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  • Darren Aronofsky turned down a chance to direct Man of Steel so he could direct The Fountain, despite knowing that it wouldn't make anywhere near as much money. He still insisted on getting it made, even after the studio cut half of his budget, forcing him to do the whole movie (an epic sci-fi film that includes a big portion set in space) without any CGI at all. When it looked like the studio would never approve the movie, he wrote it as a graphic novel and got Vertigo Comics to publish it. Whether or not you like the movie, it's undeniable that Aronofsky cared about it. A lot.
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  • Surprisingly, the film North fits this. Apparently, director Rob Reiner wanted to make a touching fable that would be his very own Wizard of Oz. What he failed to realize is that he made his own touching fable seven years before.
  • Francis Ford Coppola paid for most of Apocalypse Now himself, even though the budget was massive, and the movie is known as the biggest example of Development Hell.
  • James Cameron has made a career out of never compromising on his vision. His reputation as a perfectionist paints him as a prima donna director (with stories to back it up), but actors who have collaborated with him often, like Bill Paxton and Sigourney Weaver, state that it is precisely that that what makes him stand out—a director who stays true to his vision of a film with no compromises and staves off Executive Meddling:
    • It might be hard to believe today, but Titanic (1997) was a film of epic proportions which frankly had most of Cameron's producers worried. It was a pure passion project made entirely because of Cameron's lifelong obsession with the ship. This thing cost $200 million to produce, but Cameron never balked even at the production's lowest points.
    • When making The Terminator, executives barred Cameron from filming a key scene where the T-800 picks up on Kyle and Sarah's trail. The director snuck out with a camera and Arnold Schwarzenegger to the back of the hotel set and shot the scene anyway.
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    • During the shooting of the hive sequence in Aliens, Cameron fired his cinematographer, Dick Bush, for not lighting the hive set in the "right way". Cameron, who had a start as a visual effects cinematographer (doing things like the wireframe in Escape from New York) wanted the set to be lit with the lights from the actors. Bush however was an old school cinematographer who went against Cameron's wishes and added fill light.
    • Cameron spent close to a decade continually refining the script for Avatar, even stating that he left it in his office desk for months at a time while he brainstormed new ideas.
  • Andy Serkis' work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong (2005). Painstakingly crafting memorable Motion Capture performances even knowing that no one would ever actually see him on screen. Going to Africa to study gorillas in the wild on his own time and money to make sure he played the most convincing gorilla he could. And in the process, he almost singlehandedly elevates Motion Capture to a full-fledged art form. All For The Art.
  • Ocean Heaven: Widely promoted as action legend Jet Li's first drama-slash-non-action film, a touching tearjerker about a single father trying to raise a mentally-ill son while battling cancer himself. Li's salary for the movie is 1 USD, enough for a cup of coffee (sans sugar and cream), because Li has been interested in making a drama film after being an action legend for decades.
  • Star Wars episodes I and II. Love it or hate it, George Lucas was determined to make sure his vision was brought to life. He relented a little for episode III, and the old trilogy...
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    • Mark Hamill has commented before on the fact that George Lucas seemed down in all of the interviews that he gave around the time that the original trilogy was made on account of the fact that he wasn't able to do things the way that he'd envisioned. As unfaithful as people feel the rereleases may be, they're closer to Lucas' original vision than what was initially shown in cinemas (Except the Han Shot First thing, that was the MPAA).
  • Richard Donner's work in Superman went notoriously over-budget, and got him fired. His main concern was to make the best, most believable film he could.
  • If you were a studio executive, would Eraserhead put dollar signs in your eyes? But somebody made it. And all his movies are exactly what he had in mind. Well, except Dune (1984).
    • That's just the beginning. It took five years to finish, working on weekends and vacations, and with Lynch putting up all the cash. There's one sequence where Henry passes through a door. A full year passed between shooting him outside the door and him walking through it.
  • As a good example of Tropes Are Not Good, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a terrible movie, but it is exactly what Hal P. Warren wanted. Only with worse production values.
