5 First Steps To Take Before Making Your Film

Here I am, eleven years ago, with no idea what I have gotten myself into.
Here I am, eleven years ago, with no idea what I have gotten myself into.

A question came up during yesterday’s (wonderful) Live Chat for The Videoblogs, that I thought I would re-address in a bit more detail here.

The gist of it — how to get started making your first film?

There are plenty of good ways to answer this question. There are many great resources out there outlining the basics of any one facet of this noble, unwieldy endeavor.

Knowing this, and also knowing that it matters more to me to tell a good story than craft a perfect picture, I focused my answer on an attempt to pre-hack the biggest challenges that are likely to come up in pursuing the coveted first film.

As such, my recommendations tend towards sustainability and focus, rather than process or technique.

Process and technique can be filled in beforehand with research and experimentation. Or you’ll learn by failing and re-starting at certain points in your journey.

But these are the top five pieces of advice I might have, at present, for anyone starting their first film today.

1. Understand the situation you’re getting yourself into

PA Puppy can't get a Grip.
PA Puppy can’t get a Grip.

The planning and execution of a film is a very large undertaking. Even if you’re starting small — issues or challenges or requirements are going to come up that you never expected. You will be tested.

I don’t think that filmmaking is for everyone. There are a lot of people out there working to write and/or direct their own films…who don’t seem happy. There could be several reasons for this, but chief among them could be that the idea of filmmaking is a lot more glamorous that its reality.

I’ll have more to say about this in a moment, but the reason I bring this fact up first is because I really do think that the best way to handle the difficulties of the task is to first acknowledge and accept that it’s going to be difficult. If we’re fighting ourselves at the same time that we’re fighting to get the film made…both self and film will suffer.

There are other ways to engage your sadistic side than deciding to commit years of your life to the foolish endeavor of bottling and reshaping a slice of space-time using magical machines.

If you still can’t help yourself…

2. Have a system of self-care in place

Once or twice a year, I go to the woods.
Once or twice a year, I go to the woods and find a big stick.

I have written much about this already. I will keep writing about it. Again — making a film is very hard work. Often, when we’re starting, we’re working within constraints of time, money and all the rest that comes with the responsibility of everyday living.

I’m still working on this part.

The fact is, you could sacrifice everything for your film and emerge very pleased with the end product.

Doing this, however, might leave you at the same time irrevocably embittered by the process you just went through — or dealing with an poisonous buildup of entitlement.

Because you poured it all into the work and then had nothing left to sustain your actual life, your relationships, your next project.

It’s the live to work or work to live dilemma.

Because it’s so beautiful and fulfilling, art-making can muddy up our perspective of the pursuit — but the fact remains that making a film or writing a book or whatever…it’s still work.

We’re not built to labor around the clock. Inevitably, when we try, breakdowns commence.

It will be hard.

Those who find their way towards filmmaking tend to overwhelmingly be high-functioning perfectionists, often with reserves of (not unhelpful) arrogance to call upon for that extra juice (“I can bottle space-time!”).

But knowing or learning or carefully exploring our limits, with an eye on longterm personal and career health, will make the journey and the film that much better for you and everyone else involved.

3. Have a reason

For The Videoblogs, our reason was getting out and talking about mental health in America.
For The Videoblogs, our reason was getting out and talking about mental health in America.

This piece of advice is only third because I’m supposing that most people reading this, and/or taking my words seriously, already have a compelling reason for pursuing filmmaking (or any one film).

But, if you don’t, think long and hard about whether you can find a reason, or whether the one you think you have is strong enough to sustain you when chaos or despair descends on your production and your life, despite all of the warnings and precautions outlined above and below.

In my experience, you need this reason. On some days, it will prove the only thing capable of keeping you going when you want to quit. Why this film, and now?

4. Have a plan

I held at least six separate positions during production of The Videoblogs. Why? Because it had to be done to keep things moving.
There’s a reason this image serves at the backdrop for the Coffee with Creatives logo.

