My first feature film as a producer was the CG-animated 'Battle for Terra', which was released by Lionsgate in 2009. Sometime at the tail end of production on that, and after setting up Terry Brooks' 'Shannara' series at Warner Brothers, I ventured out on my own. At the risk of sounding cliche', there was no satisfaction in chasing the rights to a book series for five years and then basically being told you weren't needed anymore. Not to mention a producer doesn't get paid unless the film gets made. I set out on a long, winding journey of chasing my dreams, which detoured me to a pursuit of professional lacrosse, the production of my first graphic novel 'Harbor Moon' and... after a few years of false starts on a handful of other projects, my first live action feature 'White Space', which is still in post-production.
With 'White Space', I focused my entire being on a massive project and, not only is it still not done, I didn't have an actual salary. It was, and still is, supposed to be a calling card. A film with 750+ high-end visual effects shot, outdoing some studio films... and for a fraction of the price. That's something I have been good at, and made my niche in - doing high-end work for a fraction of the price. The downside is, I don't get paid until the projects gain traction. Right now I am in production or in the process of completing my next four graphic novels (go big, right?). In that world, you build on past books... hoping to break-even until your fanbase grows large enough to support you.
Those experiences helped sharpen my focus, to more creator driven projects. Films or books (or podcasts) that I can get off the ground without a lot of heavy lifting. I don't mind the sweat and hardwork, but you're not a creator if you're taking an endless string of finance meetings. It sounds crazy, but I know the next five films I am going to do (the order I am going to do them in is up in the air). I also have an artist on my next two books. A plan for a manga series. A film podcast that I produce/co-host (35 Movie Minutes). And I use my finance background and experience to consult on feature film/publishing business proposals, as well as budgets.
I heard this saying once, by RFK, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." It hit me, hard... and I took it to heart. That's how I live my life. From my athletic pursuits to my creative ones. I do this full-time. That means all day, seven days a week. I don't spend money on frivolous things - every penny I ever made has gone right back into my career and projects. I am lucky to have a good family and I scrape by with the only things I really need - my laptop, lacrosse stick and heavy bags (did I mention I'm training to fight MMA?).
Unless I am in production or at the gym training, you can catch me glued to my laptop (or iPad).