    • A more successful example of the "really cheap horror movie made by a guy who loves what he's doing" would be The Evil Dead (1981). And Evil Dead 2 was actually more so: he wanted to do it with all the crazy humor, but it wasn't until the first was a hit he dared to do it.
    • A more recent example is the filmography of actor/writer/director Neil Breen whose self-financed movies show low production values, Special Effects Failure, nonsensical storytelling and Bad "Bad Acting" in spades. Breen's passion for his work is undeniable and helps deliver a So Bad, It's Good viewing experience for each of his films.
  • Most things David Cronenberg does, he does because he really wants to. This is especially evident in his version of The Fly (1986)—he has admitted to disliking the 1958 original, mainly because he was aware of its fallacies even as a kid, so he wanted to make a film that wouldn't annoy any entomologists in the audience. Is it any wonder this version is widely considered better than the original?
  • The films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are typically full of Author Appeal (sexual and otherwise). Grindhouse was made because they felt like it, and when Rodriguez made Sin City, he got Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton to come by to film a short, which he digitally edited and gave to Frank Miller just to convince him to give Rodriguez the rights to make a full movie out of it.
  • Ed Wood thought his work was for the art, and his films are So Bad, It's Good (at best).
  • Avant-Garde & Experimental filmmakers mostly under low budgets from grants and all.
  • John Travolta wanted to make a film version of Battlefield Earth for years, and it was only after years of effort, and agreeing to a discount salary for his performance, that it finally got made. Once again, another Tropes Are Not Good example.
  • Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg are probably the only people on this list who can straddle the line between this trope and its polar opposite. While their parodies are lazy and few would argue that their films constitute as "art", the two continue to make them even though people stopped seeing their films years ago (compare the $86 million gross of Epic Movie in 2007 to The Starving Games' $3 million gross in 2013). And so, despite the fact that they no longer have any major studio backing them, they persist in making and self-distributing their parody films rather than moving on to more lucrative film-making opportunities.
  • The production of Heaven's Gate became a disaster thanks to Michael Cimino's adherence to this trope. For example, he demanded 50 takes of at least one scene, and refused to start shooting for another until a cloud he liked rolled across the sky. Sadly, in this case the attention to detail did not pay off. The film was extremely delayed, went badly over the budget, is one of the least profitable movies of all history, and more or less killed the New Hollywood era. On top of that, for decades after its release it was regarded as a critical failure; it's only in the past few years with the release of a new, much-improved cut that it's been critically re-evaluated.
  • For The Wicker Man (1973), Christopher Lee was so keen to see it finished and released, he waived his fee for playing Lord Summerisle to keep the budget in check, and then called round all his friends and associates to drum up support, and hit the talk circuit to promote the film.
  • For The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson fronted $30 million for production costs and $15 million for advertising out of his own (not-insubstantial) pocket. The film was distributed through independent distributor Newmarket Films, as none of the established film distribution companies wanted to touch it, thanks to the controversy surrounding the film. As it happened, said controversy helped make the film a blockbuster in the end.
  • The Wachowskis have made absolutely no excuses for Speed Racer, and probably never will. They said they were going to make a live action version of a cheesy-yet-revered anime, and that is exactly what they gave us. Not "The Matrix with Cars" as oh so many critics expected (and demanded), but an honest-to-God live action anime. It is quite possibly the incarnation of pure awesomeness... Or at least the incarnation of pure Speed Racer.
    • On the note of the Wachowski siblings: Their adaptation of Cloud Atlas is one of the most expensive independent films ever made.
  • Christopher Walken will accept any role that is offered to him, regardless of the paycheck. He just plain loves making movies.
    • John Carradine was reputed to be the same way.
    • And Ben Kingsley. He even chose to be in BloodRayne because he always wanted to play a vampire and be in the get-up, and the movie offered him that.
    • Willem Dafoe's career consists of equal parts of Oscar Baits, action blockbusters, art films (like Antichrist mentioned below) and B movies.
  • Lars von Trier. Let's put it this way—he sure didn't make Antichrist because it was going to win a bunch of awards or be a huge box office success.