Hang with me here, for a second.

Obviously, if you’re intending to make a film — you’ll need a plan. There’s no way it comes off without one. Even if your plan is to keep things loose, there’s a lot of preparation that you need to do to allow that possibility on set.

Still, I’m not really talking about the how. That’s all up to you. It’s just hard work.

What’s just as important, however, is that you have a plan for: 1) Fitting the giant disruption that is the making of a film into your daily life, and 2) Ensuring that the giant disruption leads to worthy results.

To address the first, I’d recommend doing some serious, honest work to prioritize what needs prioritization, with an eye on what’s realistic. Assume everything will take twice as long, and be twice as difficult, than you might expect.

Ensuring worthy results, to be clearer, means having a distribution plan. Ideally, a few of them.

At minimum, know how to get the film to your core audience, no matter how small or local. These are your first champions.

You will need them. Respect this relationship enough to put the work into it. Think about how your film can serve your core audience, and how to make it convenient for them to participate in its distribution when the time comes to push your project out into the world.

5. Be willing to be patient

It will take years -- but the hard work and the waiting are usually worth it.
It will take years — but the hard work and the waiting are usually worth it.

This last suggestion is as much for me as anyone else. The reality of filmmaking is that it takes an enormous amount of time. If we do our job well, this enormity ends up hidden to general audiences.

The way most people experience entertainment is to consume it, quickly and ruthlessly.

Behind all that quickness and ruthlessness, on the side of the consumption of content, there’s slowness and a methodical attention to detail that is required on the part of the content creator.

If and when we cheat, to get things done faster or to “just get them done”, we endanger the sanctity of this relationship between creator and audience, as manifested by the creation.

If we are lazy at any point, or give in to bitterness or despair and shortchange any one part of the completion of a film, we risk dooming the entire endeavor.

On the flip side, we can obsess too much, and risk burning out in the vocation, or on any one project. It’s a delicate balance, that really only begins to make sense over time.

Conclusion

Filmmaking is a beautiful, noble, privileged pursuit. It’s brought great purpose, joy, and meaning to my life. Pain and disappointment have also entered the equation at points.

If and when we can find a real reason to move forward truthfully with a project, and so proceed with it while taking care of ourselves and respecting our audience — then we can enjoy and thrive under the vocation.

Best of luck to anyone mad enough to give it a try.


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

Dear Self: You Are Not Garbage

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I woke up cold, in a little pain, and more than a little cranky. It’s dark outside, there’s a lot of wind and rain, and I didn’t want to get out of bed.

These are triggers for depression in almost any human being, but my brain still sometimes has a tendency to take the excuse of such triggers and double down on the resultant feelings.

This morning, because I  also slept late — on a Sunday before a Monday off — I started to beat myself up a bit.

The dog had gotten into the trash. Because I hadn’t taken out the trash when it was full.

Not her fault. Annoying, but not a big deal. Still, instead of making a note to take the trash out sooner next time, I turned the annoyance on myself.

Why didn’t you take out the trash sooner this time?

I ambled to the kitchen to make tea. We’re almost out of tea.

Why didn’t you get more tea?

Yet there is still tea enough for a few days. Then the cat started yelling for food. She does this whenever she is awake. And she had a late dinner last night, so it really wasn’t much of a problem that she was going to be eating a late breakfast today.

You don’t take good enough care of the cat.

I made tea. There was only one clean mug, and I usually make tea for myself and my wife. These things often happen after a busy week working and art-making in New York City.

Why didn’t you do the dishes? You’re dirty. You’re a dirty garbage-person.

I cleaned a mug. Our sponge needs replacing soon. Of course, this morning, my brain interprets this as something I failed to do earlier.

Nice job. You didn’t do that either. Dirty sponge for the garbage-person. Fitting.

By now, I suppose you see the pattern. These are all minor things, and none of them a big deal. But they roll down the hill of my head and combine forces and gather momentum.

Shut up. Stop complaining.

So, what to do in this situation? Do I just give up the day?

