Artbiz with MJ Dixon

Apr 20, 2017   //   by admin   //   artbiz, News  //  No Comments

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Artbiz explores that middle ground between “art” and “business”. How genuinely creative people manage (or do not manage) to carve out a living doing what they love. How they juggle dayjobs, families, real life, relationships, paying bills and doing their craft/art.

MJ Dixon is a one-man movie making machine. He drums up funding for his films, makes them and then distributes them. He’s created his own film universe, the Mychoverse, where slasher characters crossover in a manner befitting of multimillion dollar Marvel franchises. He should be held up as an example of DIY filmmaking ethos. I’m hugely honoured that he took the time to chat with Artbiz.

Q1 First can you introduce yourself? Who are you? Do you have dependents? Do you have a mortgage? Are you the sole income earner?

My name is MJ Dixon. I’m 35 now and don’t have any children (as of this writing anyway), I rent a small house in Milton Keynes with my wife who has a full time job, as well as her running a company with me.

Q2 What do you do creatively? How long have you been doing it?

I’m freelance filmmaker and have been for over 15 years now. I started a label called Mycho Pictures in 2004 with which to produce short films. In 2012 we became an official company called Mycho Entertainment and released out first full length feature commercially.

16442907_10154239974082747_434569990_oQ3 If you have one, what’s your day job? How long have had you that?

I’m fairly lucky that my ‘day job’ is a similar one to my ‘filmmaking’ one, I produce, direct and edit client videos, specialising in Alternative music for mid to high level singers, bands and acts. This was part of my outline when we became a business in 2012 as way to generate some income, although I’ve been shooting music videos for bands since about 2009. Thats pretty much how I stay alive enough to make movies.

Q4 What are the benefits of your day job?

Like I said, they are very similar worlds. Doing client work keeps me on my toes and keeps me developing as a filmmaker. Its not a difficult switch to move that skill set over to making feature films. Also at least I get paid for client work, which is nice. I also work from time to time as a freelance camera man on various projects.

Q5 What are the drawbacks of the day job?

It can be life consuming if you don’t keep on top of it. Client work is great and it can pay well, but every client is different. Some are very hands off and trust you to bring their idea to life, some like to micro manage every detail and that can lead to videos taking months rather than weeks. Usually they are still being charged the same rate, so you find that that extra time isn’t always compensated for.

16389406_10154239973707747_1865169389_oQ6 Your art/craft is it a hobby/ a side gig/ your dream job/ your full time job?

Its started out as a hobby, but early on I realised that filmmaking was what I wanted to do. People often tell me i’m ‘living the dream” as my day job and filmmaking are pretty much hand in hand. But after 15 years its just like any normal job, some days suck and some days are great, you have difficult colleagues that make life harder and great work friends who you look forward to seeing. At this point it probably isn’t just a full time job anymore, but more of a lifestyle that encompasses our lives 24 hours a day.

Q7 How much of what you do creatively is dictated by commercial consideration?

I would say ‘most of it’, it can be fairly fun to look at whats selling and create your own slant on that and make it fit in with your overall plan. We still have to sell our films and so, making them commercial attractive is still our goal, but we make sure that doesn’t impact the core art of it. My first commercial film Slasher House was a great example, we added a clown character to it as that was the kind of thing that would fly off the shelf at the time, but we made sure that it fit and helped the story along before we committed to it. The character has since become one of our most popular, he even got his ow movie in 2015.

Q8 Have you turned down commissions? If so, why?

I turn down work more often than I probably should, if its doesn’t align with my principles then I wont do it, If I feel like it will make me miserable I won’t do it. Some people say that “time is money”, but I think that “happiness is money” and I really think that if something is going to make you unhappy, its probably not worth spending the time doing it unless it is going to make you very rich, and the likelihood of that as a freelance filmmaker is low.

16426527_10154239973277747_1713569988_nQ9 Do you have a long term plan? A series of short term plans? Plans, never heard of them?!

I have an overall 10 year plan, but I break that down to a 5 year plans and then immediate year by year plans within that. We have a slate of movies that will keep us busy for, at least, the next 7 years or so, in that time, the hope is that one of them will hit a home run, and make us a chunk of money. In the meantime, because of the way we make our films, the value of the past ones seems to rise rather than fall, so our plan overall is to just keep doing what we love and hope that someday in the future they’ll pay for themselves.

Q10 What do you think of your “industry”?

Its like any industry really, you have good people and bad ones. Because I’m my own boss, I can easily take time out from dealing with it for great lengths of time if I need to, but more than often than not, at least terms of filmmakers, 90% of the people you meet are great and are just there for the same reasons you are. There are, of course, some charlatans out there who are out to get whatever they can out of people, but the world is shrinking and those people don’t seem to last long.

Q11 Is there anyone out there that you aspire to be like? Why?

I think that I discovered over the last few years that my path has to be my own. Creatively I have 100s of influences so its hard to pick just one person, but from a career stand point I kind of love that Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Sin City) manages to balance the Hollywood system with making movies, quite literally, out of his garage. So that I guess would be the dream, but with the industry changing so rapidly all the time, I’m not sure what my version of that dream will look like when I get there.

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