  • Akira Kurosawa was incredibly meticulous in the production of his movies. Every shot was done over and over until it was perfect and he once removed the roof from a house for a single shot. That is dedication. Also: draining a town's entire water supply to get rain shots right and having an actual castle built only so he could burn it to the ground for one shot.
  • This can sometimes be a trap for directors who have too much power and influence, especially if they have done it for the art in the past and seen great success. This is what capsized the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s; such luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola and most notoriously Michael Cimino bet the farm on deeply personal labours of love and lost their shirts.
  • However, it's not always just actors, writers, and directors who feel that art should transcend the profit motive. Sometimes, it's producers and movie studio executives themselves who put creativity over profitability. A prime example of this is Irving Thalberg, director of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Three instances of this suffice:
    • The first instance of this involved the 1925 silent film, The Big Parade. Although preview audiences responded favorably when they were shown the rough cut, Thalberg decided to expand the scope of the picture as director King Vidor had created a war picture without many scenes of war. He had Vidor restage the famous marching Army column sequence with 3,000 extras, 200 trucks and 100 airplanes, adding about $45,000 to the negative cost of the film. After Vidor moved on to another project, Thalberg had other battle scenes shot by director George W. Hill.
    • The second instance of this involved the 1933 Wallace Beery-Marie Dressler film, Tugboat Annie. After seeing a preview of the film, Thalberg asked director Mervyn LeRoy if a scene could be improved by making Beery's shoes squeak. LeRoy agreed, but detailed how it would be economically prohibitive to re-shoot the scene as the sets had been dismantled and the cast had dispersed. Thalberg responded, "Mervyn, I didn't ask you how much it would cost, I asked you whether it would help the picture." The scene was summarily re-shot.
    • Last, but not least, the final instance of this involved the Marx Brothers. At the time, the brothers were in a rut as they had just left Paramount over creative differences and financial issues and were considering exiting the film business, when Thalberg signed them to a five picture contract with MGM. When the brothers joined MGM, one of the provisions in their contract was that before filming would commence on any of their pictures, they would first go out on the road and perform their material on the vaudeville stage in front of live audiences, allowing them to work on comic timing and to learn what earned laughs and what did not. Many people, including Groucho Marx, believed that this helped to strengthen many of the routines. In addition, Groucho repeatedly said that their first two films, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, were the best they ever made. Unfortunately, Thalberg's immediate superior, Louis B. Mayer, MGM's vice president of studio operations, did not think that the Marx Brothers were funny at all and was beyond ill-pleased when Thalberg offered them a five-picture contract. When Thalberg died in 1936 while A Day At The Races was still in production, Mayer used his position as studio chief to deny the brothers their favorite gag writers and limit the budgets of their remaining films.
      • The Marx Brothers issue wasn't the only bone of contention between Mayer and Thalberg. The two men just in general usually fought over what content the studio would release, with Thalberg pushing for more literary fare and Mayer pushing instead for more glitzy, crowd-pleasing films, and if it wasn't for Thalberg's connections with Nicholas Schenck, president of MGM corporate parent Loew's Theaters, he probably wouldn't have lasted long at MGM.
  • A smaller example, compared to all of the above, but when Bill Murray agreed to play Herman in Rushmore, he also kept the budget down by agreeing to do it for union scale wages, which comes to about $300 per day.
    • When Disney denied Wes Anderson the money for a helicopter scene that would have cost $75,000, Murray paid for the shot out of his own pocket.
    • Bill Murray is like this a lot: he refused to let his name appear in marketing for Zombieland to hide the surprise, and has admitted he only did Garfield because it was written by Joel Cohen and he misread the name and thought it was Joel Coen of The Coen Brothers. At which point he signed up without reading the script.
  • Bruce Willis appeared in 12 Monkeys entirely because he wanted to work with Terry Gilliam. To keep the film from going over budget, he agreed to a significantly reduced salary to be paid after the film was complete.
    • He did the same thing for Pulp Fiction. They considered him a long-shot for the role as he was an A-List star, but he wanted to do a more indie-project and took a big pay-cut to play Butch.