No. Not anymore.

I can’t do anything about being tired, in pain, or the shitty weather (except maybe rest). I can’t do very much about yesterday’s mistakes — except let them go and forgive myself for them. I can do something about the dishes, the tea, and the sponge. One task at a time, when it’s reasonable to do so.

Still, my self-worth does not depend — definitely not completely — on any of these things. More so, it depends more on how I defend myself against my own reaction to my “mistakes and failings”.

Right now, for the rest of today, you can watch The Videoblogs for free. I mention this because I made the film as a means of contributing to the conversation about mental health in this country. Which is what I’m trying to do as well, in micro, right now.

Mental health isn’t something we talk about enough, on average. Later today, I’ll be talking about it a bit with some collaborators and fellow storytellers. I’m sharing these details about what sometimes happens inside my head, because all of it just happened — because it seems important to keep talking.

Especially because I’m a man, it’s important. Men have some catching up to do in the department of squaring up to our feelings.

It’s not weak to struggle with your sense of self-worth. It’s human. What’s less human is to externalize “negative” feelings about ourselves by diverting them into attacks or mistreatment of others.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little better now.

First — once I realized what was happening — I stopped. Paused. I breathed.

I thought about the rain, and decided to employ a practice that has helped me in the past, also called RAIN. The more I do this the more effectively and efficiently it works.

Then I started writing. That always helps.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment, here or on social media, if you have anything to add to what I’ve said. And please join us later today if you’re available to participate in the Live Commentary of The Videoblogs. The event is free.


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

 

TOMORROW (10/9): Watch The Videoblogs for FREE! Then, Let’s Chat

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Happy Saturday, Monsters and Sprites! I don’t know why ya’ll are mythical, today.

Actually, I do know why.

I have great faith in you. I believe in you. You are magical beings that sustain me over the internet, and in real life. There’s no rule that says magic can’t exist, and pass back and forth between people — even in a world where seemingly everything has become a statistic.

The magic persists.

On that note, I want to make sure anyone who is a general fan or tolerator of my work knows about tomorrow. What’s tomorrow?

Tomorrow brings a Live Group Watch and Commentary Event to you, over the interwebs. We’re set to watch The Videoblogs with a group around the country (maybe the world!), in partnership with Nick Savides at the nsavides podcast, Producer Jenna Edwards (April Showers), Writer/Producer David Paterson (The Great Gilly Hopkins) and more cool people. The event begins at 230PM EST.

The event is free, we’ll be releasing The Videoblogs for free for the day, AND there are over $500 worth of prizes for participating. One of the prizes comes from me. I will read the script of one lucky victim — I mean, winner — and follow that up with a consultation.

Other prizes include a 30 min interview with Nick on his podcast, and a consultation package from Jenna, who seems like a pretty badass producer.

The reason I bring this up in the context of magic is because…well, this is what The Videoblogs is about. Strangers connecting online in the pursuit of something better.

Does that mean that I think watching The Videoblogs will make you better? Maybe!

I wouldn’t have made the film if I didn’t think there was a chance. But, to reiterate, it’s not really about that. It’s about a few sturdy handfuls of us (or more!) getting together, taking a real look at some real issues, and bonding over a mutual desire for greater hope.

I’d love to see you there. If you haven’t yet watched The Videoblogs, and want to participate, it might be most helpful to do that today, if you can. As always, you can rent the film on iTunes.

You can also watch it here, for free. To be honest, it’s a lot more helpful to us when you rent (or buy!) the film. But if you can’t do that right now, or want to sample it first, or live outside the US — go for it.

Have a great weekend, my mythical friends. Trailer!


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

When There’s A Butt…But No Joke?

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I dreamed that I was watching TV with a group of people. An awards show was on, a singer on stage.

She was mostly naked. I laughed and checked the room for some support incredulousness. No one seemed to also realize, or think it was very strange, that her back faced the camera, with her neck craned impossibly around, to allow her head to also face us.

