buy everyone food and take everyone out for drinks after and people have a great time.  You use the project to teach yourself how to edit from videos on a website.  You work really hard on it, screen it at a rough cut lab, and get feedback on it.  You finish and you get a laptop, borrow a projector, and screen the movie in your backyard for cast, crew, friends and family and everyone has a great night.  


Then you make your next one, and your next one, and you get better and better… for the amount of money it cost you to take a vacation, you instead made 5 movies with your friends, each one got better than the next, and you had a blast doing it.  And pretty soon, the movies and stories start coming out exactly the way you laid them out in your head.  Through your community at We Make Movies, you’ve found a group of collaborators you like to work with and who like working with you.  You find a way to make each other’s movies, have fun doing it, and make each other better every single time. And when you run into an issue or you need something, you come talk to us and we find a way to help you get the help you need.  Gradually, you become technically proficient and start leveraging some of these weird AI tools to create things in seconds that used to cost Hollywood 100 million dollars.  You realize you don’t need much money at all to make something cool with your friends that you’re really proud of.  So you keep doing it for fun.


A buzz and audience start to gradually form around your work.   You’re not famous, but you have fans.  You find yourself able to apply your talents commercially when you feel like it… but you also have other things you do for money too that have nothing to do with the industry.  You find a niche.  You’re working another job to pay the bills, but you’re making content you’re passionate about for a group of people who are passionate about you.  You decide to start a local screening series (or even a chapter of We Make Movies) in your town that screens work from local artists in your area and you make just enough money back from it that it didn’t cost you anything… or whatever money you did lose was towards the best nights out you ever had…. because there is a creative ENERGY that you have made around your work that you get to share with others.  You keep going to labs, you keep throwing screenings, you keep making your own work and you keep helping other people make theirs, and it’s fun and it’s awesome, you’re great at what you do, and more than anything… YOU ARE CREATIVELY SATISFIED.  You realize eventually that you’ve made your own Hollywood with the people around you, and you had the time of your life doing it… and not only that, but you made and helped other people make more projects their way than anyone else you know and you didn’t have to go bankrupt trying to be famous… and you talk to people who live in Hollywood that you knew a long time ago… and they’re still working their way up, trying to get their projects funded, hoping to someday make their dream project… and you realize that they haven’t made half the things you have made and aren’t half as good at making content as you are.


That’s just one version of what being creatively free looks like.  Art, movies, and creativity for art’s sake.  Making the process of creativity so efficient, cost effective and simple that literally anyone can make something amazing that they’re proud of that they can share with their friends and community…


And then if they decide to make their living from doing it, they can completely control their career, their distribution, and how they monetize their work.  It’s theirs, they own it, and they need no one else.



We are entering the era of the artist’s revenge.  I grew up in a world where making the movie was the expensive thing.  Whether it was the camera, or the edit bay, or the crew, or the film, or the distribution, or the contracts, or the marketing… there was something that cost WAY too much money that was going to prevent the average person from making that amazing story in their head without needing some sort of gatekeeper who didn’t understand the story from saying yes…. because they were the keeper of that expensive, scarce commodity that could make the magic happen.


We are about to enter a world where the only thing that’s scarce anymore is THAT INCREDIBLE IDEA.  That’s the only thing that can’t be cloned, or algorithmed, or AI’ed into existence… because that idea represents something new and the algorithm can only analyze the past and things it has seen before. It will not innovate.  It’s the only thing that all the money in the world can’t buy, which is your unique story and perspective… and it’s the only thing that doesn’t cost a dollar that is unique to you and your experience.  Our mission here is to help you harness that into something you control that does not need a gatekeeper’s permission to come into existence.  We want to help you turn that creative spark into a wildfire that powers a furnace that allows you to make any story you want, however you want, and have whatever money is generated from it go right into your pocket instead of everyone else’s.


Our goal is to build a world where the biggest budget no longer matters.  May the best artist and the best stories win.

I want a We Make Movies filled with the next generation of Kurosawas, Tarantinos, Spike Lees, Kathryn Bigelows, Kubricks, Coppolas, Scorceses, Donald Glovers, Greta Gerwigs, Jordan Peeles, and everyone else willing to stand up and make that iconic thing that only THEY could make. Bring your best, leave your fears behind, and show the world why you were born to tell your story your way. We Make Movies exists to make that path easier. To help you show the world why Creative Freedom matters.

That’s our why.  If that puts a smile on your face, come hang out with us and lets make some magic together.


Sam Mestman, CEO of We Make Movies


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