  • Christopher Nolan wrote the script for Inception immediately after his success with Memento. He then spent the next ten years revising the extremely complex story until he was satisfied that everything made sense and was the best he could make it.
  • Zack Snyder has said he only agreed to do Watchmen because if he turned it down there was a chance of someone who didn't love the source material making it. His goal was to compress large amounts of detail into every frame of the movie and during the editing process he was constantly battling with the studio execs over the length (he declared himself to be "Gatekeeper of the Easter Eggs").
  • Steven Spielberg didn't take a salary when he made Schindler's List, which he considered his most personal project. note  He felt like it'd be blood money and donates all of the royalties off the film to a charity called the Shoah Foundation which works to visually document genocide around the world.
  • Hard Candy. This is a film with a very low budget, from a first-time director, and with very strong sexual themes and implied torture. This is not the kind of film one signs on to make for a quick buck. In addition, Elliot Page (and this is before Juno) was chosen for his Bifauxnen look over several 14-year-olds who looked older than they were.
  • Boris Karloff essentially made the movie Targets for free, because he liked the script so much.
  • Kevin Spacey wanted to keep his name off Se7en (at least until the end credits) for suspense purposes. In addition, Brad Pitt refused to promote the film unless the ending, as planned by director David Fincher, ended up in the film. You know the one. In the end, it did.
    • Fincher himself only agreed to direct the film if the twist ending (which he only found out about because he was mistakenly sent the unrevised script) stayed in.
  • Similarly, Edward Norton requested not to be credited for Kingdom of Heaven, as his character is constantly masked until after his death, when his leprosy-ravaged face is revealed.
  • After Star Trek: The Motion Picture went over budget, was panned by critics and audiences, and just barely made a profit, Paramount just wanted a sequel to be more profitable, even if the series just turned into a Franchise Zombie. So they brought on TV producer Harve Bennet for the next movie, mainly because he promised he could do it on a fifth of the last film's budget. Instead of just making a slapdash sequel, he brought on the best people he could with the money he had, including Nicholas Meyer to direct. The result was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a monster critically hailed hit that made the Star Trek film franchise one of the longest and most successful film series in Hollywood history.
    • The first film (nicknamed for good reason Star Trek the Motionless Picture) was also this, proving once again that Tropes Are Not Good. Taking creative control away from Gene Roddenberry was part of what allowed the subsequent movies to succeed, as without him the writers and directors could temper For The Art with at least a little bit of What People Actually Want, and it turned out the latter wasn't a recycled 46-minute TV episode plot from a decade and a half ago blatantly and obviously padded with a long, dull sequence consisting entirely of ambient music and expensive SFX (that by today's standards looks like a cheap screensaver).
  • Kevin Pollack insists that he only works on projects that he thinks will be good, and has managed to get into some major hits like A Few Good Men. While Juwanna Mann seems like an obvious cash grab, he signed on because the lead role was originally going to be played by Will Smith.
  • Sucker Punch: Zack Snyder himself doesn't even understand why he did that movie, but he did it anyway, the amount of work which went to all the levels of reality, the girls' clothes, the girls' training, the camera angle editing, and the phrasing of the words in the story. All for the art. Seriously. The studio wanted the film post-converted to 3D, but Snyder refused. He didn't film Sucker Punch for 3D, as it's a more mental movie, and he felt converting it would make an inferior film. What makes this especially odd is that he claimed not to know why he made such an odd film, saying "That is basically my comment on the film as well; "Why are you making this movie? You need to make a movie more commercial. It shouldn't be so dark and weird."
  • The whole motivation behind the founding and continued operation of Handmade Films was for George Harrison to allow film-makers to make the sort of films they wanted without interference (he started the company because giving the Monty Python team £2million was the only way he'd get to see Monty Python's Life of Brian). Sadly, his partner Denis O'Brien was more of a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Originally, Livid was going to be shot in English, but when the directors' creative freedom was compromised they opted instead to make it at a much lower budget and in French.
  • Jean-Pierre Jeunet started to write Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain in 1974. The movie was released in 2001. He was saving money for this project, doing movies like Alien: Resurrection, in order to have freedom to work.