Then I noticed a sort of cartoon face designed for and affixed to her butt. She started to sing, but mostly as if the singing were coming from the face on her butt. None of this appeared to be a joke.

I laughed again and wondered aloud if this is what it had come to — so many new things done for the sake of newness that someone actually thought singing from their butt was a “fresh idea”.

No one else in the room seemed to care. They left. One man remained behind, and argued a hollow point, which I easily refuted. Then he asked me to watch his web series.

I guess you could say that sometimes I feel like the only sane man in an insane world. This has been on my mind, recently.

Obviously, I know that’s not true. But it’s sometimes how I feel. I do not want to sing out of my butt unless it’s a clear joke (performed for people who get the joke)!

I wonder if people in LA have dreams like this a lot of the time.

It also occurs to me that I might need to do some thinking about picking my spots and reading rooms. Sometimes it’s better to reserve energy for later, for the right time and place. To just let the butt sing and let people enjoy it and wait or work for a better moment to comment upon.


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

 

 

The Benefits of The Small, Achievable Daily Goal

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Move, just a little. That can be enough.

Any move, forward or backward, in any measurable increment, is progress. An opportunity to learn, to gain perspective, to gather courage. And a lifetime of slow progress, or even a few months of it — despite or in defiance of the apparent mad rush of our daily lives — might be enough to promote real growth and change.

Or, to bring things down to the ground level, a little slow progress, today, has the capacity to build up momentum for tomorrow (and so on).

This is something I have learned, in recent years. As I’ve grown up and matured, as I’ve failed plenty and have gained just a few victories.

I wrote a book of fiction this year, in the middle of completing my first feature film. I did it one day, and often only a few hundred words, at a time. If you had told me ten years ago that those would be the conditions under which The First Book would be written — I wouldn’t have believed it.

But I might have smirked a little, in considering the prospect. It’s a subtly bad-ass move. The picture about provides a snap-shot of how I did it. At a certain point, fear had set in, and I was afraid of stopping halfway through the first draft. That would have hurt, so I set small daily goals, to pursue each morning. And it worked.

I believe that the real heavy work behind any big thing, whether a book or a script or a shot list, or an engineering problem or a code problem — it gets done on the peripheries of life and consideration. We think for a while, softly in increments, or even with speed and heat, but ultimately we tire or become frustrated and must turn away. Then, suddenly, something clicks out of nowhere and we move forward in a leap.

This is the way it goes, much of the time. And yet it becomes difficult to depend only on such leaps, of inspiration or intuition, to sustain progress. Too much pressure is put on something outside our control, if not our sphere of influence, and we become constricted.

This is why and how small steps help. It’s why focus, and simplicity, and then deliberate unfocused time, spent without a clear purpose other than enjoyment or physical engagement, lead to  sudden, significant, measurable progress over time.

It takes a degree of faith, to trust such a process, and not wring it or ourselves dry.

In addition, many that don’t have the patience or the talent for it spend much of their time leeching off those that do, intent on convincing the talented how indispensable they themselves are…in their steady blandness.

It’s a much less heavy burden, to proceed at a monotone, than to subject oneself to the rises and falls of creative productivity. There’s some utility in it, perhaps, but not much of that faith, upon which the real success of any one enterprise often rests.

To me, this reproves the proper and natural order of the creative process, within the macro as well as the micro. Keep the creativity, the calling, in first position.

Remain deliberate, and stolid in such deliberation, until all the answers that are going to come are given in the quiet moments of inspiration, themselves providing color and depth to the daily grunt work completed by yourself and others in pursuit of truth. This is all we can do.

No amount of extra magic exists. It is that simple, and that difficult. The rest of it comes second, is so much filler (which can be dispensed with) or distraction (which can be handled by others).

I do believe that, if we march on, we’ll eventually get somewhere. Until the time comes to get up and do it again.

11903868_10102022863132862_3363202786901023781_n-1My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

Answer The Call, Quiet The Demons

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It’s a few minutes shy of 7AM, on a Saturday, as a write this — and I hate you.

