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On Shutting Down My NYC Film Company

And getting ready to move on.

Wade filming
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ASTORIA, NYC- When I saw my car being towed away I knew it was over. But I wasn’t yet ready to admit it.

For two weeks I searched manically for a new car (knowing full well that I didn’t have enough money to buy one). While I feel that the insurance company gave us fair compensation — $10,000 for a car we spent $12,000 on nine years ago — it simply wasn’t enough in a market whose prices have been enormously elevated since the pandemic. We went around to a few car dealerships but the writing was on the wall: it’s over.

My film company, that is.

To make films you need to be able to haul around a lot of gear. Shoots done with just one camera or a phone look like shoots that were done with just one camera or a phone. If you want it to look good, you have to be able to control and shape the light … you’re going to want a couple nice cinema cams … the list goes on until you have an entire vehicle stuffed with gear.

Before my car was totaled I was at a crossroads with Real Life Cinema anyway. I had some good clients, I had some good projects, I got paid well for what I did … but the expenses needed to run a company like this kept me lingering in a perpetual state of hardly breaking even. I knew that I was going to have to either double down or shut it down.

I could again move into a studio, start some new shows, get some new clients, and blast out the content. I could hire an editor or two and free myself to just run the business and manage the shoots. I could …

Doubling down would have cost low five figures.

And I knew down deep that I couldn’t pull this off.

The fact that I would also need a new car was just the proverbial straw …

The nail in the coffin of my film company endeavor was finally pounded in a couple of weeks ago at a party that was thrown by a film director in the city that I work for sometimes. The relevant part of our conversation went as follows:

Me: “How are those new films coming?”

Him: “I can’t find anyone to buy shit.”

This guy is at the top of his profession. His documentaries have won Emmys and have been short-listed for Oscars. He owns a giant building in a trendy area of Manhattan that’s six floors of film production. If you watch a Hollywood movie this weekend there’s a good chance that his company did the post-production for it. While I suspect that he makes documentaries just for fun he still wants to get paid.

And nobody is buying.

I went into a quiet corner of the room as the party raged on, sipped my drink, and harbored that particular sinking feeling when you know it’s time to move on.

“Man, if this guy can’t sell his films then what do I think I’m doing?”

So I began the process of deescalation — selling off some gear, renting out cameras that I don’t need everyday, canceling various film-related subscription services, and basically trying to get whatever I can for whatever I can part with.

One of the main reasons why we came to New York City was so that I could try my hand at running a small film company. Like my ambitions, my collection of film gear had grown out of a backpack and I was having difficulty transporting all of it from place to place around the world. The regular moves between continents was also making it difficult to concentrate my efforts and do more involved projects that require being in a place for an extended period of time. I was also curious what would happen if I settled down in a place for a while and gave filmmaking a real go.

Five years later my report card reads somewhere between a B- and a C.

I did do it. I’ve worked on some big films, helped start and continue to do a national weekly cable talk show that’s nearing its 150th episode, did a bunch of smaller jobs for various media outlets and businesses, shot some of the best footage of a historic event, and finished a couple of my own passion projects.

But I didn’t hit it out of the park.

And I’m still left with a few lingering ‘what ifs.’

Sometimes I look out of my window at the street below at all the cars parked and double parked and honking, and I smile …

Because I don’t have to do that shit anymore.

Likewise, with each piece of gear that I sell I feel a sense of relief.

Because I’m getting closer to the point where I can shut down NYC.

Real Life Cinema is really the only thing holding us here.

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Filed under: Filmmaking, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3716 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

5 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Rob April 20, 2024, 7:46 pm

    Leave NYC because your car got totaled? That strikes me as funny! Good luck on what ever it is that’s next…

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    • VBJ April 20, 2024, 9:05 pm

      Yeah, why not? 🤣

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      • Rob April 20, 2024, 9:16 pm

        Why not indeed!

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      • Jack April 20, 2024, 11:22 pm

        Yeah that is funny…and crazy….and exactly something I would do. Good luck! Exciting for sure.

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        • VBJ April 22, 2024, 9:40 pm

          We all have a trigger and sometimes we’re just waiting for something to happen to pull it. Those of travelers tend to be a little more sensitive than most other people.

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