  • Michael Bay took on Pain and Gain because he loved the story so much (the film was also his Playing Against Type project, as he is known for his explosion-heavy popcorn movies). He also chose to take scale pay instead of his usual salary (the actors doing the same) so he could make the film the way he wanted to instead of doing a more compromised, studio-friendly version (the final budget was $25 million, less than half the average for a studio film).
    • He also initially turned down directing Transformers due to this trope, as he thought it would just be making a glorified toy commercial. When Hasbro convinced him there was more to this franchise than meets the eye, Bay realized the potential for making a film.
  • Even though all three Atlas Shrugged movies did abysmally in terms of both ratings and sales, they kept making them, and each one did even worse and had a smaller budget. Considering that the book was written Ayn Rand to promote her ideas of free-market capitalism, it is especially ironic that this particular work would be made other than for profit.
  • Many Mexican directors are notorious, both inside and outside the country, for sticking to their guns, no matter what. This is in part as a result of years of living under government censorship, having to compete against Hollywood films, and tired of living under the shadow of the older films and actors from other eras. In fact, for some Mexican directors, the sole idea to do an Hollywood-style film is borderline a Berserk Button for them, especially when they do extremely cynical movies. Their answer for doing those films? A movie is for showing the reality, NOT for hiding it.
    • This is somewhat subverted by some Mexican directors like Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón: While they also stick to their ideas, at least they try to cover other topics other than drama.
    • Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez was lambasted in Mexico for doing Instructions Not Included, a Hollywood-style comedy film, and from a Mexican point of view, it completely deviates from the actual kind of movies Mexican studios are doing, and as such, it gives an "erroneous" image of the country, albeit the movie itself still sticks with the Mexican status quo somewhat by giving an Bittersweet Ending.
  • Even people who loved Spike Jonze's adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are were forced to admit that practically everything about it seemed like box-office poison. When audiences heard that a film adaptation of a beloved children's book was in the works, they had every reason to expect a cute, upbeat, crowd-pleaser that parents could take their kids to—and most of them wanted just that. Jonze apparently didn't get the memo, and instead made a poignant, surreal fable about the fear and uncertainty of childhood, refusing to sacrifice an ounce of his famous Signature Style in the process. While it debuted at #1 at the domestic box office, it barely broke even, but it earned a devoted circle of fans—including Maurice Sendak himself, who personally defended Jonze against critics who disapproved of the movie's somber tone. The monsters themselves could have very well been CGI, but Jonze insisted on using People in Rubber Suits courtesy of Jim Henson's Creature Shop, with CG only used for the faces.
  • Sergio Leone was a meticulous perfectionist filmmaker who wanted every take to be perfect. This is what got him and Rod Steiger into several arguments during the making of Duck, You Sucker!, as Steiger preferred the spontaneity of the first take. Also, Eli Wallach notoriously cheated death five or six times making The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, including having a train narrowly missing his head, and Eastwood himself once after they blew up a bridge. They built a bridge and blew it up.
  • For Young Frankenstein, when Columbia Pictures balked at Mel Brooks' idea to shoot the film entirely in black and white, Brooks took the project the very next day to 20th Century Fox instead.
  • The VVitch, a horror film set in colonial-era Puritan New England, was a passion project for writer/director Robert Eggers, a New Hampshire native who had grown up fascinated with the history of the region. When his low budget forced him to shoot the film in Canada rather than New Hampshire for tax credit purposes, he went "off the map" to find a place in Canada that looked like rural New England, eventually finding the remote town of Kiosk in northern Ontario (population: 60).
  • Christopher Lloyd was Typecast for decades after Back to the Future, so he jumped at the chance to play a complex, serious role in the screen adaption of I Am Not a Serial Killer, even though it was a low-budget indie production filming over the period of a few months in subzero temperatures.
  • Emma Watson and Kate Winslet are examples of actors who moved directly from blockbuster productions (Harry Potter and Titanic (1997), respectively) to smaller, independent productions because of a stated desire to do stories they felt were more worthwhile than another billion-dollar moneymaker.