Sorry. I don’t hate you.

I love you.

I feel as if I might be sending mixed signals.

Yesterday concluded my experiment of writing here everyday for a month. Today marks the start of a new month. Technically, I am not committed to posting today. But here I am.

The truth is that I’ve been having too much fun. The exercise has grounded me, which in retrospect was probably part of the intention all the long. Before I started it, I was thrashing a little.

Too tired to jump into another film so soon. Too scared still to begin rewriting the book of fiction I finished earlier this year.

But now? Today? I have the will to begin, or at least to begin considering, these bigger things. The daily practice of doing just a little, at the earliest point if the day, and doing it wholeheartedly and without complication or expectation — it’s been instructive.

Daily practice. That’s what I’ve been turning over, in my head. What do I need to do, today, right now, to answer the call and quiet the demons?

Earlier this morning, I found myself standing in the hallway outside my bedroom. I had woken up a few minutes ago, had gotten up for a nice strong morning pee. I looked at my bed, and my wife sleeping soundly in it, the soft dim light of a clouded morning just barely illuminating the edges of everything in the room.

I set a timer on my phone that would wake me up after forty-five more minutes of sleep — if I went back to bed.

But I didn’t go back to bed. I thought about whether it was what I wanted. It wasn’t. Then I considered how I might physically feel, having woken up and then gone back to sleep. I know that feeling. Wet cotton in the temples.

I didn’t want it.

I’m excited to be here. I’m excited for today. So, here I am showing up and owning that excitement. That I want.

11903868_10102022863132862_3363202786901023781_n-1My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

The Dangers of “The Project Wheel”

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I have been itchy lately. I don’t mean in the pants.

What I mean is that I want to make something. Direct something. Shoot something. This seems to happen every year around this time. The Videoblogs, Multiverse, The Confession, all were shot in the fall.

I’ve got an idea. A random one. Again, this is how each of those projects came about.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the new script, or the other new script. It’s a separate thing. That has concerned me a bit — am I just spinning The Project Wheel?

I don’t think so. It’s an understandable question. But I’m not sure my situation is any different now, as a completely independent filmmaker, that it would be if I were taking meetings. The Videoblogs is done but still out there, so the question naturally occurs as to what is next.

At the same time, I just can’t manage a production of that scale, at such an effectively high budget (at least in terms of labor) right now. I can’t fit it into my life, and I won’t sacrifice my health again.

And yet staying in the creative mindset is healthy for me. So, what to do?

I think it might be best for me to do what I’m doing here, with this daily blog post experiment. Namely, to jump in. To fit the idea into the space, and give it the resources, that I have. Nothing more, nothing less.

Writers write, directors direct, I’m a writer and director.

The Project Wheel only becomes a danger if and when we turn it but never let it stop to rest on one idea, that we then execute. Or if we constantly change the face of the wheel. There will always be fears, and/or legitimate challenges in the way of completing a thing. We can’t let fear rule — I want to lead with an open heart.

But Simon Taufique and I spoke about this on the podcast. People — the audience, decision-makers and gatekeepers, collaborators — are always looking for new and different things. We need to keep on creating, not only for ourselves but for our careers.

So, I’ll probably scratch the itch. Glad we had this talk. More later.

This is part twenty-eight of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

Day 20: All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

Day 21: Why I’m Writing and Publishing, First Thing Every Morning

Day 22: The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

Day 23: How to Be Better: Perspective and Self-Compassion

Day 24: Still The Finger, Silence The Vlog

Day 25: A Light Chill Wind in Early Fall

Day 26: The Case for An Open Heart

Day 27: How Can I Help? CWC Interview (Composer/Producer Simon Taufique)

How Can I Help? Composer/Producer Simon Taufique on Coffee With Creatives

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Simon Taufique loved music, but didn’t have the full training or the opportunity to pursue the craft — until a convergence of circumstances led him to just take the leap. He eventually began to specialize in composing for film.

Before long, Simon’s additional predilections — for working collaboratively, helping others to achieve a shared vision, and for leveraging strategy to the benefit of any one project — drove him to begin taking on producing responsibilities. As part of his philosophy of asking “How Can I Help?” he now produces films so that he can help collaborators pursue their combined vision, including his own contributions to the score.

Simon’s biggest project to date, Imperium, finds him working with A-list talent like Daniel Radcliffe and Toni Collette. We had a great conversation on this episode of Coffee With Creatives.

Topics covered include:

  • How Simon was inspired by friend M. Night Shyamalan to be creative by any means necessary
  • How his start in tech allowed him to make enough money to escape the 9-5 and focus more squarely on creative pursuits
  • How and why September 11th became a personal turning point for Simon creatively
  • The indie ethos — focusing on positioning and strategy, and figuring out a way to get it done
  • How and why careerist decision-making can be a wrong-headed approach in the long term
  • Owning the creativity, but letting go of the results
  • Making challenges and boundaries work for you
  • The benefits and importance of decisiveness
  • The obvious and less-obvious advantages of working with A-list talent
  • Relieving professional and career pressure by creating constantly

That’s a ton of good and useful stuff. Imperium is available on most digital video platforms, and you can follow Simon on Twitter here.

 

Finally, I have two announcements to make, which are also covered in this episode of the podcast.

The first is that Coffee With Creatives now has over 5,000 listeners! Hooray, us! In celebration, I am giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

For a chance to win the gift card, send an email to me through this site and include a screenshot of either: 1) An iTunes review of the podcast, written by you, or 2) A social media post, written by you, in which you link to this or another favorite episode. A winner will be chosen randomly from all those who write in. Or maybe I’ll decide to award the review or share that most strikes my fancy. Only time will tell.

Also, I will be participating in a Live Director’s Commentary for my film, The Videoblogs, on October 9th. The event is virtual, and is being presented by the nsavides podcast (and its host, Nick Savides). Producer Jenna Edwards is also participating, and there are over $500+ in prizes being offered to participants. So, get on it!

As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creatives on iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.

 

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Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

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Often, the correct course of action is not one that we wish to take.

We resist. Understandably so, in many cases. A course of action suggests change. Change can be (often is) scary. There’s more certainty in what is known.

There is also more pain and sadness, in my experience, in ignoring the call for change. More general disquiet.

Dissatisfaction. Resentment. Anger. And yet, it often takes much suffering, and/or one big sign of the need for change, for many of us to finally take that action.

This is okay. It has to be, I think, if we are to at all improve at narrowing down this cycle.

Growth, obviously, comes up often on the podcast. I had a nice talk about gaining experience, about the importance of forward motion and learning, with the guest for this week’s coming episode. And when Leah Bonnema came on the show, she similarly stressed the importance of “going to work every day”.

All of this to say, I still have room to improve. We all do. Good work begins with the small stuff. I think I’ve been showing up in this way for a long time.

But the big, risky actions? Those can be difficult. But, to again echo a guest on Coffee with Creatives (Laura Goode) I think much of this seeming bigness is illusion. Smoke and mirrors and words both smooth and stinging.

When we choose to make art, which invariably also does cost money, we do not do so thinking of the money first and the art second. But when you aren’t an artist, or acting completely as one within a financial or social transaction, certain additional realities must be dealt with one way or another.

Despite my general practicality, and the cautiousness with which I usually ration my optimism, it surprised me, in recent months, to find myself being misled by various third-party partners, as we went about completing The Videoblogs.

Perhaps this was naive. To again echo Laura, who found it far easier to raise extra money to finish her film after it was accepted to the Tribeca Film Festival — the truth is that most people are conditioned to seek pre-sanctioned, external validation before they commit their full energy to something.

That’s not necessarily unfair. It’s a difficult time for commitment. There is, seemingly, a never-ending stream of options, sometimes even flowing back and forth in time, vying for our attention and resources.