  • Nigel Hawthorne, inexperienced in cinema, took the role of Cocteau in Demolition Man to prove that he had screen presence for the producers of The Madness of King George. Hawthorne wanted to reprise his stage role as the title character for the movie version—though as it transpired, this was unnecessary as Hawthorne was the producers' automatic choice for the lead.
  • X-Men Film Series
  • When Arnold Schwarzenegger read the script for the zombie horror-drama Maggie, he loved it so much that he refused to accept any salary for starring in it. Perhaps it's not a coincidence, then, that many viewers had a He Really Can Act reaction, with several critics sincerely proclaiming it as the performance of his career.
  • As it turns out, this is part of the shtick of Keanu Reeves' career, given that he is notable for believing that every project, no matter the subject matter, should have the highest quality cast possible and will frequently give up his upfront salary so that films can hire top-level talent that wouldn't be affordable otherwise. In addition to that, he's not afraid to try new movie genres regardless of the end result's reception.
  • Olivia Hussey became famous worldwide at sixteen for Romeo and Juliet (1968), even getting offered parts in True Grit and Anne of the Thousand Days (that she turned down due to youthful nerves). For her first role after that fame, she chose the smaller British indie film All the Right Noises. In her autobiography, she has said that she wasn't particularly good at choosing roles that might be best for her career - but she always drifted towards scripts and parts that appealed to her deeply.
  • The 2021 Irish thriller Spears took two years to shoot, had to accommodate a few cast changes, was done entirely with No Budget and only a two-person crew - yet was filmed in four different locations (Florence, London and Berlin in addition to director Gerard Lough's native Letterkenny, Ireland) purely because Gerard Lough wanted to make something exciting for his second film.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League features yet another case of this for director Zack Snyder, he declined a salary for the film, seeing the chance to finish it on his terms as its own reward — which, in turn, led to him having more creative freedom. He also said that a portion of the revenue would go to suicide prevention (his departure from the original film was due his daughter, Autumn, taking her own life, and several of the fans who wanted the Snyder cut donated to charities related to such causes). He even initially refused to do it because the cut was originally a workprint and only did so if he could finish it up. Likewise, Junkie XL, who left due to being sympathetic to Snyder, completely reworked the score from what he originally did before being replaced by Danny Elfman, both due to new material he'd thought of and to distance it from Snyder's tragedy.
  • Tommy Wiseau spent years raising six million dollars in order to write, produce, and direct his dream project without help from a studio. Say what you want to about the finished product, but Wiseau's dedication to making The Room is nothing but astonishing.
  • Joe Camp created Benji out of frustration with the flood of cheap family movies released through four wall distribution, often of poor quality, which led to the perception that, as Camp put it, "If it's G, it can't be for me." Thus, he made Benji as a high-quality alternative to those mediocre films. It worked; the first movie was a critical and commercial success, making $45 million worldwide on a paltry $500,000 budget.
  • This is the reason why the Spider-Man Trilogy ended as a trilogy. There was planning for a Spider-Man 4, but director Sam Raimi couldn't make it work and didn't want to disappoint the fans with a subpar film.
  • Tarsem Singh's The Fall was done for the art and for cultural preservation. Half of the film is a globetrotting adventure, and every shot of scenic landscapes, landmarks, and architecture is real, filmed on location in 20 countries across four years (as a show of just how gratuitous this was, there's a single insert of the characters running across the Great Wall of China that lasts for one second). All of the shoots were covered pretty much out of Tarsem's own pocket from his job in directing advertisements (he reportedly only took jobs in places where he wanted to do location scouting), with the intent to cinematically preserve all of the ancient landmarks and their beauty for future generations. While filming in the Blue City of Jodhpur, he even provided locals with fresh blue paint to refresh their houses to make the scene featuring them even more vibrant.
  • The makers of the Ugandan comedy movie Who Killed Captain Alex? had a budget of only 85 US dollars and worked through several hardships just because they wanted to make a movie.

Alternative Title(s): Film

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