And, so, as storytellers, we have to prove ourselves. Constantly. In order to provide evidence that we are worth The Risk — of money or time.

Still, I think that’s mostly garbage. It’s short-sighted, and arguably cowardly.

It seems to me that, out of fear, we have defanged true risk in our society. We’ve broken it down into pieces, seeking to understand and control as much of as we can — because we’re desperately afraid of failing.

I know I have done this. But I’m growing weary of it. The deconstruction destroys the construction, in a way.

Should we be smart? Prudent? Strategic? In taking a realistic view of the aforementioned market saturation (for content especially) — I would have to say yes.

But to only lean on these preparations, to give them so much disproportionate weight, and to thus unsteady and rob the counter-balancing power of the risky idea at the core of an enterprise — this to me is folly.

A real risk costs much, and yet nothing. It reveals no certain answers in terms of prudence and strategy, instead promising growth and experience, if faithfully executed. It is deeply personal. It draws its power from sources we can barely identify of explain.

Inspiration. Passion. Faith. With these sources of power, a true risk becomes easy to make. If and when we remember to believe in the risking itself, and not only outcomes.

A risk is a story. We need to protect our stories. Their true worth is not measured by intermediaries.

Intermediaries have far less power than they’d have us believe. It can become difficult to remember this, as they massage messaging and make promises or suggest futures that they have no real influence over.

They are struggling for survival as much as we are, if not more so. They likely feel just as frightened or desperate. And I pity them, somewhat, for that — because they aren’t dealing in pure stories. As a rule, they must mitigate risk. To do this, they must find, be shown, or invent evidence. We’ve seen, in this country, how badly that can backfire.

Whereas we, the storytellers, might find flashes of solace — in the knowledge that we are attempting true change.

This is part nineteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

 

How to Decide What to Make Next

daily-quotes

 

For the past few months, I have been working hard on a script for a new film I’d like to make. In recent weeks, I hit a bit of wall with it.

To sum the main issue(s) up simply — the concept and story represent quite the tall order, in terms of development. It’s not that I don’t feel up to the task, it’s that I don’t know if I’m up to the task right now.

Maybe I’m just learning something all filmmakers begin to learn, once the first feature is out of the way.

I have the general framework of the next re-write built. When I think about moving forward, though, I get tired. I don’t know that I have what I need in the tank, right now, or enough space in my brain from day to day, to tackle a project that’s a bit heady and which, as a scifi piece, is going to require quite a bit of ground-up creative detail.

This has upset me a bit. But I believe I am starting to accept the circumstance.

Nothing prevents me from proceeding with this project at my own pace. At the same time, it could just be that it’s not “next”, as I had imagined or hoped it might be. Is there a chance that might change? Of course. But, in the meantime, we must keep moving.

I started tossing around another idea, for what to make next. It didn’t seem to quite fit, but I let the general parameters behind it ride, from day to day. I kept them in the back of my brain.

And then it happened — I ended up starting in on a new script. It’s different than the original new idea. It feels, as the one before, like it might be next. Again — that could of course change.

What doesn’t change is that I can still take my time. Independent filmmakers hold few advantages. Time can be one of them. How might I be feeling now if large sums of money were already committed to the first script I brought up in this discussion? Might I have tried to force it to work?

Perhaps. Then again, also, when there is money there tends to be more room to do things fully and steadily. I look forward to that day.

On the other hand, a lack of deadlines or resources can quickly lead to making excuses. I don’t worry about such stasis nearly as often as I used to — and I tend to think it’s a useful concern, these days — but I do think that it’s important to keep making work and to keep getting it out there, especially in today’s artistic/economic climate.

I wanted to share all this because I think I would have been feeling much more anxious if I hadn’t attempted patience, and instead of forcing the issue — tried to listen and to let go. That’s what allowed a new possibility to bloom.

I have to constantly remind myself of this. My long history with this sort of existential/career tension came up in the most recent episode of Coffee With Creatives.

I am not the steward of any one story. I’m a storyteller.

This is part eighteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force